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This month, dealnews is celebrating a milestone: We're turning 16! We're old enough to drive! How scary is that?! (Beep Beep!) Now, we know a lot of you are thinking: "Surely, the creation of dealnews is the best event of the last 16 years!" and of course you would be right.
However, there have been other milestones throughout our lifetime that at least merit a mention. And since we're a shopping site with a penchant for tech and other nerdy things, we decided to hone in on the biggest product releases from the last 16 years that have also drastically changed in value since their inception. From Blu-ray players that originally cost $1,000, to annoying toys that inexplicably doubled in price since their advent, here are the 16 craziest price milestones in the history of dealnews.
A digital address book and calendar all in one device? And it only costs 200x what the paper versions of those things cost? Sign us up! (But don't forget to sign using a really stilted, proprietary handwriting recognition format.) Jokes aside, the Palm Pilot really did kickstart the "digital information in our pocket" revolution. Without these, there would be no smartphones. Unfortunately, the smartphone did show up, making these obsolete. But they were fun while they lasted!
Thanks to the nebulous definition of what it takes to be a smartphone, it's hard to pin down with any accuracy which smartphone was the very first. However, we'd like to suggest that the first smartphone "of note" was the Blackberry 850, which cost several hundred dollars. This device showed us that more could be done with a handheld phone than just make calls. It was the first step towards where we are today, with handheld phones being used for just about everything but calls. From humble beginnings...
The first commercially available and consumer accessible Blu-ray player was the Samsung BDP-1000 — and it sold for $1,000. Not only did it bring HD movies into our homes, it also brought a fascinating (read: tiresome) format war. As it battled HD-DVD for dominance of the home HD market, digital distribution snuck in and started eating both of their lunches. Still, it's because of the now-affordable Blu-ray player that we get to buy $2 Blu-ray movies during Black Friday. Digital streaming might one day replace discs all together, but we may never see such discounts on movies again if they do.
Back in the days when people were still saying, "Em Pee What?" eMusic launched its online music store. A monthly subscription-based service, its catalog was mostly filled with indie bands, and not artists most people actually wanted to listen to. Pioneers always have it the hardest though! eMusic would eventually be surpassed by iTunes, Amazon, and any number of other MP3 stores, mainly because eMusic continued to charge a monthly subscription while the new guys offered a la carte purchases.
The idea of recording a TV show to watch later has been around since the VCR, but doing it digitally is where the TiVo — originally priced around $800 — made its mark. Having a TiVo meant no more tapes getting jammed in the machine and no more "You taped over our WEDDING?!" arguments. Plus, you could record hours and hours of
reality TV informative content. The namesake DVR even became a verb: "Nah, I'll TiVo it and watch it later!"
And while DVRs in general paved the way for "time-shifting" and "commercial jumping," which then prompted advertisers to favor in-content product placement, cable companies also got wise and started offering DVR services to their customers for a comparatively small monthly fee. Said fees undercut the costs of owning a TiVo, and the company has since had to scale back its operations. There are still TiVo diehards that prefer the device's slick interface and software however, so the TiVo continues to live on.
Two companies brought a flat screen plasma TV to the market in 1997: Fujitsu and Philips. They were both 42" models and cost $15,000 each. Think that's a lot? Maybe the fact that these sets could display images in 480p makes the price tag more appealing! No? You sure?
These two models signaled the eventual end of tube televisions and the restructuring of our living rooms as TV panels got flatter and wider. There doesn't seem to be any new technology (other than a more pixel-dense panel) lined up to replace the flatscreen, so this form factor is gonna be around for a while (until we have the shows beamed right into our brains, that is).
Most people say that the Furby was a milestone in annoyance, and we do not disagree. However, they did succeed in bringing interactional robotics into the home. Sure, we all got sick of their incoherent burblings after a few days and yanked the batteries out, but for a brief time we saw the future of robotic toys.
Other home robots have come and gone, but the true successor to the Furby is ... the Furby! Re-released in 2012, it does everything the original did, except a little less annoyingly. (Though, that's still pretty annoying!) The Furby is also the one item on our list that was not replaced by something better or cheaper as time went on. In fact, the original Furby retailed for $35, and today's model sells for around $75!
The smooth tones of Jeff Goldblum ushered in the era of all-in-one computing when, acting as a spokesperson for Apple, he introduced the iMac. And the desktop computing would never be the same. Not only was the iMac influential as an aesthetically pleasing piece of technology, but it was also marketed as "easy to connect to the Internet," something people were just starting to hear about. Yet despite price trends in tech, in 1998 you could buy the iMac for $1,299, and 15 years later the entry model iMac costs ... $1,299. How far we've come!
Before 2001, digital SLR cameras were the playthings of professional photogs and the super rich. Then Canon launched its Canon EOS D30 to tap into the "pro-sumer" market: consumers who want pro features, but not pro prices. At $3,000, you might think that's still "pro" pricing, but the masses went nuts: serious amateurs were able to start exploring digital photography on a level that they couldn't have before. By today's standards, the 3.1-megapixels config seems a bit weak, but it was a stepping stone that got us to where we are today, in which we routinely see DLSRs for under $600.
The first commercially sold eBook reader was the Rocket, made by NuvoMedia. Obviously it wasn't a hit as most of you probably just said, "Who made the what now?" At $500 it wasn't cheap either, but then again, the first Kindle debuted for $399. We guess that extra $101 made all the difference. Now, of course, you can pick up an E-Ink reader (the Rocket had an LCD screen) for as low as $69.
It's hard to believe we ever lived in a world where we didn't have access to more storage than we knew what to do with, isn't it? But that was the sad state of things until 2007 when Hitachi announced the first-ever commercially-available 1TB internal hard drive. At $399, consumers were paying $0.40/GB, but today a 1TB hard drive will set you back about $60, or just $0.06/GB! Some day, SSDs will replace these old spinning-platter models, but not for several years, as the pricing is just not coming down fast enough (and capacities aren't going up fast enough, either).
How could you not count the 1997 debut of this gazillion-dollar franchise as a nerdy milestone? Harry Potter got generations of kids to read and taught us all that scars are cool. With a cover price of £10.99 (approximately $16.68 USD), you were transported to a wondrous world of wizardry. Today, you can pick up the eBook version for $7.99 to $9.99 a piece, or the entire box set for as little as $40. (That's discount wizardry, for the record.) To date, nothing has matched the impact this narrative has had on pop culture — not even those sparkly vampire "novels."
Back in the late 1990s, just as everyone was getting sick of real pets, Bandai stepped up to offer the Tamagotchi — the first digital pet. Retailing for around $15, these keychain-sized toys quickly became a hot item not just for kids, but adults, too. (It's OK, you can all admit to having one — or at least wanting one. There's no shame.) Like a real pet, you'd have to clean it, feed it, and pick up its digital poop. The Tamagotchi marks the first time real people were beholden to a digital monster that had real-time needs. It's safe to say that Tamagotchis then paved the way for The Sims and all types of other virtual lives and responsibilities.
Over time, we all gradually forgot about our Tamagotchis. So many digital pets wound up dead in the back of a junk drawer, and we thought we were free of the Tamagotchi. We thought we had moved on to bigger and better AI, but then in 2012, Bandai released Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. A free mobile app for iOS and Android, Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. brought our childhood pets back to, well, life. Adults gripped by nostalgia raced to download the app. Minutes later, they were bored. We had grown up, and there was no going back*. [*This might be based on the writer's personal experience, YMMV.]
The world was first introduced to the MP3 player with the debut of the Eiger Labs MPMan F10. With 32 megabytes of built-in, non-expandable memory, it was the height of cool. "You mean, I can fit a whole album on this thing?! Wow!" But for $200, it didn't gain much traction. Still, it was the first inkling that MP3s could be a viable way to listen to music, even if it was a poorly handled attempt at a product and failed to capture the public's imagination. But then came along...
Though Stanley Kubrick's movie got so much wrong (Pan Am wouldn't make it to that year, for example), it did bring us one truly futuristic improvement: 2001 was the year that Apple released its first iPod, and music consumption would never be the same again. At $399, its price was steep, but it came with gigabytes of storage, rather than megabytes.
The iPod also had something the MPMan didn't: Steve Jobs and his Reality Distortion Field. Only that man could make us all believe we needed this product. He made it seem as if buying one would catapult us into the future. And in some ways it did! The iPod was the device that finally sparked the digital music revolution ... and Napster ... and RIAA lawsuits. Hmm. Well, let's focus on the good times, huh?
Is this a cheesy TIME "Person Of The Year" cop-out? Only partially! See, over the last 16 years, with the rise of social media and networking (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and yes, even Google+) you have become a product. You are the thing that these companies market to advertisers to make money. Every "like," every "Tweet," every (infrequent) "+1" you make has become exceptionally valuable information that these companies can use to more effectively sell you.
Does that sound too bleak? It's not all bad! It's because of this setup that major tech players are able to continue to innovate and find ways to get us to be more social and interact with people. It means more features and more fun things to do online! And even if certain companies use the information that we give them in good faith to make money off our data, it's still letting us see each other's information and connect in new ways, often for free. If a targeted ad is the price we pay for being able to share a cat video with our friends (and strangers) we say, "We have to sit through this ad, first?! Ugh!"
And my, how the years have rolled by! While working to bring you the best online deals every day, the writers and editors at dealnews have come to learn that what's trendy may have an exorbitant price tag today, but it won't take long until we're laughing at what those early adopters once paid. Here's to another 16 years — and a future in which Google Glasses are presumably 200 times cheaper!
Front page photo credit: Zazzle
Photo credits top to bottom: Peter Migut, Bright Hub, AV Review,
PR Web, Gizmodo, Lawrence World Journal, Joe Shopping, Every Mac, DP Review,
Prepress Design, iTech News, Guardian UK, Ejecutive,
Computerbild, Geek System, and Riki Garcia