In celebration of the 20th Annual Cengage Learning Computing Conference, the team has put together a list of twenty ways that computing has changed in the past twenty years. We hope you enjoy this walk down “memory lane,” and we invite you to share your own memories in the comments!

Are you a Computing instructor? Register for the 20th Annual Cengage Learning Computing Conference, taking place March 18-20 in Phoenix, Arizona.

If you have photos… we invite you to share them on Facebook and Twitter! Use hashtag #20YrsComputing. And keep up with the Cengage Learning Computing team on Twitter: @CL_Computing.

1. What used to take 9,000 floppy disks now takes 1 GB of storage space. Nine thousand disks… that’s a lot of desk space (and a lot of labels!). Now all that data can literally fit in the palm of your hand.
2. We’ve gone from ten-pound monitors to sleek, slim flatscreens. Now we have more space on our desks for plants, coffee mugs, and piles of paper (which—admit it—you still have!).
3. From C to C+ to C++ to C# to C- to C!@#%^!@… Just like the spoken and written word, computing languages evolve with time and usage. So perhaps it’s appropriate that one of the newest computing languages is called “Swift”—we sure have seen a lot of change over the past twenty years!
4. Office Assistants. Clippy, the beloved Microsoft® Office Assistant who alas is no more. “I see you’re trying to fondly remember the past, would you like to…”
5. SC/NP/Illo 2013 vs 1990s: Remember teaching about the World Wide Web vs. Cloud Computing? New Perspectives Computer Concepts in 1996 prominently displayed this on the cover.
6. Flip phones aren’t what they used to be. A whole pound, an extending antennae, a folding keypad protector. Cutting-edge technology!
7. Apple Newton vs. iPhone. The Original Apple PDA from the early 90’s. The size of a massively overpowered graphing calculator, with fewer features than a modern watch.
8. Moore’s Law: still going strong! Despite every prediction, despite every invention, processing power still doubles every two years.
9. From MS-DOS to Windows 10. Software tools for 16 bit systems vs. the present 64 bit, an exponential increase with the lovely four-colored Windows to stare at during start up as opposed to the series of backslashes and colons.
10. The Evolution of Mice. From a ball in a wood frame with a single clicker, to a glowing, twenty-button, ergonomic monstrosity. The mouse has changed from a blunt instrument to a surgeon’s tool in design and abilities.
11. Remember dial up? Yelling at family members not to pick up the phone, listening for hours on end as your computer struggled to beep and boop itself to the World Wide Web. It was replaced by Internet service that could download all the programs on that old computer in minutes.
12. Continuous stationery. The two-color perforated paper for older printers has been replaced with a rainbow’s assortment of colors, shapes and sizes. Printing has never been easier!
13. Y2K Compliance. Gone are the days of MMDDYY! Governments and businesses spent over $500 million to ensure data integrity (and make sure we weren’t throwing our accounting data back to 1900).
14. Downloadable music. If you’re “of a certain age,” you might recall with fondness the days of running down to a record store to buy your favorite band’s newest album on its release date. Now, thanks to iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and other sources, you can have those songs delivered to your digital devices in mere minutes.
15. Digital video. Back in the day, if you wanted to share a video with friends and family, you’d have to spend hours duplicating your originals—or, you’d have to pass around your lone copy. Today, you can upload your video to YouTube, Facebook, or your own blog, and voila: everyone around the world can see Grandma Tootie’s first paragliding adventure!
16. Your definition of “social” has morphed. In 1995, we were still leaving notes on each other’s’ literal walls and pinning lists to boards made of cork (instead of pixels). Our pictures had a hazy tone to them because… well… that’s how they developed. A “tweet” was still something you heard from a bird. And how else would you be “social,” except in person (or on the phone)? Today, we share so much of our lives through social media that it’s hard for many people to imagine a few days (or hours) without checking their apps.
17. Sharing files. If your colleague asked you to “share a file” back in 1995, your first instinct probably would have been to grab a manila folder and walk it down the hall. Today, to share a file, you don’t even have to FTP or email the doc… you can put it online, and in moments, you and others around the world can edit and collaborate synchronously! (In fact, we collaborated on this very post using Office 365!)
18. E-mail: from exciting novelty to never-ending communications. At one point in e-mail’s history, you could only send a message to a person using your same mainframe. Eventually, you could send a message to a colleague in another office (or elsewhere in the world!), but it still required going to an Internet-connected terminal, entering in some command lines, and composing your “boring,” text-only message. By the mid-nineties, the process got simpler—and admit it—you were excited to hear the sound of AOL’s cheerful “You’ve got mail!” coming from your computer—where you’d find a message with text and maybe even some photos or GIFs. Today, you probably get more e-mail than you’d care to even admit… and you can access it from your phone, your TV, your e-reader, and even your watch!
19. Storage: From boxes to clouds. In 1995, storing files required boxes and boxes full of floppy disks, or external hard drives. More recently, we began abandoning the idea of physical storage altogether and putting everything in the cloud where we can access it wherever, whenever we please. It may be more convenient, but it has also led to a new type of security concern preventing online hackers from accessing our data.
20. The future is today. At one time, “rocket” delivery systems, super-powered glasses, and watches-as-communication-devices all seemed like the stuff of comic books and science fiction. And by 1995, we figured we might have been getting closer. But in the very near future, a drone might drop off your pizza or you could have a conversation with your family with your smart watch—that is, if you haven’t already done so!


Relive some Cengage Learning Computing highlights in the slideshow below. And, don’t forget to share your own memories in the comments!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.