Inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, as well as text-based on-line Multi-User Domains (MUDs), computer game programmer John Smedley develops EverQuest, a fantasy-themed Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game, or MMORPG. While beaten to market by rival Ultima On-line, EverQuest attracted nearly half-a-million players worldwide. EverQuest was also a critical success, winning awards ranging from the 1999 GameSpot Game of the Year, to a Technical and Engineering Emmy Award.
Telling the story of Neo, a programmer who becomes a cyberspace messiah, The Matrix combines a cyberpunk setting, dystopian philosophy, and hyper-fast cinematic action. The Matrix also featured cutting edge computer-generated visual effects, and popularized 'bullet-time' - a multi-camera technique where the camera appears to move at normal speed while the action filmed appears slowed. The Matrix was added to the U.S. National Film Registry in 2012.
IBM releases the Microdrive in 170 MB and 340 MB capacities. At the time of their introduction, they were the smallest hard drives in the world. Like all hard drives, Microdrives were mechanical and contained small, spinning disk platters, and were more prone to physical damage from temperature fluctuations and physical shock than other storage media. Hitachi purchased IBM's hard disk division in 2002, which included the Microdrive. For several years, Microdrives had more data capacity than CompactFlash cards, but were soon overtaken by the these and by USB flash drives. Many handheld, mobile devices contained embedded Microdrives for data storage.
Video applications for personal computers drive demand for increased graphical performance. A new approach, one based on a processor specially designed to manipulate graphics, was initiated and the resulting product was known as a “Graphics Processing Unit,” or “GPU.” The GeForce 256 is often thought of as the first consumer GPU, and while expensive, it sold extremely well. The GeForce 256 was designed to relieve the pressure on the central processing unit (CPU) by handling graphics calculations, while the CPU processed non-graphics intensive tasks.
The Sony AIBO, the $2,000 “Artificial Intelligence RoBOt” was a robotic pet dog designed to “learn” by interacting with its environment, its owners and other AIBOs. It responded to more than 100 voice commands and talked back in a tonal language. It was even programmed to occasionally ignore commands like its biological four-legged counterparts.
Japanese mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo creates the i-mode networking standard for mobile data in 1999. By 2002, over 34 million subscribers are using it on their phones for web access, e-mail, mobile payments, streaming video, and many other features that the rest of the world won't see for nearly another decade. The i-mode protocols, a simplified version of the standard HTML web language, are designed to work well with devices having small screens, limited buttons, and no keyboard. Related systems like WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) have fewer customers, but all of them contribute to bringing mobile browsing to a mass market.
In 1999, the growing IEEE 802.11b short-range radio networking standard is rebranded “Wi-Fi” by the Wi-Fi Alliance. This is the same year Apple releases its "Airport" Wi-Fi router and builds Wi-Fi connectivity into new Macs. These and other consumer products help popularize cable-free connections at work, in cafes, and at home.