What a Difference Eight Years Can Make

Gruber’s post about how far the iPhone has come in eight years got me to thinking: how far have other things progressed in same span of time?

At some points in history, eight years doesn’t feel like that long: it takes many decades to see the real impact of moveable type, for instance. On the other hand, some things that take far fewer than eight years have an impact that lasts for decades: World War II (1939–1945) and the American Civil War (1861–1865), for instance. (Some things don’t even last more than a few days; see Wikipedia’s list of shortest-lived sovereign states.)

Still, it’s an interesting window of time to consider. Herewith then, in no particular order, a survey of some of the changes we’ve seen over eight-year time spans. (I’m sure I missed a lot; please share your knowledge in the comments!)



The whole start to this eight-year intrigue. The phone hasn’t just gotten thinner (and bigger) and added incredible hardware (industry-leading camera and related algorithms, for instance), the entire ecosystem has changed with third-party apps and cloud-supported services.

Early Cellphones


While we’re talking mobile phones, we might as well look at the very first commercially available phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X in 1984. It stood 13 inches high, sat 3.5 inches deep, and weighed a hefty 1.75 pounds. Eight years later, Nokia’s 1101 arrived as the first GSM phone, a mere 7.68 inches long and just one pound. (For comparison, today’s iPhone weighs about a quarter-pound.)

The Beatles


In the world of music, there’s nothing more famous than the Beatles’s short lifespan. While they got together officially in 1960, their first hit was 1962's “Love Me Do.” Before they disbanded eight years later, in 1970, they produced some of the greatest albums in musical history and changed the very definition of a pop sensation.

Steven Spielberg’s First Five Movies


Directors usually get better with age, but Spielberg’s first five movies include some of his best — not to mention some of the most successful movies of all time. Following his debut, 1974's Sugarland Express, he released Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and E.T. (1982). (Yes, he also released 1941 in 1979, but wouldn’t we rather forget about that?)

From Apple I to the Macintosh


Eight years after their founding — and the release of the Apple I — Apple Computer launched what became one of the most seminal products in the history of personal computing: 1984's Macintosh. (As if that wasn’t enough, the launch video by Ridley Scott remains one of the greatest marketing efforts in history.)

Kennedy Sends America Into Space


Kennedy’s 1961 speech to a joint session of Congress was notable for many things, but none more so than his insistence that we send Americans into space. Almost exactly eight years later, on July 20, 1969, men planted their feet (and an American flag) on the moon.

Atomic Bomb Development


It’s impossible to separate the development of the atomic bomb from the rapid succession of quantum discoveries that began in the 1890s. Still, it’s shocking that it took just under eight years for humanity to move from the discovery of nuclear fission (the key to atomic explosions) to the dropping of the world’s first atomic bombs. (And if you haven’t yet read The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes — one of the greatest non-fiction books ever written — you should.)

All in the Family


One of the most popular TV shows of all time, All in the Family caused a sea-change in many cultural conversations about feminism and racism. Other influential TV shows that have lasted eight years include The Sopranos (1999–2007), Mad Men (2007–2015), and The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968).

Justin Bieber’s Entire Career


His first videos were uploaded to YouTube when he was 13, and eight years later we’ve already seen his rise, an embarrassing fall, and an effort to rehabilitate his image and reclaim his place as one of the planet’s most popular stars.

President Barack Obama


No one ages more visibly than a two-term president—as they wrap up their work, each president’s hair inevitably takes on the color of their house. President Obama is merely the latest to follow this trend of looking like a father when elected and looking like a grandfather as they leave.

Wright Brothers Invent a Plane


The Wright Brothers didn’t even need a full eight years. Orville and Wilbur moved from their first thoughts about flying to a successful flight at Kitty Hawk in just seven years.

What else has happened in the span of eight years?
Please share your knowledge in the comments.

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