The Future Is Here: Technology Then and Now

The times, they are a-changin': Twenty years ago almost no one had cellphones. Today we can't live without them. Walk down memory lane as we explore the continued evolution of technology, comparing consumer electronics, past and present.

Tech Then and Now Intro

Pictured: Martin Cooper (left), cell phone inventor next to Steve Jobs (right), cell phone re-inventor.

Motorola DynaTAC

Then: Cellphones

Before built-in music players, cameras, and multi-touch screens, cellphones were just portable phones that, well, made phone calls. Minus the portable.

Pictured: Motorola DynaTAC (1983)

Motorola

White iPhone 4S

Now: Smartphones

These days, smartphones don't just make calls, they're an electronic extension of our lives, keeping us connected, prepared, and entertained. Now if we could only find a way to increase battery life.

Pictured: Apple iPhone 4S

Reuters

Nintendo NES

Then: Game Consoles

Even without the glitz and the glamour of 3D graphics, 1985's 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System provided fun in bundles, introducing us to classic characters like Mario, Zelda, and Mega Man in all of their pixelated glory.

Nintendo Wii

Now: Interactive Gaming

Playing Nintendo is no longer the pastime of couch potatoes -- it's a full body experience on the Wii. And the Xbox Kinect offers a similar way to get into the game. With the introduction of motion sensing technology, video games have actually become a workout.

AP Photo

Pong

Then: Pong (1972)

Two lines and a dot -- what more do you need? Pong was simple yet surprisingly effective. This minimalist combination would catapult the game to icon status.

Topspin 4

Now: Top Spin 4

Modern day gaming is all about stunning graphics. Instead of a 2D paddle, we get life-like motion-captured renderings of our favorite pros, the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic -- at our disposal in full glorious 3D.

2K Sports

Wolfenstein 3D

Then: First Person Shooters

This is the game that spawned an entire generation of gaming goodness, aptly earning the title: "grandfather of 3D shooters." Without Wolfenstein 3D (1992), Halo or Call of Duty might not exist.

Apogee Software

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3

Now: First Person Shooter

You won't find many pixels amidst the graphics glory of modern day shooters. Today's processing power calls for a truly immersive experience, fitting for what is now a multi-billion dollar industry. The latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise, Modern Warfare 3 bested the box office total of Avatar in just 16 days. Not too shabby.

Activision

VHS Tape

Then: Videotapes

VHS cassettes were (are) truly awesome. Not only did they conveniently bring movies to the living room, the ability to record revolutionized the way we consumed video content.

Bluray Disc

Now: Blu-ray

Two words: high definition. That is all.

Nintendo Gameboy

Then: Portable Gaming

Nintendo's Game Boy introduced portable video gaming to the masses in 1989. Perhaps the best part was the ability to connect two consoles so you could battle your friends (or enemies) in a fierce game of Tetris -- all in beautiful 8-bit monochrome graphics.

Nintendo 3DS

Now: Nintendo 3DS

Dual screens, stereoscopic 3D effects, and... a stylus?? Handheld gaming has certainly come a long way but these are troubling times for traditional console makers like Nintendo and Sony, as mobile gaming continues to migrate to the smartphone.

Nintendo

IBM PC

Then: IBM Personal Computer (1981)

The launch of the IBM 5150 officially married the term "PC" with IBM and IBM-compatible machines and would mark the beginning of a new era in personal computing, a movement helped by one of the machine's first killer apps -- word processing.

IBM

Thinkpad X1

Now: Thinkpad

A sign of the times, IBM has since sold its PC division to the Chinese. To their credit, Lenovo has done its best to maintain and grow the legendary Thinkpad line of laptops, originally developed by IBM. The latest X1 model is razor thin, ultraportable, and plenty powerful. Today, tech looks good -- that's for sure.

Lenovo

Macintosh Portable

Then: Portable Apple Computer

The Macintosh Portable (1989) was probably a tad ahead of its time. The compromises made for portability just didn't suit general use and it was discontinued after only a year.

 

Macbook Air

Now: Apple Laptop

Two decades later, we're graced with hardware that reminds us that we're living in the future. The MacBook Air is impossibly thin and light as a feather while still providing the necessary oomph for even your more taxing computing needs -- all for under $1000 ($999 to be exact).

Apple

Sony Walkman

Then: Portable Music Player

For music on the go, there was only one: the Sony Walkman (1979).

iPod Nano

Now: Portable Music Player

The king is dead. Long live the king. No device has yet come close to usurping Apple's iPod from its reign of supremacy. See-ya Sony.

Apple

TV 1950s

Then: Television

Though revolutionary, small curved screens, black and white picture, and a dearth of content meant televisions from the 1950s were much less fun, especially given their relatively high price.

National Archives and Records Administration

Samsung C9000

Now: Television

Televisions these days have monster screens yet are preposterously thin. They've also got high definition and in some cases, 3D. Find the right deal and not only are these babies awesome, they're awesomely affordable.

Pictured: Samsung C9000

Samsung

Vinyl Record

Then: The Vinyl Record

The vinyl record is in the unique position of being almost 100 years old yet still widely relevant, popular among music enthusiasts who swear by its richer, warmer sound.

Felipe Micaroni Lalli

Compact Disc

Then: The Compact Disc

Ah, the ubiquitous CD, one of the first technologies that began the transition from analog to digital. They're still widely used but audio CD sales are down 50% from their peak in 2000.

Spotify Music

Now: Digital

For all intents and purposes, the vast majority of us now experience music in 1s and 0s without the need for actual physical media, relying instead of digital music services that allow users to purchase or stream songs such as Apple's iTunes Store and Spotify (pictured).

Spotify

Compaq iPAQ

Then: Digital Personal Assistant

Compaq's original iPAQ (2000) was clunky and monochrome alienating most casual users.

Andreas Steinhoff

iPad 2

Now: Tablet Computers

It's funny the difference a single letter and ten years can make. Apple's iPad has redefined an industry.

Apple

The Future Is Here: Technology Then and Now

The times, they are a-changin': Twenty years ago almost no one had cellphones. Today we can't live without them. Walk down memory lane as we explore the continued evolution of technology, comparing consumer electronics, past and present.

More From Our Sponsors