It seems like it was only yesterday when the 1994 MLB strike canceled the World Series, David Hasselhoff saved countless swimmers' lives on Baywatch, and Bill “Bubba” Clinton won America’s hearts and minds with his masterful saxophone skills. Those were the popular mainstream events, but what about the moments that were important to us nerds? Well, we've got you covered, with this retrospective of the top 5 major nerdy events of the ‘90s!
1) Dolly the Sheep
Having become the de facto mascot of genetic cloning in these modern times, Dolly the sheep was met with praise and derision from the public when introduced to the world in 1997. Spearheaded by Sir Ian Wilmut of Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, he and his colleagues used a groundbreaking technique known as somatic-cell nuclear transfer to create Dolly, demonstrating that the nucleus of somatic cells—those that constitute skin, blood, and organs in living things—contain enough genetic information to create a copy of the original organism when placed into an empty egg cell. Though lauded by the scientific community for its potential future applications, religious groups and critics questioned whether it was morally ethical.
2) The Internet (As We Know It Today)
The Internet has a long, convoluted history that dates back as early as the ‘60s, with its function as an interconnected messaging system and research tool used by government institutions and universities throughout the ‘80s. But it wasn’t until the mid ‘90s when the Internet was finally commercialized and began taking its first baby steps towards becoming the time-wasting cat picture repository that it is now—though dial-up modems at the time meant you’d likely be waiting a few minutes (or hours) for the images to load. And as there are always two sides to everything, the good—including instant messaging, online shopping, and blogging—was taken with the bad, chiefly trolling, flaming, and spam messages. It's funny how some things never change... they only get worse!
Humans are, intrinsically, fallible creatures that have the tendency to approach anything foreign and new with some degree of fear and the angry waving of sticks. Demonstrating that we still hadn’t shaken our prehistoric ancestor’s social shortcomings, the Pokémon phenomenon of 1998 was the proverbial punching bag for fundamentalists, child psychologists, and parental groups reprobating the combative critters. With an anime series, a pair of Game Boy games, and the friendship-shattering trading cards, Pokémon waged a war on our parents’ wallets from multiple fronts—a quality that sparked all the controversy. Our opinion? They’re just jealous they didn’t come up with monsters that beat each other up at the behest of 10-year-olds first! We know we are.
4) Toy Story
Nowadays you can’t sit through a movie without seeing a preview for at least one or two computer-animated films, but back in 1995, Toy Story was akin to a magnitude 10 earthquake that shook up an entire industry and made Pixar Animation Studios a household name. Its incomparable success suggesting otherwise, Toy Story’s development was extremely problematic, faced with piddly paychecks, constant script rewrites, complicated demands from erstwhile Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, and a near shutdown of the entire production. Thankfully, the film’s producers waded through the horrendous mess and created a movie that rivals Disney's landmark masterpiece, Snow White, in regards to cultural impact.
5) Y2K Fear Mongering
Because every decade must simply end with unwarranted scare tactics, technology experts and the media nearly drove the world into hysterics when the purported Y2K bug would wreak havoc on global computer systems, causing societal collapse and increased sales in toilet paper and bottled water. The alleged issue arose due to digital systems representing four-digit years with only two, this rollover from 99 to 00 resulting in supposedly devastating operational errors. In the end the effects of Y2K were embarrassingly exaggerated—at worst negligible—leaving millions with useless Y2K insurance and more canned food than they knew what to do with. So, who's hungry for some decade-old Chef Boyardee?
Did we miss any other momentous events?