People of the Decade: Business and Technology

"World News" looks back at the decade's iconic business and technology moments.

December 30, 2009, 11:06 AM

Dec. 30, 2009— -- Ten years ago today, the world was prepared to mark a new millennium amid fears that our technology could come crashing down because of the Y2K glitch.

So many Americans wondered: Were our computers going to crash? Would our banking system collapse?

It turned out Y2K was fine. It was human error -- greed -- that would bring business and banking down.

The first big collapse? Enron.

CEO Kenneth Lay earned a salary of $42 million a year before he was convicted in May 2006 of charges including conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud. Facing 20 to 30 years in prison, he died on vacation in July 2006 before he could be sentenced.

But there were also the companies defying the economic turmoil, making their mark in a different way.

There was Apple. At the start of the decade, iPods were still a twinkle in Apple CEO Steve Jobs' eye.

But not for long. That little device you could store music on and take anywhere changed the music industry starting in 2001. That same year, iTunes began.

A decade ago, TV producers were still saying, "Roll the tape!" Today, you can roll it yourself.

Nearly any video you can think of is available instantly on YouTube. The idea was started by three co-workers, then sold to Google.

Where else could you find Saudi dancers, grooving to Michael Jackson?

And while we all didn't post our own videos, many of us sure did post about ourselves.

MySpace, then Facebook, came to dominate the new business of social networking.

Mark Zuckerburg came up with Facebook while at Harvard -- first for his fellow students, and now for more than 350 million active users worldwide. Family and friends chronicle their daily lives.

With the economic crisis, there were so many jobs lost. Lehman Brothers, AIG, the auto companies -- all of them failed amid a crisis blamed on a term that quickly became part of the American conversation: toxic assets. Many of those assets stemmed from subprime mortgages, those risky loans available to nearly anyone who asked.

The housing market collapsed, and then, of course, came the exposure of Bernie Madoff's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.


Americans vented, online and to each other, using all kinds of technology.

Just in time to capture the anger, Twitter facilitated the sending of instant messages of 140 characters or less to "followers."

Actor Ashton Kutcher challenged Larry King on CNN in a contest to see who could get to a million followers first. Kutcher won.

If you wanted to see the person you were communicating with, rather than simply texting or tweeting them, you could "Skype" them.

The company, founded by a Swedish entrepreneur, originally was called "Sky Peer to Peer." That was abbreviated to "Skype," connecting millions around the world via voice and video.

And at the end of the decade, the focus returned to Apple -- with iPod, iTunes, followed by the iPhone, which brought many of the decade's tech tools into the palm of your hand.

It was technology that defined a decade and changed the way we live our lives.

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