Back to the Past #1: Things

(Welcome to the first entry of Back to the Past, where I’ll be taking a look at curious pieces of history. Keep in mind that this is also my first time writing an article. Apologies in advance.)

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In the (possibly) mid to late 1990s, one of the biggest words used in the technology industry was “multimedia”. Moving pictures, sounds, music, etc. It was a great gimmick with various levels of success. Of course, as time passed on many of these multimedia things were forgotten by people, such as… well… “Things”, introduced by the Parable Corp. (now The Parable Group) in August 1996.

What are Things? According to Comedy Central’s website circa 1999:

Things bring new life to the Web with multimedia – animation, sound, motion, and more – all with very little download time. Things can be collected on your desktop (using the ThingCollector), used as a screen saver (with the ThingSaver) or added to your Web page. As you interact with them, Things change color, make sounds, come to life. Things start to happen.

Basically, imagine those desktop buddies that do stuff when you click on them, but could be embedded in a web page. They also came as screensavers and streaming video. And according to an ancient TechWeb article, some of them can have an expiration date, thus making the user have to go back and re-download whatever Thing expired.

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Aside from your standard web page button Things, there were also plenty of licensed Things to go around. These Things included, but weren’t limited to:

  • David Bowie
  • Comedy Central (South Park, Bob and Margret)
  • Depeche Mode
  • Jones Soda
  • Monolopy
  • Mystery Men
  • New England Revolution
  • New England Patriots
  • Wild Wild West
  • WWF
  • Dawson’s Creek
  • Curious George
  • Frogger
  • Major League Soccer
  • Muppets from Space
  • NFL (NFL Europe, Super Bowl XXXIII)
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Tour de France

Clearly there was a big market for Things. More were made as the 2000s rolled around, including MLB Things and Star Wars: Episode One Things.

Sadly, Things weren’t here to last. ThingWorld.com went offline approx. around 4/7/2003 and became a parked domain exactly five years later, which it still is to this day. If you ever want to download Things and Thing-related software, then tough luck. Internet Archive has the website saved, but not a single download available. Don’t bother searching for Things either: the name’s so generic that you’d have better luck finding the word “things” instead of “Things” themselves.

So until a massive rediscovery is held, it’s up to your imagination as to how Things worked.

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