Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Decade of the century

It crept up on me, but not it's true that the decade is about to end (please, take the business about the last millennium ending in 2000 but the previous decade ending in 1999 elsewhere). When we look back on this decade, we can remember the year 2000 as the stump of that bizarre period of human affairs when Bill Clinton was president, Internet companies were started on the premise of selling you things with 100% rebates, and boy bands set all sorts of records for album sales.

At the end of the '90s, you could look back confidently at the start of the decade and have no reason to be ashamed. The Soviet Union had dissolved, the Cold War had ended and while I'm sure there were trends in 1990 that had lost favour by 1999, it's safe to say that a wall separates us from all that was bizarre, unholy and idiotic at the start of this decade. The Internet boom became a bust, we all started listening to white people mumble over acoustic guitars instead of white people combining rap and rock, the Internet matured into something with a purpose, and even 2001 can be divided into the first eight months and the last four.

It's obviously not the case that the world changed more in this decade than in any other, not even close, although technology yielded more fruits this decade than the previous, which yielded unpolished technologies like dial-up Internet. Rather, this decade really seems to have been two decades for the way in which we might, with as much shame as surprise, realize that the best-selling album of the decade was No Strings Attached.

Let's look at this decade a little bit closer. I still don't understand what Y2K was ever going to do to us, but news reports on December 31, 1999 indicated that the year 2000 had arrived in the western Pacific without significant casualties. There was Limp Bizkit, the Backstreet Boys, Stockwell Day and AOL. There was the Millennium Dome, the 2000 US election, and an obsession in 2001 over a remote threat from vicious, lawless...sharks.

Then we had all these bad ideas, not included there is the brilliant idea that had: sell something at ten times its normal price but offer a 100% rebate. The profit comes not from doing something with the money between the time you get it and you return it, but from hoping that 5% of customers forget to send in their rebates.

No wonder we've tried our hardest, as the Internet has become more sensible, to forget things like that, or the dancing baby, ever happened.

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