What was technology like in 2003?

news2day turns 20 on Friday. To celebrate this milestone, this week we look back at two decades of RTÉ News in a world that has changed dramatically since the first show aired in 2003.

Today, we look back at life in 2003 and explore changes in technology, education, media and society at large.

2003 Technology

2003 was certainly not the “Dark Ages” of technology, but a lot has changed in 20 years.

People have cell phones, but for the most part, they can’t be used to take pictures or surf the web.

Netflix existed, but it looked very different than it does today. Many video games that are popular today were also popular in 2003.

cell phone

In 2003, Nokia was the king of mobile phones. They’re small, come in different colors and styles, and flip phones are popular too.

At this stage, mobile phones are mainly used for calling and texting, because the mobile Internet has just started to take off.

Most phones at the time didn’t have built-in cameras. The technology is still under development and is rolling out on some models from companies like Nokia, Sharp and Samsung.

In the years that followed, nearly every cell phone sold included a built-in camera for taking pictures and videos.

The first smartphones started appearing 20 years ago, but they looked nothing like the iPhones and Samsungs of today.


A company called Blackberry is selling phones that let you check your email and browse the web.

Graphics are basic by today’s standards, and you have to use the keyboard on your phone to type and navigate because touchscreen technology isn’t yet available.

It took another four years before the first iPhone came out.


While Apple wasn’t making iPhones in 2003, it was busy making iPods. These portable music players allow users to download their favorite tracks to a small device and listen to them on headphones.


Before that, people had to use mini disc players, Discman or Walkman.

In the home and in the car, CDs are still popular when it comes to music, and when it comes to movies, it’s all about DVDs.


There were no internet streaming services in 2003, but Netflix did exist.

It started a few years ago as a company that sells and rents DVDs by mail. Customers in the United States can select the movies and TV shows they want to watch on the Netflix website, and the discs will be sent by mail.

Super Vision Store

It will be several years before the company can start streaming movies over the Internet.

In Ireland people rent DVDs from shops like Xtra-vision.

the Internet

Back in 2003, the internet might not have been powerful enough to stream movies, but people could surf and email like they do today.

This has to be done on a desktop or laptop, since tablets won’t be invented for a few more years.


Google has been around for a while at this stage, but around 2003 it started to become really popular, and the word “Google” first started showing up in dictionaries as a verb that people use every day.

Skype, a video calling service, was also launched in 2003 and remains popular today.

When search engines and Skype appeared around 2003, social media hadn’t taken off.

social media

In 2003, a website called “MySpace” was launched. It was the first social media site to reach a broad audience, allowing users to message friends and share photos and music.

my space

It would go on to become the largest social networking site in the world, but would soon be overtaken by more popular competitors.

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook.

video games

The graphics and effects weren’t as advanced as they are today, but many of today’s most popular video games were around 2003.

Popular titles include Mario Kart, Star Wars, WWE SmackDown, and Pokemon.

Xbox game console

The most popular game consoles also sound familiar, including the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft Xbox.

Telephones weren’t that complicated, and the Internet wasn’t that fast, but many of the technologies, websites, and software we use today started around 20 years ago and have continued to evolve in the ensuing two decades.

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