While most games see a player working towards an end-game scenario, The Sims allows players to create a home, get a job, and form relationships in a free-form world. Designed by a team at Maxis led by Wil Wright, The Sims took concepts from Wright's previous game Sim City. Characters controlled by the player were customizable, and spoke an artificial language called Simlish. The Sims became exceptionally popular with women, who accounted for more than sixty percent of players.
Japan's SoftBank introduces the first camera phone, the J-Phone J-SH04; a Sharp-manufactured digital phone with integrated camera. The camera had a maximum resolution of 0.11 megapixels a 256-color display, and photos could be shared wirelessly. The J-Phone line would quickly expand, releasing a flip-phone version just a month later. Cameras would become a significant part of most phones within a year, and several countries have even passed laws regulating their use.
Honda’s Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility (ASIMO) humanoid robot is introduced. It could walk 1 mph, climb stairs and change its direction after detecting hazards. Using the camera mounted in its head, ASIMO could also recognize faces, gestures and the movements of multiple objects. Additionally, ASIMO had microphones that allowed it to react to voice commands. About 100 were built.
The PlayStation 2 (PS2) represents a significant change in the concept of game consoles. The PS2 allowed for DVDs to be played as well as game disks, making it more of an entertainment console than a game console. Many consumers bought the PS2 for its DVD player alone, since the PS2 was cheaper than stand-alone DVD players. In turn, this greatly increased consumer adoption of the DVD format. Over more than ten years in active production, the PlayStation 2 has sold more than a hundred and fifty million units, making it one of the most successful game systems ever released.
USB Flash drives are introduced. Sometimes referred to as jump drives or memory sticks, these drives consisted of flash memory encased in a small form factor container with a USB interface. They could be used for data storage and in the backing up and transferring of files between various devices. They were faster and had greater data capacity than earlier storage media. Also, they could not be scratched like optical discs and were resilient to magnetic erasure, unlike floppy disks. Drives for floppy disks and optical discs faded in popularity for desktop PCs and laptops in favor of USB ports after flash drives were introduced.
During the late 1990s, the impending Year 2000 (Y2K) bug fuels news reports that the onset of the year 2000 will cripple telecommunications, the financial sector and other vital infrastructure. The issue was rooted in the fact that date stamps in most previously written software used only two digits to represent year information. This meant that some computers might not be able to distinguish the year 1900 from the year 2000. Although there were some minor glitches on New Year’s Day in 2000, no major problems occurred, in part due to a massive effort by business, government and industry to repair their code beforehand.