You may not know this, but I pretty much invented all the amazing technology you are using today. True story. In the 1990s, I had a slew of amazing ideas, but the fact that I was an indolent teenager means that some other guys—Steve Jobs, Col Needham, Matti Makkonen, Reed Hastings—receive the credit. I’m here to tell you, I thought of it first.
FaceTime in the ’90s was when my next door neighbor and I would look out of our bedroom windows at each other while we talked on the phone. If my best friend needed advice on what to wear for yearbook pictures, she would have to describe her outfit choices in detail. She would ask, “Should I wear the purple bodysuit, with the rolled-up knee-length jean shorts and my beige choker or the pirate shirt with the shoulder cutouts and my tight-rolled stone washed jeans with my black Sam & Libby ballet flats?” “You know what would be bomb diggity?” I replied. “If our phones had video screens and we could just see each other and our outfits while we talked!”
Here’s a transcript from an actual conversation I had with my best friend in 11th grade.
Me: I want to know how your date went, but my dad has to get up at 4 a.m. so you can’t call after 9 p.m. Just beep me as soon as you get home.
BFF: Okay, I can’t get phone calls that late, either, so I will call the number for the recorded movie times and wait for your call to come in on call waiting.
Me: Word. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could just type words into our beepers?
Remember writing your five-page American History research paper in your library’s computer lab? You had to save it onto a floppy disk and then print it out on their dot matrix printer? Then, without fail, you would accidentally rip one of the sheets while tearing off the perforated edges of that horrid continuous feed paper and then have to print the whole thing out again at 5 cents per page? To my teacher, I said, “It would be totally awesome if there was a way that I when I finished writing my report it would automatically move from my computer to yours.”
How many arguments would this have solved as kids?
Me: The Next Karate Kid is the fourth Karate Kid movie.
My brother: No, it’s the third.
Me: No! There was a Karate Kid, Part III.
My brother: Yes, the Next Karate Kid is part four.
Me: Shut up! No, it isn’t. It is part four! I am going to call the video store and prove you wrong, and then I am going to compile a list of all the movies ever filmed and all of the actors in those movies.
My brother: Why stop there? Add TV shows too.
Me: I will!!
5. On-Demand Streaming Video Streaming
Way before “Netflix and Chill,” we were making it a Blockbuster Night—except when all 37 copies of Cruel Intentions were checked-out. “Seriously, why can’t we just press a button on our TV remote and just watch whatever movie we want on the spot?! I need some Ryan Phillippe, now! Okay, let’s just watch 54 again.”
My senior year of high school, our Fashion Marketing class planned a fashion show fundraiser. After weeks of deliberating on the music, we settled on the apropos “Supermodel” by RuPaul and “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred, among other songs whose titles escape me 25 years later. In order to use these songs, we had to buy full albums, as the availability of cassette singles (or “cassingles”) was reserved for new song releases. Buying albums at $12.99 each really ate into our budget. “Dude, the record store should just let us pick the songs we want from each album and put them on a mixtape for us. They can charge like $1 per song or something.” Boom!
I was a technology prodigy, but didn’t know it. If I had thought to implement my sweet 1990s ideas, I would be a zillionaire right now. Moral of the story: If you have a great idea, take that shit to Shark Tank, stat.