1990's Telecommunication

Telecommunications 1990's.mp4

Telecommunications in the 1990's

The 1990's was a decade for the world of telecommunication.  Everything in the United States was impacted in some way by this technological revolution, gaming graphics were going through the roof, online gaming was becoming a reality, cell phones for the first time were affordable for many Americans and the technology was becoming increasingly reliable.  The internet was also coming of age in the 1990's with the creation of web browsing platforms we now take for granted the average American was able to search the web, talk to people from around the world and discover new information they had never before had access to.

With this new access to the world we see a rapid expansion of online businesses, social applications including chat rooms and message boards and file sharing platforms that allowed users to send and receive songs, videos and movies from anyone anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes or hours depending on the file size.  Americans were in love with everything the internet had to offer and the possibilities are endless, many double down on technology and digital platforms that oversaturate the market leading to an eventual tech crash in the early 2000's.


Task 1: Watch the Introductory Video to this Unit (5 minutes)

Task 2: Explore the provided videos and attached links for Telecommunications during the 1990's (15 minutes)

Task 3: Identifying Examples of Pop Culture (30 minutes) 

Task 4: Submit your infographic on GOOGLE CLASSROOM 


The world of computer gaming was evolving at a rapid rate.  New technology allowed for better graphics, more complex and interesting gaming experiences and more systems on the market.  Sega and Nintendo  were the two major players in the 1990's and in an effort to keep up with Sega and their Compact Disk gaming system which allowed for superior graphics Nintendo partnered with Sony to create the PlayStation.  This battle between the leaders in the industry allow for a rapid development of technology and by the 2000's graphics and online gaming advance to a level never before thought.  Just like most industries, the gaming world was not immune fore the TV and movie crazy of the 1990's and many popular games even became blockbuster films.

Las Vegas was also trying to cash in on this period of economic growth and increased consumerism.  With more money in people pockets and progressive family values reaching American homes Las Vegas and other entertainment destinations looked to draw in a new audience.  The strip begins to reinvent itself again with large, extreme theme hotels that transport you to a new world and provide experiences for the whole family or an adventure like no other for adult vacations.  This would not be the last time Vegas looks to reinven itself, but it certainly is one of the the most lasting shifts.

Gaming Consoles

The Nintendo Entertainment System established Nintendo literally as a household name. They doubled down and released their follow up console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990.

This is where Nintendo dominated the games market.

SNES is perhaps the most iconic gaming system ever released. While still using cartridges, the SNES upped the ante with graphical capabilities, game design, and audio. It was the bridge between the old world of video games and the modern era.

For example, Star Fox was a famous example of using 3D graphics in a home console game. Nintendo also impressed the world by developing the console’s top 3 selling games in the console’s history: Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, and Super Mario Bros. 3. Not only can they develop winning consoles, but their games rule.

On the other side of the aisle, Sony had developed the first major disc-based consoles, the PlayStation in 1994. The PlayStation introduced games like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VIII, and Silent Hill. These titles included extensive, impressive cutscenes, often including recorded dialogue.

Games were getting closer and closer to being movie-like. The narratives were able to be more in-depth, moodier and more atmospheric. A game like Silent Hill would have never succeeded in any system but the PlayStation. The atmosphere, the sound, the graphics; they all hit the mark at the right place and time. The variety and graphical powerhouse the consoles were at the time made a lasting impact on gaming. (https://www.gamedesigning.org/gaming/history/ )

Las Vegas

After The Mirage opened in 1989, Southern Nevada witnessed a decade-long boom, experiencing construction and population growth not seen in the United States since the Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s.

More than 15 themed casino-hotels opened their doors throughout the Las Vegas valley, and there was a dramatic diversification of entertainment options, including theme parks (e.g. Circus Circus' Adventure Dome and the Las Vegas Hilton's Star Trek: The Experience) and stage production shows (e.g. Cirque Du Soleil and FX). Various properties exchanged hands, including The Frontier Hotel, Sands, Vegas World (Stratosphere), Holiday Casino (Harrah's) and Aladdin. New themed hotels such as Luxor, New York-New York, MGM Grand and Bellagio celebrated their grand openings, each with tremendous attention and excitement. (https://www.nevadaresorts.org/about/history/ )


Though new mobile phones with different styles were released regularly in the early '90s, the technology was still young and awkward enough that people still used pagers. A September 1994 article in The Chicago Tribune boasted that pagers would soon allow users to leave voice messages for one another. “The effect will be like having a wireless answering machine on your belt or in your purse,” said an executive from a now-extinct company called PageNet.

The Nokia 9000 Communicator was released in 1996 and could be considered the first smartphone. It had a display that looked similar to what’s found on a graphing calculator, but it could do email, fax, telnet, Web browsing and SMS texting. It even had a whopping 8 MB internal memory and an Intel 386 processor. (https://www.govtech.com/e-government/Mobile-Phones-Looking-Back-40-Years.html )

Old Cell Phone Commercial (1998).mp4

Personal Cell Phones

Along with the new ways of transmitting information, cellular phone technology was advancing. Smaller batteries and improved energy-efficiency devices enabled companies to create smaller cell phones. While the brick-sized Motorola DynaTAC 8000 weighed 28 ounces, newer phones in the 90s weighed between 3.5 and 7 ounces.

The 2nd generation of phone systems introduced text messaging and the ability to access web content from mobile phones. Custom ringtones were incredibly popular among mobile phone users. Of course, SMS/text messaging has been a huge success. ‘Texting’ is the preferred medium for communications among millennials. In addition, four out of five people use texting for business communications.

Nokia was a leader in the mobile phone industry during the 1990s. Nokia launched an early mobile phone with vibrations, and later introduced ‘Snake’ to cell phone users.

The first full internet service on a cell phone was introduced in 1999. However, this internet access was different from accessing the mobile internet. (https://www.globalcallforwarding.com/history/history-mobile-phones/ )


Berners-Lee brought his "World-Wide Web" to life in 1990, writing the first html source code. He introduced the Web at a conference in December of that year, but it didn't actually appear online and come into use by other people until 1991.  

In 1991, thanks to the ease-of-use brought about by Berners-Lee's Web, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) - businesses that allowed people to "dial up" to get access to use of the internet - began gaining popularity. The first user-friendly interface, "Gopher," created at the University of Minnesota, was introduced in 1991. Gopher was extremely limited in comparison with tools soon to come, but it was the best thing yet to emerge in internet communication, and it was nearly universally adopted. 

Mark Andreessen launched his Mosaic, a revolutionary browser, in 1993; later marketed by the start-up company Netscape, it combined text and graphics and made it so easy to navigate that its role in the mainstream consumer adoption of the internet was significant. Gopher became obsolete. In 1994, the White House launched its first Web page. By 1995, the internet had an estimated 16 million users and venture capitalists were busy full-time, funding hundreds of new internet-related business concerns. (http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/early90s/internethistory.xhtml )


In 1991, Quantum was renamed America Online. By 1993, AOL introduced its own email addresses, a Windows version and access to the rest of the Internet for its users. Those moves led to some backlash—which soon became a recurring theme for the company.

At that time, one of the biggest sources of tension was that the Internet had previously been available mostly for people affiliated with colleges and universities. Users were used to dealing with “newbies” in the fall, as freshman acclimated to protocol, but now there were new users flooding in every day. “But the annual hazing given clueless freshmen pales beside the welcome America Online users received last March, when the Vienna, Virginia-based company opened the doors of the Internet to nearly 1 million customers,” TIME reported.

By the time AOL went public, the service had fewer than 200,000 subscribers, but TIME later reported that number soon climbed. In 1997, AOL announced they’d acquired CompuServe, riling many loyal CompuServe users. The backlash was echoed the following year when AOL picked up Netscape. The company faced more push back from users when they switched from an hourly to a monthly pricing plan and launched a major membership drive that led to a traffic surge that couldn’t be handled by AOL’s existing modems. Still, it was, TIME noted, “a novel problem—too many customers,” and the company continued to grow.

By 2000, AOL was the nation’s biggest Internet provider and worth $125 billion. The company merged with Time Warner (then the parent company of TIME), and executives of the combined firm announced that they expected AOL Time Warner to grow 33% in the next year. (https://time.com/3857628/aol-1985-history/ )


In mid-1994, Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark collaborated with Marc Andreessen to found Mosaic Communications (later renamed to Netscape Communications.) Andreessen had just graduated from the University of Illinois, where he had been the leader of a certain software project known as "Mosaic". By this time, the Mosaic browser was starting to make splashes outside of the academic circles where it had begun, and both men saw the great potential for web browsing software. Within a brief half-year period, many of the original folk from the NCSA Mosaic project were working for Netscape, and a browser was released to the public.

Netscape quickly became a success, and the overwhelming market share it soon had was due to many factors, not the least of which was its break-neck pace of software releases (a new term was soon coined - "internet time" - which described the incredible pace at which browsers and the web were moving.) It also created and innovated at an incredible pace. New HTML capabilities in the form of "extensions" to the language were introduced. Since these capabilities were often flashier than what other run-of-the-mill browsers could produce, Netscape's browser helped cement their own dominance. By the summer of 1995, it was a good bet that if you were browsing the Internet, you were doing so with a Netscape browser - by some accounts Netscape had as much as an 80%+ market share.

With the launch of Windows 95 and a web browser of its own (Internet Explorer) in August 1995, Microsoft began an effort to challenge Netscape. For quite a while, Internet Explorer played catch-up to Netscape's continual pushing of the browsing technological envelope, but with one major advantage: unlike Netscape, Internet Explorer was free of charge. Netscape version 2.0 introduced a bevy of must-have breakthrough features (frames, Java, Javascript and Plug-ins) which helped distance it from the pack, even *with* its attendant price tag. Mid-1995 to late-1996 was a very busy time for both browsers; it seemed like every week one company or the other was releasing a new beta or final version to the public, each seemingly trying to one-up the other. (http://www.blooberry.com/indexdot/history/netscape.htm )

File share Platforms

With the increased use and technological developments in the world of computing in the 1990's online chatrooms and the sharing of programs, files and music became increasingly popular.  People were connecting all over the world and they wanted access to everything, before long Shawn Fanning came up with an idea - a program that allowed people to share files seamlessly across the internet.  His software focused on the sharing of MP3 files and became a popular place for users of the internet to come and share and discover new music.  

These new file-sharing platforms were challenged by the music industry quickly as they saw profits decline as people started to pirate music rather than purchase it.  Shawn Fanning's brainchild did not last for long, but it did change the way we listen and share music forever.Peer to Peer file sharing sites and the legal battles that ensured opened the door for Apple to fill the void and offer a platform to legally purchase and download music digitally.


Napster was founded by Shawn Fanning, John Fanning, and Sean Parker. Initially, Napster was envisioned as an independent peer-to-peer file sharing service by Shawn Fanning. The service operated between June 1999 and July 2001. Its technology allowed people to easily share their MP3 files with other participants. Although the original service was shut down by court order, the Napster brand survived after the company’s assets were liquidated and purchased by other companies through bankruptcy proceedings. 

Although there were already networks that facilitated the distribution of files across the Internet, such as IRC, Hotline, and Usenet, Napster specialized in MP3 files of music and a user-friendly interface. At its peak the Napster service had about 80 million registered users. Napster made it relatively easy for music enthusiasts to download copies of songs that were otherwise difficult to obtain, such as older songs, unreleased recordings, and songs from concert bootleg recordings. Users did not have to be computer programmers to download songs. Some users felt justified in downloading digital copies of recordings they had already purchased in other formats, such as LP and cassette tape, before the compact disc emerged as the dominant format for music recordings.

Many other users simply enjoyed trading and downloading music for free. High-speed networks in college dormitories became overloaded, with as much as 61% of external network traffic consisting of MP3 file transfers. Many colleges blocked its use for this reason, even before concerns about liability for facilitating copyright violations on campus. The ease of downloading individual songs facilitated by Napster and later services is often credited with ushering in the end of the Album Era in popular music, which focused on the release of albums of songs by bands and artists.

Heavy metal band Metallica discovered a demo of their song “I Disappear” had been circulating across the network before it was officially released. This led to it being played on several radio stations across the United States and alerted Metallica that their entire back catalog of studio material was also available. On March 13, 2000, they filed a lawsuit against Napster. 

Initially Napster lost the case in the District Court but then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Although it was clear that Napster could potentially have commercially significant non-infringing uses, the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision. Immediately after, the District Court commanded Napster to keep track of the activities of its network and to restrict access to infringing material when informed of that material’s location. Napster wasn’t able to comply and thus had to close down its service in July 2001. The following year, in 2002, Napster finally announced itself bankrupt and sold its assets to a third party. (http://www.historyofdomainnames.com/napster/ )