The hottest tech of the Beanie Baby era
Hey, remember 1997? The year had everything: Bill Clinton, "Friends," "Titanic" and Beanie Babies. Oh, and of course, that year also offered some truly cutting-edge technology -- or at least, it was cutting-edge at the time.
Let's travel 20 years into the past to relive the days when the Interweb was young, the CD was king and the cloud was a white, fluffy thing that floated above your head while you gabbed on your cordless telephone.
Netscape, 1997's web browser of choice
The biggest partisan fight of 1997 wasn't between Republicans and Democrats, but between supporters of the free Internet Explorer and paid Netscape Navigator browsers.
In October of that year, Netscape was dominant, but by the time AOL bought Netscape in 1999, Internet Explorer had taken over.
The hottest tech toy fad of 1997 was the Tamagotchi -- a virtual pet on a keychain first popularized in Japan. The toys quickly sold out in stores, such as the KB Toys seen here.
There were plenty of Tamagotchi clones out there, too.
Tiger's digital dogs, frogs and whatnot were digital characters that lived in beeper-like devices that beeped when the "animals" pooped or needed to be fed, just like Tamagotchi. ("Don't upset your Giga Pet," the commercial warned.)
Sharp MiniDisc player
The late '90s were an awkward, transitional time for data storage. This MiniDisc player is a relic from the era, using Sony's ill-fated magneto-optical 1GB discs.
A MiniDisc could hold 80 minutes of high-quality music, but the format never developed a fan base and was quickly outdone by less-expensive CD-R technology.
If you were streaming music on your computer in 1997, chances are you used Real Network's then-ubiquitious RealPlayer to do it. Of course, if you used a dial-up modem to connect, RealPlayer would likely spend more time buffering than actually playing songs.
Launched in late 1995, Sony's innovative, 32-bit CD-ROM-equipped game system quickly became the driving force of its company and the gaming industry.
State-of-the-art 128KB memory cards saved your progress while DualShock controllers, which came along in 1997, literally rocked your world.
Honda EV Plus
The EV Plus was at the forefront of the original alternative-fuel revolution -- the one that failed. Born in 1997, the green Honda featured a battery that could go 125 miles between charges.
Like many of its electric brethren, the EV Plus was available only for lease, and when the lease was up, Honda took it back.
Filofaxes were so 1980s! By 1997, the way to get and stay organized was to plunk down $299 for this Palm-produced electronic organizer that, per the New York Times' glowing account, "share[d] data with a desktop computer and synchronize[d] information quickly on both machines."
Al Gore: Atari Democrat
President Clinton was not an Internet whiz -- he sent a total of two emails while president. Vice President Al Gore, meanwhile, was the geek of the White House circa 1997: He kept a personal computer that he loved showing off to the press.
Known as an "Atari Democrat" while in Congress, Gore promoted high-speed telecommunications bills and the expansion of ARPANET, the technical foundation for the Internet. Gore would be ridiculed by Republicans after stating in 1999 that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet."
Though you couldn't stroll down to your neighborhood Circuit City to buy one, IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer truly was the hottest tech of May 1997. That's when it made history as the first ever supercomputer to beat a reigning world chess champion in a best-of-six matchup (Garry Kasparov, shown right).
Sony Mavica MVC-FD5
Hailed by Time as one of the all-time top-100 gadgets, the FD5 solved the problem of sharing digital photos: with a 3.5-inch floppy disk! Just snap, save to the disk, remove the disk, put the disk in a computer, upload the file, eject the disk from the computer, pass on the disk to the next person and -- voila! -- your pic is going viral, 1997-style.
In late 1996, AOL, then known as America Online or "That Company That Bombarded Everyone's Mailboxes with Floppy Disks and CDs," announced it would charge $19.95 a month for unlimited access to the web. (It previously charged the same amount for just 20 hours' worth.)
AOL wasn't the first provider to go this route, but it was the biggest.
This "personal cellular phone," as it was billed, literally helped put cell phones in ordinary people's hands.
It set new standards for design, perfecting the modern flip-phone configuration, and weighed just 3.5 ounces.
Apple PowerBook 1400
This machine, launched in late 1996 and listed for $2,499 ($2,899 if you wanted the CD-ROM), perked up then-troubled Apple.
While the PowerBook 1400 wasn't considered all that fast, it was considered reliable and was hailed for the innovation that was the BookCover, a portion of the 1400's lid that allowed the user to insert a design element of choice. Today's laptop-skin industry owes a debt.
Grand Theft Auto
This is how the blockbuster franchise started, with the 1997 release of "the most violent piece of gaming on the PlayStation yet," as GameSpot judged GTA back in the day.
Graphically, the original was "a little plain" (even for an era where games were still released for MS-DOS), but its visceral charms won out, and it went on to sell 125 million copies.
Cordless telephones with 'GigaRange'
So, GigaRange is still a thing in the Panasonic universe, but in the late 1990s, it was a big thing. It promised to deliver 20 times more range than the ordinary cordless telephone, enough for you to carry on a conversation from your house all the way to the backyard!
Behold "the world's first true 64-bit home video game," as the Associated Press described it in 1996, the year the Nintendo 64 debuted in the United States.
When "digital video disc products," as they were first described by New York media, arrived in the United States in early 1997, most Hollywood studios weren't on board with the format.
An early adapter who plunked down $500 or so for a player had to make do with "Space Jam" and a handful of other titles.
The year 1997 was a breakthrough one for the long-in-development audio format. MP3.com launched, and quickly became a gateway to free and cheap songs and albums. The writing was on the wall for the music industry, and Napster and iTunes hadn't even come along yet.