How life has changed in ten years

Some argue that the decade isn’t over until the end of 2010. But who really thinks the ’60s came to a close at the end of 1970?

Here’s a look at how life changed for us in the 2000s.

Barack Obama

In 2000, Barack Obama was an obscure state senator from the South Side of Chicago who had just lost a disastrous campaign for Congress. Anyone heard of him since? Perhaps the most significant change in our nation’s social fabric in the past decade was the election of a person with African roots as U.S. president. Obama’s ascendancy added new resonance to the old adage, “In America, anyone can grow up to be president.”


Social networking was in its Jurassic period when Facebook was launched from a Harvard dorm room in 2004. Now, it has 350 million users who update their status 55 million times a day and share more than 3.5 billion pieces of content each week. The average Facebooker has 130 friends and is a member of 12 groups. Get on the roller coaster and enjoy the ride!


Just a few years ago, a large part of the country had no idea what “the Google” was, to use George W. Bush’s terminology. Now everybody does. Formed just 11 years ago in a garage in Menlo Park, Calif., today it’s the world’s largest search engine and one of the globe’s most valuable brands. It was even recognised as a verb (“to google”) by dictionary authorities in 2006. What did we do before Google?


Apple has sold more than 220 million of its wildly successful digital audio devices since its launch in October 2001. The portable digital revolution it wrought changed the way we do almost everything. With the growth of products such as iPhones and BlackBerrys, we now play music, watch videos, take (and transmit) photos, play games, check our contacts and calendars, use email, surf the Web, send text messages, download apps and much, much more -- all from the palm of our hands.

Hand sanitizers

Two years ago, former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower elicited guffaws at the Texas Book Festival by telling a story about Vice-President Dick Cheney requiring guests in a receiving line to use hand sanitizer before shaking hands with him. It seemed so . . . paranoid. Now, everybody does it. Can you spell H1N1?

Bottled water

Why did none of those sci-fi movies envision a future where Americans would pay big bucks to -- yes -- drink water? Americans consumed 8.7 billion gallons of bottled water last year and spent more than $11.2 billion on spring, filtered, fizzy, flavoured and other varieties of H{-2}O, up 82 per cent since 2000. One warning sign: There’s a brewing environmental backlash against all of the plastic bottles used to fuel our bottled water addiction.

Homeland Security

If someone told you at your Millennium Party on Dec. 31, 1999 that the U.S. would have a ``Department of Homeland Security” two years later, they’d think you had been smoking something while reading George Orwell’s ``1984.” But it’s here. And it’s the biggest federal bureaucracy since the Pentagon. Duct tape and colored-coded charts. Feeling secure yet?


It can’t help but make you giggle. You’re in the airport and you see this guy in a beautifully tailored suit and . . . socks. Because some guy named Richard Reid tried (and failed) to blow up a plane by hiding a crude bomb in his shoe, we all have to strip off our footwear before we pass through airport security check points. Coats, belts, shoes. What else are they going to make us take off in the next 10 years?

Texting while driving

This was definitely not a problem 10 years ago. But that was before the texting revolution. We want everything NOW. However, it can get a bit dangerous if you’re sending messages while zooming down street in rush-hour traffic. That’s why cities and states have passed laws banning the practice. Good luck!

High-definition television

Supersize me. Americans want everything bigger and better, new and improved. Well, high-def TV is made to order to fit our national culture. Now, we can look at the TV news anchors’ caked-on makeup and the athletes’ sweaty faces in excruciating detail. It’s good for the economy, too. Cable companies can charge hundreds more dollars a year. And big-box stores, after years of declining TV sales, have gotten their own stimulus package.

Phone numbers for life

Two numbers every American can have: A Social Security number and a mobile phone number. Many young Americans don’t even get those dinosaur land lines. Meanwhile, there are more than 270 million mobile phones in use in the U.S. today -- and 88 per cent of us use them. That’s about double the market penetration of a decade ago. We have no idea what our communications devices will look like in 10 years -- but we know our phone number.

From Wii to PS3

Video games have advanced a lot since those days of Pong. Now, Americans can do virtually anything -- virtually. How popular are Wii, Xbox and PlayStation? Remember those cops who were raiding a drug-dealer’s home and took time to play with the video console before heading back to the police station? Very 2000s.


It used to be that only die-hard Confederates talked longingly about secession. But in the past few years, the governor of Texas mused about it and Alaska had a “first dude” who once was a member of an Alaskan independence party. Bring ‘em on, y’all. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 9:54:12 PM |

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