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Tech world hits 10

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Sci/Tech

In 1995, it was still OK to use the phrase "information superhighway." Netscape's initial public offering fueled the beginnings of the Internet bubble. The U.S. Department of Justice was casting a wary eye on Windows 95. And Amazon.com sold its first book.

The online retailer was born during a time of incredible innovation in the technology world. Video-game players, computer operating systems and even movies were breaking through technical barriers, pushing the limits of what was previously thought possible. Here are 10 ways technology made history in 1995:

1) Startup central. Amazon wasn't the only tech giant born in 1995. David Filo and Jerry Yang incorporated Yahoo! — an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle" — that year and received nearly $2 million in funding from venture-capital firm Sequoia Capital.

Software engineer Pierre Omidyar founded eBay in September, reportedly as a favor for his then-girlfriend, who wanted a place to trade her collection of 400 Pez candy dispensers.

2) Microsoft's big year. Redmond released a flurry of new products, most notably Windows 95. The operating system got so much attention from consumers — and antitrust officials in the U.S. Justice Department — that Microsoft actually toned down the hype at one point.

"It's just software," executive Brad Silverberg said in Business Week. "It doesn't cure cancer. It doesn't grow hair. It's not a floor wax."

Microsoft also released Internet Explorer — the first and, later, the slightly less clunky second version — that year and launched the Microsoft Network (MSN). It also founded a small travel-software division called Expedia.

And then there was Microsoft Bob, a cutesy, cartoony program that included a household and checkbook manager and appointment calendar. The company launched it in late March, but it was lambasted by critics and would sell only 30,000 units over the next six months.

3) A beginning. Sergey Brin and Larry Page met at a gathering of new doctoral students at Stanford University. Within months, the two would create the seeds of what would eventually become the Google search engine.

4) Java unleashed. Who knew a programming language could generate so much fuss? Sun Microsystems debuted Java, software that, among other things, made it easier to add interactivity and other features to Web sites. Sun promised that Java would be nothing short of revolutionary. Soon, Java was the belle of technology's ball.

5) Online population grows. The number of U.S. Internet users might have doubled in 1995 to nearly 10 million. New York City-based research group FIND/SVP said at the time that 9.5 million Americans used the Internet, and that half of those only began doing so in 1995. O'Reilly & Associates counted 9.7 million, including those who used online services such as CompuServe.

A survey from Nielsen/CommerceNet drew immediate fire when it concluded that 24 million adults in the U.S. and Canada used the Internet. Later, one of the survey's advisers identified some flawed methodology and pegged the total at fewer than 10 million.

Now, 68 percent of U.S. adults use the Internet, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Add to that the 19 or so million teenagers who are also online, and the total number of Internet users 12 and older is nearly 160 million, according to Pew.

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