Mad Genius presents
In honor of our 10th birthday, we took a look back at the last decade to pull out the most genius moments in technology, pop culture and more. Take a walk through recent history with us.
YouTube was founded in 2005 by three former employees of PayPal. Google bought it the next year for $1.65 billion in stock. Today, YouTube is the dominant provider of online video in the U.S., as well as the second most popular search engine (following its big brother, Google, of course). In its first decade, YouTube has given a voice to vloggers of all stripes, a home to millions of cat videos, and eons of entertainment to us all. (It also has a pretty great April Fools track record.)
These days, more than 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and much of that content is beautifully shot, produced, edited and/or mixed. But the first video ever uploaded to the site, “Me at the Zoo” is only 18 seconds long. It features a narrator describing the cool thing about elephants (which is that “they have really, really, really long trunks”). And that’s pretty much all there is to say.
In 2006, Nintendo unveiled its Wii console and made gamers out of everyone from tots to grandmas. The system, with its Wii remote controller and coordinating nunchuk device, detects movement in three dimensions and made gaming a total-body experience. Today, more than 101 million units of the Wii have been sold.
A British newspaper reported that Queen Elizabeth II has used a Wii, although there is no photographic evidence.
After many months of speculation, Apple announced in January 2007 it was launching the iPhone. While it wasn’t the first smartphone or the first handheld device to explore the app system, the iPhone very quickly revolutionized both industries, becoming the standard bearer for many years. The iPhone launched entire new industries, changed the way others operate, and introduced new vocabulary for the digital world. These days, factors like device-responsiveness and mobile-friendliness reign supreme in many business decisions.
In ads for the iPhone (and in fact, all Apple devices), the time is always 9:41 a.m. It used to be 9:42 a.m., to honor the exact time Steve Jobs first unveiled the product in his 2007 keynote. Forty-two minutes into his address, he said, “Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone.” When Apple unveiled the iPad in 2010, however, the company switched the time on all ads to 9:41.
Breaking Bad debuted in 2008. It was a critical smash but the viewership was slow to catch up—at least, until the series was added to the Netflix library, allowing fans late to the game the chance to catch up and join the conversation. It was the first show to fully capitalize on binge-watching via a streaming service to increase audience. Showrunner Vince Gilligan thanked Netflix in his 2013 Emmy acceptance speech for “[keeping] us on the air.”
Before becoming Heisenberg, Cranston dabbled in the dark side by voicing Snizzard and the evil Twin Man in the Power Rangers. But that’s not his only Ranger connection—the blue ranger is actually named Billy Cranston after the future Walter White.
In 2009, Angry Birds catapulted onto the mobile game field and redefined addictive “freemium” games. By partnering with franchises like Rio and Star Wars, releasing timely holiday updates, and merchandising relentlessly, Angry Birds was able to take the Finnish development company Rovio Entertainment from small potatoes to household name. There are now several Angry Birds books, a few television series, amusement park attractions, and a feature film in the works.
Pigs were chosen as the Angry Birds’ nemeses because an outbreak of swine flu emerged while Rovio was developing the game. That is also why the pigs are green rather than pink—it makes them look more diseased.
In 2010, the television show Lost wrapped up its run of six seasons. A longshot pilot (it was the most expensive first episode in television history) turned into a critical and popular runaway success—at least, until the controversial ending. The show’s elaborate mythology inspired its fanbase to take to the Internet to rehash, dissect and meme-ify the show, paving the way for the future (and even more rabid) fandoms of shows like Sherlock and Hannibal.
Originally, Michael Keaton was supposed to play Jack Shepard (who was at first written to die in the first episode), while Forest Whitaker was supposed to play Sawyer.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II came out in theaters in 2011, and the final film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s iconic seven-novel series felt like the end of a momentous chapter in recent pop culture. (Thankfully, Rowling has since committed to expanding the universe through new films and has even hinted at the potential for new books in the future.) The accolades for the Harry Potter books (and films and more) are too numerous to list; Rowling’s wizarding world forever impacted multiple generations of readers and creatives.
Michael Jackson approached J.K. Rowling about creating a Harry Potter musical. She turned him down.
We all have that friend who “discovered Gangnam Style before it was big”—you know, back when it merely had a dozen-million views on YouTube rather than the nearly 2.4 billion views the video is rocking today (the original is the all-time most viewed video on YouTube, besting Justin Beiber’s Baby—and that’s not counting the spinoff and copycat-upload views for the song). Could you go anywhere in 2012 without horse-trotting to this earworm of a song? The answer is no.
Psy came to the United States for college, originally planning to earn a degree in business administration from Boston University. He became more interested in music and dropped out of BU to enroll in the Berklee College of Music. However he left that school without a degree as well, and returned to South Korea to pursue a singing career.
When the Sci Fi channel changed its name to SyFy, many wondered what direction it might take. When the channel released the made-for-TV film Sharknado, it all became clear. Sharknado was the crescendo of a series of increasingly ridiculous creature mashup films, which started with titles like Ice Spiders before escalating to the level of Dinocroc Vs. Supergator and ultimately, the Sharknado franchise. Despite being a critical punching bag, Sharknado became a national sensation, a cultural touchstone and (for a time), the ultimate must-see TyVy.
Sharknado was shot in 18 days and cost $1 million. Also, in an interview, the director said of the film’s plot, "There's a flood. And a storm. Don't worry about it."
In summer 2014, ALS hit the cause marketing jackpot by commandeering the Ice Bucket Challenge. By the end of the viral sensation’s summer run, everyone associated getting drenched in cold water for charity with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease)—but originally, the challenge wasn’t tied to any particular cause. A few key celebrities took the challenge for ALS just as it was reaching viral status, and soon the two were irrevocably linked.
What do Justin Beiber, LeBron James, Ethel Kennedy and Weird Al Yankovic have in common? They all challenged President Barack Obama during the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Which brings us to 2015 (and beyond!). It’s too soon to say whether the world will remember this year as the one when J.J. Abrams revived Star Wars, or when Parks and Recreation ended on the highest of notes, or when Apple released its smartwatch (only time will tell on that one). We don’t know what the future holds, but we can’t wait to find out. Do you agree with the memorable milestones we chose to commemorate our first decade? Share and let us know what genius events you would have chosen!