It's hard to imagine what life was like only 19 years ago, a time cool kids around the nation wore excessively baggy jeans, didn't mind waiting 3 hours for dial-up Internet to connect, and surprisingly had their social lives survive with an almost complete lack of connectivity.

Computers then weren't a part of everyday life like they are now. Yet at the top of the tech food chain was a man by the name of Bill Gates — you may have heard of him. The year was 1999 and he had just published a book with co-author Collins Hemingway titled "Business @ the Speed of Thought" — a telling narrative of the sparse relationship between technology and business. 

During a press tour surrounding the work in '99, Gates even spoke about his book on C-SPAN dropping a massive hint about how we’d be consuming products in the coming age.

“Encouraging companies to get out there early I think is very important,” he said. “If you take something like book selling, has become the poster child of electronic commerce, partly because the traditional bookstores simply didn’t go out on the Internet.” (Just think, if you had listened to his advice then, and put a small $1,000 investment into Amazon, today it would be worth over 50 times that.)

Amazon's takeover of retail and other predictions of the soft-spoken Nostradamus have withstood the test of time, notes Business Insider. And maybe it isn’t so much Gates saw into the future as he was the architect shaping the world while we all wandered around aimlessly drinking Zimas. Either way, he knew what he was doing. …

Gates: "People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are. They will be able to check the news, see flights they have booked, get information from financial markets, and do just about anything else on these devices."

Cell phones, watches, tablets?

"Automated price comparison services will be developed, allowing people to see prices across multiple websites, making it effortless to find the cheapest product for all industries."

Those very phones now have applications such as Google and Amazon to take care of that for us.

"People will pay their bills, take care of their finances, and communicate with their doctors over the Internet."

In 1999, doing any sort of banking online was still sketchy by any standards, and the collective whole still only trusted these things to be done on a person-to-person basis.

"'Personal companions' will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data. The device will check your email or notifications, and present the information that you need. When you go to the store, you can tell it what recipes you want to prepare, and it will generate a list of ingredients that you need to pick up. It will inform all the devices that you use of your purchases and schedule, allowing them to automatically adjust to what you're doing."

This past holiday season saw devices such as Amazon's Echo, Google's Home and Apple's Siri fly off shelves at record rates. Tech companies hope to have them in every home within the decade.

"Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home."

Nest, Aldo and even webcams for your pets are common and so prevalent that knock-off brands are becoming more affordable to everyday consumers.

"Private websites for your friends and family will be common, allowing you to chat and plan for events."

Facebook's Event tab is a good example of this, even the controversial Nextdoor made a decent run at being ubiquotous.

"Devices will have smart advertising. They will know your purchasing trends, and will display advertisements that are tailored toward your preferences."

There isn't a place on the Internet you can hide from targeted ads, in fact, it's become one of the most lucrative facets of it. Google collects over $15 billion each QUARTER from preferential advertisements, while Facebook pulls in about $8 billion in the same time frame.

"Residents of cities and countries will be able to have Internet-based discussions concerning issues that affect them, such as local politics, city planning, or safety."

In 2010, social media use doubled in Arab countries during a period of protests in what was later called the "Arab Spring" — much of its successes attributed to Twitter and other social media platforms.

"Similarly, people looking for work will be able to find employment opportunities online by declaring their interest, needs, and specialized skills."

LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn …

"Companies will be able to bid on jobs, whether they are looking for a construction project, a movie production, or an advertising campaign. This will be efficient for both big companies that want to outsource work that they don't usually face, businesses looking for new clients, and corporations that don't have a go-to provider for the said service."

Many multiple sites provide this kind of service, connecting thousands of freelancers to companies around the world they normally would have no connection to for the opportunities.

[originally published July 6, 2017]