10 years ago…

Hard to believe but, yes it was exactly ten years ago this month that I ventured into the world of graduate school and interaction design at Carnegie Mellon. It was an incredible and life-altering move, forever shaping my approach to design, and providing a base of knowledge to draw from. I emerged from that program a far more self-reflective and critical designer overall, without question.

And so, as it turns out, a fellow designer at my current client Netflix just left this week to enter the same program at CMU, pursuing a master’s in IxD. Her departure for CMU made me reflect upon, albeit nostalgically, about all that has changed, yet stayed the same since then.

For instance, ten years ago…

* There was no Twitter, no Facebook, no iPhone, no netbooks nor any “cloud apps” or “cloud computing”, etc.
* IM wasn’t that popular on campus; and few folks had cell phones.
* Cell phones had no cameras in them!
* No iPod! However Rio introduced a portable MP3 player which I bought for $250 with only 256 megs storage.
* There was no Adobe Creative Suite per se…it was all still separately released products and versions.
* Director (and lingo) was still king; Flash was rising fast to soon eclipse Director.
* Web graphics were all either GIF or JPEG, some animated GIFS too, and some “image maps” and “roll overs”. No transparent PNG’s yet.
* Web was very 1.0, no Ajax or popular rich interactive patterns yet.
* Remember “Shockwave plug-ins”? Ha!
* No Google! Well, it was just starting, but no Google Maps or GMail. Alta Vista was the popular search engine, with Lycos and Yahoo.
* Netscape Navigator 4 was battling Internet Explorer 5 in the “browser wars”; there was no Safari or Firefox or Chrome!
* Standards-based CSS/html was just a blip on the radar, I recall.
* No Tivo I think
* Amazon sold books primarily and just started expanding to other items. Forget if there was Orbitz or Expedia back then? Hmm…
* DSL (and broadband) was just beginning really. Most people still had modems. (like me! I remember “dialing in” to CMU’s network from home)
* They were just rolling out “wi-fi” on CMU campus when I was there, 99-2000 year.
* Everyone (ie, the media) was freaking out over the infamous “Y2K” bug!
* WAP and WML were the “hot” ways of doing websites for a mobile device (like a Palm Pilot)
* Macs still ran OS 9 on Motorola chips. And Apple sold “Powerbooks” (I had one!)
* IBM still made Thinkpads. (I had one too!)
* I used Eudora and Pine/telnet for email.
* Blogs? What are those?? :-)

But regardless of technologies and digital expressions/forms, the principles of designing for audience/context/activity remain in full effect, with evolving constraints that shape the multi-disciplinary conversation, towards meaningful embodiments that provoke positive emotional and productive responses. Who knows what shall emerge ten years hence?

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