Remember the mid-'90s? Come on, it wasn't all that long ago.
A lot of Big Things have come -- and gone -- since then: Monica Lewinsky, the dot-com bubble, the rise and fall of Enron. Other big changes have been more permanent: three huge, expensive sports palaces built by Houston taxpayers; a quantum leap in the hassles of taking a commercial flight; a huge crater in the ground where the country's two tallest buildings once stood.
A lot of changes, though, have been subtler -- our air is cleaner, if statistics can be believed; our current computers would have dazzled even a hard-core techie back then; we're surrounded by more and more -- and ever larger -- SUVs and monster trucks.
There's no one way to sum up the zeitgeist of any given time, of course, but we arbitrarily picked 1996 and took a look at a varied bunch of categories, comparing them to the present day. This, then, is how they've changed from the days of "911 Is a Joke" to when 9/11 is a pretext for war.
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Number of jobless nationally
|Defense budget |
(not including any Iraq war)
|$266 billion||$369 billion|
|Barrel of oil||$26.80||$33.91|
|Hot reality-TV show||Rescue 411||Joe Millionaire|
|What Ozzy was up to||Starting the soon-defunct Ozz records||Being a cultural icon|
|Stock price for Northrop Grumman (defense contractor)||High for 1996: 84.25||High for 2002: 135.00|
|Stock price for American Airlines||Low for 1996: 74.88||Low for 2002: 3.01|
|Average appraised value of a Harris County home||$77,713||$119,183|
|Avg. property tax bill||$1,580||$2,695|
|Americans “not at all worried” they or a relative will be a terrorist victim||27 percent||24 percent|
Americans who use a computer at least “occasionally”
Of those, the percentage who go online
|Typical computer||133 megahertz processor, 1 gigabyte hard drive, 32 megabytes RAM, $2,000||2,350 megahertz, 80 gigabyte hard drive, 512 megabytes RAM, $1,250|
|Hot SUV||Ford Expedition (14 mpg city/20 hwy)||Hummer 2 (8 mpg city/10 hwy)|
|New SUVs/trucks sold in Harris County||92,500 (42% of total vehicles sold)||143,500 (53% of total)|
|Presidents/VPs who ducked Vietnam service||1||2|
|Music cassettes sold in the United States||101.9 million||16.7 million|
|Pirated CDs seized (CD-Rs)||87 (January-June 1997)||2.8 million|
|Houston’s home fields||Oilers: Astrodome |
Rockets: The Summit
|Texans: Reliant Stadium |
Astros: Minute Maid Park (née Enron Field)
Rockets: Your-Name-Here Arena (in Oct.)
|Congressional bills dealing with “profiling”||15||155|
|Wiretaps approved by state courts||568||1005 (in 2001)|
|Starbucks stores in the United States||1,015||5,886|
|Carcinogens released into Houston’s air||3.9 million pounds||2.8 million pounds|
|Days the Houston area exceeded federal ozone pollution standards||28||26|
|Harris County’s State House delegation||14 Democrats, 11 Republicans||11 Democrats, 14 Republicans|
|Top box office hits |
(third January weekend)
|1) From Dusk Till Dawn |
2) Mr. Holland’s Opus
3) 12 Monkeys
|1) Kangaroo Jack |
2) National Security
3) Just Married