Technology trends that reshaped our lives in the 2010s: 10 years in 10,000 words

Dominik Lukes
Jan 9 · 3 min read
Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

As the date on the calendar undergoes a significant visual change, many people are reviewing the big tech events and trends of the decade. These are interesting, but they tend to think of these trends from the perspective of developments in technology.

In this list, I’d like to focus on changes from the perspective of notable and noticeable changes in the shapes of people’s lives. What I mean by these are not necessarily fundamental transformations but rather different ways of doing things that change the way we approach similar tasks. But these small changes transform our frame of reference and what we expect from the world. They change the shapes of the scripts and schemas we use to make sense of the world.

I’m not going to be strictly focusing on things introduced or invented during the last decade. Rather, I want to look at technology trends that came to maturity or achieved widespread use during this decade. The sorts of things that may have existed in the years before but only came into their own at some point during the 2010s.

This started as a few quick bullet points on New Year’s Eve but soon grew to over 10,000 words — a kilo of words per year. But the list is not organised by year. Rather it is split into 5 sections:

  1. Hardware: Things on our desks, laps, bodies, or in our homes or pockets
  2. Software: What we install and log into
  3. Media: What we watch, listen to, and how we talk about it all
  4. Hype bubbles: Things that work but not as well as we hoped
  5. Future prospects: Hopes, dreams and reality checks

Within each section, I list between half a dozen and a dozen trends — sometimes connected with each other, sometimes independent, mostly representing whole fields or industries but sometimes focusing on individual products or services.

Table of contents

For convenience, I split each section into separate post, but here’s a list of all the items in each section:

Hardware: Things on our desks, laps, bodies, or in our homes or pockets

  • Large-screen phones
  • Midrange phones
  • Phone cameras / Computational photography
  • Smart speakers
  • Smartwatches and fitness trackers

Other smaller hardware trends

  • Touch interfaces
  • Ubiquitous data / WiFi everywhere
  • USB charging
  • Contactless payments
  • Longevity of desktops and laptops
  • Drones
  • Raspberry Pi, Arduino and others

Software: What we installed or logged into

  • Dropbox and cloud storage and sync
  • Google Photos
  • Cost of software and subscription pricing
  • Google Docs, autosave and live collaboration
  • ChromeOS and software as a service (SaaS)
  • Automatic software updates
  • Open Source and Open Data
  • Speech recognition and image classification with neural networks
  • Whatsapp and other group messaging solutions

Media and content consumption

  • TV and music streaming subscriptions
  • The Rise of YouTube
  • Online learning and education
  • Podcasts
  • Audiobooks — Reading with your ears
  • Games and e-sports

The bursts of the hype bubbles: Motte and bailey edition

  • Social graph and personalisation
  • Ereaders and ebooks / E-textbooks and tablets
  • Smart home and internet of things
  • Reality will not be televised: The failure of 3D, VR, AR
  • AI as a category
  • Blockchain / bitcoin
  • Robotics
  • 3D printing
  • USB C

Future prospects: Hopes, dreams and reality checks

  • What the world needs now: Batteries
  • 5G and more accessible mobile networking
  • LED Monitors and the foldable display
  • Struggle for control and regulation
  • Adventures in automation
  • Smart spaces
  • Technical debt ebbs and flows: IPv6, ARM transition and more
  • Socialising change and paying down the UX debt
  • In praise of a boring future
Dominik Lukes

Written by

Education and technology specialist, linguist, feminist, enemy of prescriptivism, metaphor hacker, educator, (ex)podcaster, Drupal/Wordpress web builder, Czech.

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