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Exec Spin: 20 Years Ago

Thursday, August 29, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gary Hotze
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Julia Kanouse, CEO, ITA


With the speed of technology today, it's remarkable to think back only 20 years ago and how much has changed not only here in Chicago but across the globe. This year, our longest-running program, the CityLIGHTS Awards is celebrating a landmark 20 years (shameless plug: get your tickets, here). Fittingly, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the zeitgeist of 1999 and which milestone technologies launched at the end of the millennium.


The Y2K Bug Was Real

No one can think of 1999 and not remember the Y2K bug. The Y2K scare shaped many news headlines and invaded a multitude of stories surrounding tech. What would happen when the countdown clock hit zero, and we rolled over to the new millennium? Decades of code were built around two-digit number data entries. Institutions such as banks, hospitals, insurance companies and government agencies that relied on accurate time and date were at-risk.

Millions of dollars were spent to create new software programs that saved dates as four digits and amend leap - year algorithms to recognize the year 2000 as a leap year. As the year 2000 neared, bank stock prices fell. On December 31, 1999, travelers avoided airports as there were rumors that planes would fall from the sky. Apocalypse now: computer systems in power plants were destined to fail, but as the clock hit midnight, major computer systems carried on with barely a blip.


Napster Began the Age of Sharing

The infamous and now-defunct music file sharing service, Napster, was born on June 1, 1999, in Shawn Fanning's Northeastern dorm room, forever altering the music landscape.

Before Napster, downloading music off the internet was spotty at best. The service was revolutionary as it was the first to implement peer-to-peer file sharing, allowing users to share files directly between one another. And the Recording Industry Association of America took notice as the platform soon sank in legal battles. The genie was out of the bottle, though. Today the need to download a music file is nearly obsolete with the enormous growth of streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.


The Dawn of Smartphones & Wireless

Before iPhone and Android there was BlackBerry. On January 18, 1999, Research in Motion launched the BlackBerry 850. It was the first BlackBerry device that appeared on the market and premiered as a two-way pager with email and limited HTML browsing. It featured a monochrome screen. The two AA batteries, however, were sold separately.

Bluetooth 1.0 made its debut on July 26, 1999. As with any new technology, many users reported having difficulty syncing using the new protocol.


Teen Pop Ruled the Music Airwaves

Millennium, the third album by the Backstreet Boys, was the bestselling album of 1999. Today, it has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. The three hit singles "I Want It That Way," "Larger Than Life" and "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" became some of the boy band's most remembered songs.

Britney Spears' ...Baby One More Time debuts on January 1999. At last count, it has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. The iconic video and number one single "...Baby One More Time" along with singles like "Crazy" would cement Spears as a pop music mainstay for decades to come.


Sci-Fi Movies Made a Comeback

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was the highest-grossing film of 1999, premiering on May 19, 1999. It was the first new Star Wars film since 1983, so fans arrived with fervor but left with mixed feelings. Jar Jar Binks remains despised till this day. The Matrix, released March 31, 1999, grossed more than $460 million worldwide.

The Phantom Menace and The Matrix kicked off the current Hollywood blockbuster, spectacle and franchise model seen in Marvel movies today.

And, The Blair-Witch Project was a phenomenon. Inventing found-footage cinematography with a budget of $60,000 and a gross of $250 million.


Two of the Greatest in Sports Call It Quits

On January, 31, 1999 John Elway led the Denver Broncos to victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXII and would retire that year. Wayne Gretsky hung up his skates on April 18, 1999.


A Grievous Error is Corrected

On May 21, 1999 Susan Lucci finally wins a Daytime Emmy after 19 nominations.


November 4, 1999

The first CityLIGHTS Awards was held here in Chicago. Don’t miss the 20th Anniversary on September 12. Get your tickets here.


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