The Top 10 Innovations of the Decade
From smart phones to social networking, a look at the past 10 years.
Dec. 1, 2009 — -- Can you even recall a time when you didn't "Google?" When you didn't know what it meant to "unfriend" someone? Or when you couldn't surf the Web, send an e-mail and take a picture from a palm-sized device that fits in your pocket?
The past 10 years have given us countless innovations that improve – and confuse – our daily lives. From Internet technology to finance to genetics and beyond, advances in science and technology have changed the way we communicate, relate to one another and think about what it means to be a modern human being.
Here are just 10 of those top innovations.
Until May 2, 2000, the United States intentionally degraded GPS signals available to the public for national security reasons.
Originally developed by the Department of Defense to aid the military, the satellite-based system provides location and time data to users. In announcing the discontinuation of the feature that deliberately degraded the signal, the White House said in a statement that civilian users of GPS would be able to pinpoint locations up to 10 times more accurately than before.
Removing that obstacle helped speed the proliferation of GPS-enabled consumer products that live as stand-alone units and, increasingly, as add-on features in cell phones and smart phones.
Now, turn-by-turn directions and information about the nearest gas station and other points of interest are available on car dashboards, iPhones and more.
What would environmentalists be without the more fuel-efficient hybrid cars? The hybrid movement started in July 2000, when Toyota Motor Corporation introduced the hybrid Prius to the United States.
In 2003, Scientific America named Toyota "Business Leader of the Year" for commercializing the affordable hybrid car.
Now, Ford, Mercury, Lexus, Nissan and others have hybrid cars on the market. But the Prius is still the best-selling car in its class.
In March 2009, the hybrid community witnessed two milestones: Toyota said it sold its one millionth hybrid car in the U.S. and Ford said it produced its 100,000th.
October 2000 -- AT&T Introduces Text Messaging to the U.S.
It had already taken Europe by storm when AT&T introduced the U.S. to "texting."
In October 2000, AT&T became the first U.S. cellular company to offer instant text messaging for mobile phones.
The service, which is now said to be the most widely used data application in the world, lets subscribers send and receive short text messages from their cell phones and smart phones.
Messages can also be sent to e-mail address and, many users now send and receive pictures messages too.
In June 2000, cellular carriers reported that users sent 12.2 million text messages monthly, according to industry group CTIA -- The Wireless Association. In June 2009, that figure had jumped to 135.2 billion messages per month.
For parents, the service has led to gripes galore, as growing numbers of teenagers engage in "sexting," or the act of sharing nude or partially nude photos via text message.
It has also led to outrageously high cell phone bills for parents of particularly prolific teens who send possibly hundreds of messages a day.