Technology from the past decades came together in the 1990s to give us the early stages of the World Wide Web. Imagine your office today without that invention. We can all thank Tim Berners-Lee, as he's best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web in 1990. Throughout the rest of the 90s, there were rapid advancements in technology. Things like The Pentium Processor, Java Programming Language, and VoIP began in the 90s, as well as companies like Google and Apple. Google released its beta version of its search engine (seen above) in 1998.
By the middle of the decade, many agencies were beginning to see the merit of having a connected office but still struggled with the fear of the unknown. In 1994, MCI Communications began a campaign to show what could be done at an office with Internet and telecommunications technology. The commercial depicted an office and its people at a crossroads in technology.
The campaign's run ended less than a year later. An MCI spokesperson was quoted by Advertising Age: "We showed people what can be done with technology through Gramercy Press. But people are still afraid of technology, so now we're going to show them exactly how to get and use the technology." Because of this apprehension to advances in technology, many weren't widely used but certainly set the groundwork for what was to come and what we use today.
You might remember instant messaging services like ICQ, AIM, Yahoo Pager, and MSN which all started in the 1990s. Today, IM is an integral part of most offices, especially with the rise in virtual office environments.
Voice over IP
In 1996, VoIP was introduced and so began the office telephone systems that we have today. In 1997, things like virtual attendant, menu selection, voicemail and automatic routing to departments or individuals began taking shape.
Fun fact: the first Smartphone, IBM Simon, was introduced in 1992. (Image courtesy of Gizmodo UK)
Lotus 1-2-3 came to the scene in the mid 80s and was the standard spreadsheet application for most insurance agencies. Spreadsheet calculations, database functionality, and graphical charts all in one application! But by the early 90s, Microsoft Excel was taking over the industry, and agencies all across the country were making the switch. Excel has held strong to this day for the most part, but as the movement to cloud-based software is happening, Excel is getting competition from applications like Google Drive.
Portable storage devices
In the 90s, floppy disks, CD-ROMs and hard drives all led the way to portable storage devices such as USB flash drives and SD cards in the 2000s. But again, as agencies move to cloud based applications, USB drives and SD cards are beginning to fade out. Now insurance agents out on the road can have any and all of their necessary documents (and almost everything else they need) at their fingertips with cloud-based software. (Image courtesy of Living Healthy in the Real World)
Lastly, I couldn't talk about the 90s and Microsoft without mentioning Microsoft's Office Assistant: Clippy. I'm sure you have fond memories of this guy!
(Image courtesy of Patrick O'Duffy)
Next week, we'll continue our series, A Blast From The Agency Past, with the 2000s. Stay tuned!