The year 2000 was an extremely rare occasion – the beginning of a new millennium. When two thousand recorded years of this era officially commenced, it was a momentous occasion that only a very lucky few generations in human history will experience. For many it was embraced as the beginning of a bright, prosperous future (at least for those who weren’t predicting the end of the world). Ten years on, not everyone has had a great time though. For some, the past decade was a deadset shocker. Here are eight of the biggest losers so far this millennium…
Since being discovered in 1930s, Pluto has always been the awkward, slightly-off distant cousin of the solar system family. Distant is the operative word there; the icy orb hovers nearly 6,000 million km from the sun. Not only is Pluto far away, it’s made of just ice and rock, has a wonky orbit and is so tiny one of its own moons (Charon) is almost as large as it. These characteristics eventually caused astronomers to ponder if Pluto really had the credentials to justify its membership within the exclusive club of planets. In 2006 the International Astronomical Union reclassified the definition of ‘planet’ and Pluto was the only one of the existing nine planets not to make the cut as per the new definition. It was the scientific equivalent of Idol; asking Pluto to take a step forward, then declaring that everyone in the front row was going home. It was cruel and heartbreaking. Still, Pluto keeps on spinning out there, now a ‘minor planet’, but not doubt remembering fondly those fleeting few decades when it was the quirky member of the planetary ensemble.
In 1979, The Buggles topped charts with their bubblegum hit, ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’. They were referring to the rise of the music video – the MTV age – where music no longerhad to be heard, but seen to be enjoyed. Well, The Buggles prophesised the rise of the video, but nobody made much mention of its fall. Throughout the 80s and 90s, home entertainment was rolled up between two wheels and encased in a big, black plastic box. It was the video cassette and it dictated television screens for more than two decades until the new millennium introduced video to Cassius and Brutus – DVD and the Internet. DVDs were far superior to videos for their better picture, non-serial format, capacity, size and longevity. They also had the added bonus of not vomiting metres of black tape when you rewound or fast-forwarded too quickly. Then the Internet delivered the fatal dagger strikes, with TV-streaming and the download market robbing the video of its final salvation – the ability to record – from under its boxy feet. Today, HD-recorders, TiVo, Blu-Ray and all manner of new technologies are making video look as outdated as bowl-cuts and tunics.
It would probably be fairer to just call Planet Earth itself the loser here on account of climate change, but as the furry face of global warming, it’s the polar bear that has tugged the heartstrings the hardest. As the Arctic slowly melts its way into the oceans, the polar bear has become the unofficial spokesanimal against climate change. Footage of the cute, furry beasts stranded on shrinking ice-sheets or swimming around in lieu of frozen ground has been used extensively to point out the planet’s plight. Some say polar bear population has decreased between 15-17 per cent in the past ten years, and now there are only around 20-25,000 left. The worst part is pleading the case for polar bears are radical left-wing pinkos, which isn’t helping their status in the world of dominant predators. Sharks and crocodiles have rugged adventurers as their ambassadors, polar bears have long-haired tofu-eaters in three-quarter pants.
Conservative politics was all the rage in the greedy capitalism-soaked 80s, and despite a little hiccup by the name of Clinton, the conservative way kept strong well into the new millennium. But, before long, the lustre was lost, mainly thanks to the three B’s – Bush, Blair and Berlusconi. United States President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair became the world’s most hated couple for their failing exploits in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Italy’s leader, Silvio Berlusconi gained notoriety for corruption, promiscuity and general comedic beef-headedness. Bush left a legacy of Youtube videos documenting his epic struggle with basic speech. Blair lost all political credibility and became known as the man who all-too-eagerly jumped into bed with Bush. Berlusconi, meanwhile was clobbered in the face with a statue of a cathedral. And who was left to pick up the conservative baton? Sarah Palin… Enter world leaders from stage left.
For decades, aviation was the fastest way to travel, by virtue of the fact that planes can whisk passengers through the clouds, free of traffic at speeds of over 900 kph. But ever since 9/11, air travel has become one of the lengthiest, most stressful ways to get from one place to another. From 2001, security (particularly in America) precautions were taken to desperately paranoid extremes. Checks, double-checks and triple-checks are the norm for anyone attempting to check-in. The random in ‘random personal searches’ now refers to those few aren’t frisked, stripped and interrogated at the security gate. And so help you if you leave a bag unattended for a mere minute; when you return you’ll find it split open by a remote-control robot driven by a group of unseen men in Hazmat suits. Yes, heightened security has foiled the (very) occasional dribbling loony from getting on board, but for the majority of us travellers, the airport has lost its sense of freedom and adventure and has become a place teeming with suspicion and frustrating queues.
During the 90s Bill Gates accrued enough money to have purchased the earth, called it Windows Earth, sold it to everyone and stuffed another trillion dollars under his mattress. Microsoft had the monopoly on personal computing – DOS, Windows 95, Windows 98… These operating systems were simply what everyone used… unless you were a nerd and used a Macintosh. However, a change in tide came in 1998, when Apple released the iMac – a colourful, aesthetically pleasing computer. By prefixing a lower-case vowel before its products, Apple began its rise as the trendy choice of technology. Microsoft did themselves no favours either, Vista became notorious as the worst OS on the market. As Steve Jobs cultivated a fanatical fanbase of Apple diehards with his trendy black-skivvies, Bill Gates’s self-cut hairstyle looked more and more ridiculous. Windows still has a massive 90 per cent market share in Operating Systems, but its brand image has been made to look downright lame next to Apple and Google.
The English Language
WTF? Language is an evolutionary phenomena. It changes just as societies do, modernising and self-regulating as each new generation defines itself in time. By the new millennium, most significant changes to the English language since the Industrial Age was the removal of erroneous ‘e’s on the end of words, ‘tally-ho’ lost favour, and ‘pants’ was no longer a swear word. In the last decade, though, English has taken an absolute battering at the hands (literally) of the Internet generation. Instant messaging and laziness combined to bring a swarm of new acronyms into the lexicon. Words started losing letters in the quest to pump out that text message just a bit quicker. LOL begat ROFL, RFOL begat LFMAO and LFMAO begat a generation of language-deficient teens. The Oxford English Dictionary, the definitive authority on language, actually added some of these new terms, including LOL. The rapid pace of the Internet (and the increasingly alarming trend in purposely butchering words and grammar on pictures of cats) means the English Language is entering a new stage of evolution. Ridiculousness. I Can Haz Mah Langwaj BaK PLZ? Lol, JK, itz 2 L8 Newayz, Bai Bai sence!!!1!
Mobile Phone Buttons
If there is one technology that has stayed true to the theory of exponential development – it’s the mobile phone. What started in the 80s as a car accessory the size of a mini-fridge, the mobile, led by those Nordic telecom pioneers Ericcsson and Nokia, became smaller, lighter and smarter. Soon, they were performing other tasks, such as a stopwatch and snake. As we ventured further into the new millennium, new companies began releasing new phones with new features – ones that flip, ones with sliders, ones with colour screens, cameras, radios, even limited web browsing. Then came Apple and touch-screens. The iPhone set the new trend for mobile phone technology – and at its expense was the all-purpose keypad. Any phone with buttons now looks as antiquated as a Walkman CD player. It’s not even cool enough to be used by hipsters in an ironically-cool statement. This is the age of the poke, pinch and swipe.