October 28, 1998, through March 31, 1999
Copyright Crackdown Begins
October 28, 1998 Probably the most unpopular law on Earth among Internet users, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is the United States' implementation of intellectual-property treaties established by the World Intellectual Property Organization. Signed into law on this date by President Bill Clinton, it established the battle lines between Hollywood content owners and individual file sharers, setting up a fight that continues to this day. It's also why even the act of ripping a DVD you've bought onto your iPod involves wading into murky legal waters.
BlackBerry Untethers E-Mail
January 19, 1999 RIM's two-way pager offered a QWERTY keyboard and supported instantaneous mobile text communication. At $399 plus the cost of a data plan, the device was a business tool: For once, the suits beat the teenagers to a tech trend. Though the models have evolved over the years, the BlackBerry remains today's top-selling smart phone--an epic run for a gadget brand.
Melissa Spreads Like Wildfire
March 29, 1999 A Word macro distributed on the alt.sex newsgroup via a file claiming to contain porn-site passwords, Melissa e-mailed itself to the first 50 names in each infected PC's Outlook address book, crippling mail servers and inflicting an estimated $80 million in damage upon U.S. businesses. But the 20-month prison sentence served by its coder hasn't prevented virus writers from becoming ever more prolific.
TiVo Transforms TV
March 31, 1999 Time-shifted TV viewing dates back to Sony's 1965 reel-to-reel video recorder. But TiVo, launched on this date, and its archrival ReplayTV helped make video recording nearly effortless by combining a menu-driven scheduling service with no-fuss playback from a hard disk.