NEW YORK–Was it only a decade ago that a blackberry was a mere summer fruit? That green was, well, a colour, and reality TV was that one show sandwiched between music videos on MTV?
There were, of course, huge political and social upheavals that roiled our world in the past decade. But there were also the gradual lifestyle changes that you don't always notice when they're happening – kind of like watching a child grow older. Here's an alphabetical look at 50 things that changed our lives in North America since the beginning of the millennium:
AIRPORTS: Remember when you didn't have to take your shoes off before getting on a plane? Remember when you could bring a bottled drink on board? Terrorism changed all that.
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: From acupuncture to herbal supplements to alternative ways of treating cancer, alternative medicine became more mainstream than ever.
APPS: There's an app for that! The phrase comes from Apple iPhone advertising, but could apply to the entire decade's gadget explosion, from laptops to GPS systems (want your car to give you directions to Mom's house in Chinese, or by a Frenchwoman named Virginie? There was an app for that.)
AARP cards ... for boomers! Some prominent Americans turned 50 this decade: Madonna. Prince. Ellen DeGeneres. The Smurfs. Michael Jackson – who also died at 50. And some prominent "early boomers" turned 60: Bruce Springsteen and Meryl Streep, for example.
AGING: Nobody seemed to look their age anymore: Clothes for 50-year-old women started looking more like clothes for 18-year-olds, tweens looked more like teens, long hair was popular for all ages, and in many ways women's fashion seemed to morph into one single age group.
BLOG: I blog, you blog, he blogs ... How did we spend our time before blogging? There are more than 100 million of these web logs out there in cyberspace.
BLACKBERRIES: Considered essential by corporate CEOs and moms planning playdates. Introduced in 2002, the smartphone version is now used by more than 28 million people, according to its Waterloo, Ont.-based maker, Research In Motion Ltd.
BOOK CLUBS: Thanks in part to Oprah Winfrey, the decade saw not only a profusion in book discussion clubs but a growing reliance on them by publishers.
CABLE: Cable 24-hour news made the evening network news seem quaint, cable dramas reaped Emmys ... and at decade's end, even Oprah was making the move to cable.
CAMERAS: Remember those trips to get film developed? Nope? Even your grandmother has a digital camera, and she's probably emailing you photos right now or uploading them to a photo-sharing site.
CELEBRITY CULTURE: Celebrity magazines fed a growing obsession with celebrities and the everyday minutiae of their lives. By decade's end, we were still obsessed, though Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie had ceded many covers to reality stars like Jon and Kate Gosselin. Celebrity websites like TMZ took hold mid-decade.
CELLPHONES: Cellphones are now used by more than 85 per cent of the U.S. population and for some have replaced land lines entirely. On the downside, they've made cheating on a spouse more difficult – just ask Tiger Woods.
CHEFS: Chefs are hot! The Food Network, whose viewership tripled this decade, reeled in viewers with high-voltage personalities like Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse and Giada De Laurentis. Meryl Streep starred in a cinematic pean to the late Julia Child.
CONNECTIVITY: As in, we're all expected to be connected, wirelessly, all the time. Boss emails you on a Sunday? Better answer, unless you're off in Antarctica – you have no excuse.
COUGARS: A new TV series called "Cougar Town" focuses on a phenomenon that gained its name this decade: women dating younger men.
CROCS: Those ubiquitous plastic clogs debuted in 2002 and became the shoes you loved to hate. Kids love 'em, but there are web groups dedicated to their destruction. Not to be deterred: First lady Michelle Obama, who wore them on vacation in 2009.
DANCING: Dancing never went out of style, but this decade saw the huge popularity of dancing contests like "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars."
DATING: Dating was transformed like everything else by Internet sites, rendering other ways of meeting people obsolete. And it wasn't just the territory of the relatively young: Seniors found love online, too.
DVRs: Suddenly, DVR-ing is a verb, and what it means is this: There's no reason to know anymore what channel your program is on, and what time.
EMBARRASSMENT ENTERTAINMENT: Embarrassment has always been part of comedy – you need only think of Don Rickles – but this is the decade of cringe-worthy Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Ricky Gervais, and of course Sacha Baron Cohen, who as Borat and Bruno shamed perhaps the entire country.
FACEBOOK: Can you believe this social networking site was once limited only to Harvard students? Now it's a time-sucking obsession for more than 300 million users globally and a whole new form of social etiquette: Who to friend on Facebook?
FAT: This was the decade that fat became the enemy of the state. New York City banned trans fats, and Alabama – second in national obesity rankings – introduced a tax on overweight state workers.
FOODIE: It's not just that guy in the White House who liked arugula – this was the decade of the foodie, when we all developed gourmet palates. Even a burger became a gourmet item – as in Daniel Bouloud's truffle burger, stuffed with foie gras and short ribs.
GOING GREEN: From the kind of light bulbs we use to the kind of shopping bags we carry to the cars we drive, "going green" took hold this decade. Now, it's not strange to hear a schoolkid tell a parent to use a cloth grocery bag.
GOOGLE: This was the decade that Google became a part of our brain function. You know that guy who was in that movie – when was it? Just Google it.
GPS: We can't get lost anymore – or at least it's pretty hard, with the ubiquitous GPS systems. But you'd better type in your location carefully: One couple made a 650-kilometre mistake this year by typing "Carpi" rather than "Ca