The week that was in 2005
People say that five years is a long time in technology, but just how long is it? If we're looking to the future and trying to work out how gadgets, software and services might have changed by 2015, then one way we might be able to get a measure of that would be to look at how far we've come since 2005.
Even if it's not entirely accurate, it's certainly fun to see what kinds of backward tech was getting us all excited. After all, if you can't laugh at yourself, then what can you laugh at, or as one internet voice put it, "then it's time to remove the stick from up your arse".
This week in 2005
5 years may have passed but, of course, the major players remain the same. Google, Apple, Microsoft and Sony were all in the news for all sorts of different reasons, good and bad.
It was all up for the Big G as the company celebrated its one year anniversary of Gmail by doubling the storage capacity for users of the mail platform up to a healthy 2GB. The move came just a week after Yahoo had announced the lifting of its customer space to match Google's, so perhaps this was just a little tit for tat-ism at a convenient time? Google quite sensibly said:
"Our plan is to continue growing your storage beyond 2GBs by giving you more space as we are able. We know that email will only become more important in people's lives, and we want Gmail to keep up with our users and their needs. From Gmail, you can expect more. We plan on continuing this increase for the foreseeable future".
Less than a few percent of Gmail users were bumping the ceiling at the time, but it was a case of anticipating future needs. Now at 7GB plus of space, Google has kept its word.
Apple, on the other hand, was on the defensive, or at least the High Court was on the company's behalf as it successfully took control of the domain name iTunes.co.uk, which had been purchased by journalist and dotcom entrepreneur Ben Cohen and his business. Cohen had purchased the address after Apple had registered its UK trademark and then directed the traffic over to a music search facility. An independent arbitrator had ruled his actions had been "abusive" and 5 years ago Cohen had lodged an appeal. You don't need to go to iTunes.co.uk to find out who won.
Microsoft had a few legal wranglings of its own 5 years back and was finally forced to launch versions of Windows without Windows Media Player by the EU. The issue had been over anti-competitive practises and part of the settlement was that Windows XP N went on sale in both Professional and Home editions. They hit the shelves in March 2005. Still, it wasn't all doom and gloom for Bill Gates at the time as his company took its first steps into the video rental market launching a service where you could download content to your Pocket PC or SmartPhone, but what it was really aimed at was the Portable Media Center. Zune was, at the time, just a twinkle in Bill's eye.
At the same time, the idea of content distribution had also peaked some interest for Sony who was launching the PSP in States, while also contemplating the idea of the PlayStation Network. The primary aim for the gaming handheld though was to become the Walkman for the 21st Century, according to Sony execs, with the subtext of out-selling the Nintendo DS, launched not long before, and becoming a force strong enough to challenge the iPod and that huge 10 million units it had shipped worldwide. Well, it has made it well beyond that to date with a impressive 60 million sales. Just a shame Apple's managed four times that over the same period. Sorry Sony, still, the company probably would have been quite happy with that at the time, particularly as it was having to pay off a Californian business after infringements with the PlayStation Dual Shock technology.
At the end of the day, life was always going to be fine for Sony, but not so for a certain handheld gaming device launched this very month 5 years ago by Tiger Telematics. Yes, it only takes a short click to work out what happened to the troubled Gizmondo which was hitting its first problem back on 1 April 2005. It seems its developers hadn't taken into account daylight saving, and the clocks going forward in the UK caused the kind of issues we were all expecting the Millennium Bug to throw up. The shell script cracked and it took updates sent out over GPRS or by SD cards to sort it out. It may not have been critical but, in hindsight, the writing was on the wall. Still, what would you expect of a device with a top selling title known as Sticky Balls?
Elsewhere in the gaming world, things got a little more serious as two MMORPGers got into a real life tussle over a virtual weapon. It seems both had agreed to own the Dragon Sabre, but one of them went and sold it without the others permission for a tidy sum of $871. He was then stabbed to death by a presumably very real sabre of some sort. Nasty stuff.
Bizarrely, the shape of laptops was actually very similar indeed to popular models of today. Launched this week in 2005 was the Dell Latitude X1 ultra portable PC. It had a 12.1-inch WXGA (1280 x 720) display, a couple of USB ports, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, weighed just 1.14kg and cost £1035. All in all, that's very similar to the current business portable from Dell, the E4200. Of course, open it up and you'd notice the changes. The top end X1 was the proud owner of a single core, 1.1GHz Pentium M Ultra-Low Voltage processor, a whole 256MB of DDR2 RAM, Windows XP and the choice of either a 30 or 60GB HDD. Interesting that we seem to have come full circle via the netbook craze and back to the first good idea that someone had of just making them thin and light rather than titchy and hard to type on.
If you really want to have a giggle though, Vodafone launched a primitive 3G card 5 years ago that slotted into your machine - well, we say slotted in, but it protruded like a carbuncle from your computer - via the ExpressCard slot. Quite impressive to see that there was some kind of 3G support - provided you could actually get any signal, of course, but the real killer was what it cost you. It was £30 per month for just 200MB. Bargain.
Just plain old 2G network was getting some coverage, in both senses of the word, with the launch of a scheme to bring mobile phone reception to travellers on the Tube. The plans, as backed by the at-the-time Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was set to see completion across the underground network in 2008. Londoners are still waiting.
At the same time, bottle blonde Caprice helped launch a rather better scheme in the shape of the MoPay handset recycle website which, we're pleased to see, is still going strong today. At the time, one of the phones of the day, the Nokia 6230 would fetch £35. A quick glance at the site shows that the same handset would get you just £8.50 5 years on.
It was a pretty quiet week on the AV front, but there was one launch that gives us a bit of a clue as to the state of play at the time. Yes, in 2005, the admittedly high-end brand Loewe launched a 42-inch HD Ready plasma TV with an HDMI and everything for a cool £3500. Someone out there will still be watching one of those. We hope it's got a really good picture.
And the rest
As for the gadgets, doobery-flips and doohickies of the day, we were given a glimpse of a new kind of alarm clock that would be spreading like hot cakes. The idea of the Clocky is that it would run off in a random direction when it went off, so that you had to get out of bed to go and turn it off. The idea was that the random nature of the movement meant that you couldn't just go to the same place where you knew it would be. Do write in if you ever actually saw one of these.
Where the Clocky may have failed, there was one gadget that is still going strong today. It never quite hit the main stream but those who regularly ride bikes or are thinking of attending Burning Man might want to invest in a rather pretty set of Hokey Spokes.
Finally, of course, this week sees and saw April Fool's Day. We didn't write too many fake stories but the ones we did were good. In 2005, it was the turn of the iPoo toilet finder device complete with GPS and a database of the locations of 60,000 public lavs in the UK. There was even supposedly a community whereby you could rate the best bogs. Whether or not it would have been called Top of the Plops, we shall never know. The funny thing is that there's probably now an app that does this for real.
So, if that's the past, then what of the future? Hmm. Good question. Well, if cybersquatting failed back in 2005, then there's no chance of it working when the web domains open up again. Big companies like Microsoft and Sony will get into plenty more trouble with the EU and smaller technology houses. We can expect Google to be hit some time before 2015 on anti-competition grounds possibly from hogging all the servers of the world in order to offer Gmail customers 20GB of storage.
While more small handheld makers will come and go, computers will be pretty much the same shape, but with 8-core processors, 16GB of RAM and built-in mobile broadband services that are pretty much free, although somehow we doubt that extrapolation will stand up. 3DTVs will become unsurprisingly affordable, Hokey Spokes won't have got anywhere big and we'll still be waiting to be able to make calls on the Tube. Probably a good thing.
So, there you have it - the future according to the past. Does that follow for you?
If you enjoyed this article, then head over to our Future Week homepage where you'll find a collection of features on what gadgets will be like in the year 2015.