From Apple iMacs and iPhones to Google everything: 20 years of tech

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CLOSEEd Baig

Zendaya, Jason Mraz, Kermit the Frog, Wendy Williams and Savannah Guthrie featured in Jefferson Graham’s highlight of USA TODAY’s Talking Tech years

USA TODAY

When I started covering technology here two decades ago, I didn’t own a cellphone, nor did my company deem it in their interests to buy me one. 

My tenure at USA TODAY pre-dates text messages, soundbars, talking speakers, QR codes, video chat, Uber, DoorDash, Zoom calls, YouTube, Wi-Fi, affordable flat-screen TVs….you get the idea. 

So many changes in such a short period of time! This is my last column for USA TODAY as your Talking Tech columnist. Let’s say goodbye by celebrating how far we’ve come through the years. 

My stint started in 2000 – I began at USA TODAY earlier, covering entertainment – at a time when we spent a lot of time talking about the big three tech companies: AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft. AOL had just shocked the world by buying Time Warner for $165 billion. (You know how well that turned out. But I digress.)

Jefferson Graham says goodbye to USA TODAY, with a vintage iMac, VCR, Flip and JVC video camera and the iPhone 12 Pro (Photo: Jefferson Graham)

We did use computers, yes indeed, mostly desktops, and they were Windows machines with black-and-white monitors. We weren’t online; we went online, with a phone line attached to our computers. You know, the type we used on our landlines. Remember them? 

Apple back then had less than 3% market share. It wouldn’t start its evolution into the world’s most valuable $2 trillion company until 2001, when it introduced the iPod MP3 music player and helped bring digital music to the masses. This is after the short-lived Napster popularized MP3s by showing how easy it was to copy licensed music. In 2003, the iPod shifted into a mainstream product when CEO Steve Jobs (who rejoined the company in 1997) opened it up to be used on Windows computers with the iTunes music store, the first easy to use, legitimate avenue for buying music, back then at 99 cents a song. Streaming and the celestial jukebox was a far off dream. 

We started Talking Tech in 2006 as a weekly, ahead-of-its-time video series, produced bicoastally on two webcams. The first episode – with my former partner, Edward C. Baig – was a review of the Flip Video camera. Remember that one, kids? 

By 2010, Flip was soon to be gone, as Apple introduced the iPhone 4, the first iPhone with a decent camera. Kodak became a memory, Canon, Nikon, Olympus and other mainstays of the camera business saw their sales tumble, as people preferred the camera that was in their pocket, their phone. 

But I have to admit, I never foresaw just how great the smartphone cams would become. I always loved using them, but there was a stigma to “cellphone video.” Now we can shoot 4K video that looks nearly as good as what you get from a traditional camera, mostly due to computational photography tricks. But I’m not complaining. Have you seen my iPhone sunsets? 

Then there’s Google and Facebook. 

Jefferson Graham and the robot ERICA. ERATO ISHIGURO Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Project (Photo: Sam Graham)

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