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Got the Coronavirus Blues? This Will Make You Feel Better

By Dave Fox
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
April 17, 2020

I hosted a webinar last week to help people deal with coronavirus anxiety and productivity struggles. It was amazing to chat live on Zoom with people on six continents. This got me thinking: If the Covid-19 pandemic had struck 20 years ago, sheltering at home would have been very different.

In 2000, cheap and easy video conferencing like we have today did not exist, nor did cheap international calling. The first public beta-version of Skype was launched in 2003. Zoom came onto the scene in 2012.

In April, 2000, Amazon had just launched its new Lawn and Patio Store. They also delivered books, CDs, DVDs, software (yes, they physically delivered it in a box to your doorstep), and a few other household items, but they were nothing like the global delivery behemoth they have become.

Netflix return envelope from 2006

A Netflix return envelope in 2006. (Photo credit: BlueMint / Creative Commons BY 2.5)

Netflix existed in 2000 but not like we know them today. They started operations in the United States in 1997 – the same year DVDs became available in North America as a sleek and sexy alternative to VHS tapes. Back then, however, the only way to watch a movie via Netflix was to request it on their website and wait a day or two for the mailman to deliver the disk in an envelope, which also contained a return envelope to send your movie back after you watched it. Netflix didn’t begin streaming movies online until 2007.

From Wikipedia: “The original idea [for streaming videos on Netflix] was a ‘Netflix box’ that could download movies overnight, and be ready to watch the next day.”

Netflix originally planned to launch that gadget in 2005, but they scrapped the idea and waited two more years for streaming technologies to evolve.

No tapping, swiping, or streaming available: Released in June, 2001, the Nokia 9210 Communicator was one of the most advanced mobile phones available. You could use it to send faxes, but if you tried taking a photo with it, people would have thought you were weird. (Photo credit: J-P Kärnä / Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0)

2007 was also the year Amazon sold its first Kindle device. Prior to that, e-books were largely seen as a failing industry. And it’s the year Apple unveiled the first iPhone – which means that 20 years ago, there were no phone apps for restaurant or grocery delivery, meditation and mindfulness, personal banking, games, spirituality, education, or so many other things we are now relying on more than ever for coronavirus information, lockdown entertainment, staying connected with friends and family, and much more.

Twenty years ago, we did not have Facebook. (Mark Zuckerberg built a precursor website in 2003; Facebook became available to the general public in 2006.) We did also did not have podcasts (2003), YouTube (2005), Spotify (2008), the Khan Academy (2008), Udemy (2010), or the website where I scrounged together all of this information. Wikipedia went online in 2001. Its predecessor, Nupedia, launched in March, 2000, but by November of that year, it had only published two full-length articles.

So yes … this moment in history is scary. It’s stressful. It’s lonely. It’s disruptive. And it sucks. But if the coronavirus pandemic had happened 20 years ago (or if a long list of digital technologies had arrived 20 years later than they have), this thin slice of pandemic history would have been a lot harder. Think about that when staying inside starts making you feel crazy. It puts things in perspective.


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Published on Friday, April 17, 2020

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