First Click: Take a look back at tech history with this simple trick

June 29th, 2016

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Did you know that ten years ago today Google launched its ill-fated Checkout service? Or that nine years ago today people were queuing up to buy the very first generation iPhone? Were you aware that eight years ago today we saw Bill Gates 2.0 lounging about on a Sunday morning after having just retired from Microsoft? Did you know that seven years ago today Steve Jobs returned to work as Apple CEO after a five-month medical leave, or that six years ago today was the launch of Hulu Plus, or that HP was still considering licensing webOS five years ago today?

I know this, not because of my incredible powers of recollection, or super-skilled Google queries. No, I know this because of a trick I use to expose Techmeme’s excellent historical archives from as far back as September 12th, 2005 — the day eBay announced its $2.6 billion acquisition of Skype.

There was a time when Techmeme was critical to the life of anyone writing about technology. Hell, there was a time before The Verge when we wrote "Techmeme friendly" headlines and then monitored the home page and Twitter feed for bites. "Hey, you got the Techmeme!" we’d type enthusiastically into the pre-Slack chat room after a colleague’s headline and byline made it onto the Top Items column. It meant a noticeable bump in traffic while also boosting the author’s position on the Techmeme leaderboard. But that was a long time ago. Now we have "total content views" and "engagement" and "reach" and other metrics to worry about in this age of new ​new​ media. While Techmeme is still influential amongst some CEOs, investors, and media watchers, these days I use it primarily for trips down memory lane. Anyone can do it, though it’s not immediately obvious how.

To view any day in tech history you simply open techmeme.com, click the date displayed up top in the center of the header, and then enter the date and time you want to see. Voila! You’re transported back in time to the cutting edge tech news of yesterday. You can also edit the URL directly. For example, http://www.techmeme.com/060629/h2300 will display the archive from June 29th, 2006 at 11pm.

In 2016 we already know how all these events played out, of course. But it’s fun to scrub back to a position on the timeline where nobody knew what the future held. A time when Google could conceivably become the internet’s digital wallet. A time when many doubted that Apple could survive without Steve Jobs or that Microsoft was doomed without its boy genius at the wheel. A time when subscription video services in the US could ignore Android at launch, and webOS still had a chance according to at least one hopelessly misguided romantic.

And yeah, sometimes I’m nostalgic for the resistive vs. capacitive touchscreen wars of 2009. Who wouldn’t be?

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