stocked up


The 1990s collectively refers to the years between and including 1990 and 1999. During this time, the widespread adoption of personal computers, the Internet and the increased economic productivity led to the equity market booms around the world, and caused an influx of wealth to the United States, Europe and Asia.

This decade started with the fall of Communism and the United States liberation of Kuwait, as well as the cementation of free-market capitalism in many countries worldwide, both developed and developing. During this decade, racial prejudice against minorities lost moral acceptance, and the gender roles for women began to increase dramatically in many industrialized countries.

Throughout the decade multiple attempts to solve the conflict between Israel and Palestinian territories were initiated including a near settlement in the mid-1990s with the Oslo accords when Israel allowed the creation of the autonomous Palestinian National Authority. Also, the 165 years of British control over Hong Kong ended with the transfer of jurisdiction to the People's Republic of China. In Europe, the decade was dominated by the Yugoslav wars, which resulted in the dissolution of Yugoslavia as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia declared their independence.


Many countries, institutions, companies, and organizations experienced the 1990s as a prosperous time. High-income countries such as the United States, Western Europe, and South Korea experienced steady economic growth for much of the decade. However, in the former Soviet Union GDP decreased as their economies restructured to produce goods they needed and some capital flight occurred.

Oil and gas were discovered in many countries in the former Soviet bloc, leading to economic growth and wider adoption of trade between nations. These trends were also fueled by inexpensive fossil energy, with low petroleum prices caused by a glut of oil. Political stability and decreased militarization due to the winding down of the Cold War led to economic development and higher standards of living for many citizens.

  • Personal incomes doubled from the recession in 1990, and there was higher productivity overall. After the 1996 Welfare Reform Act there was a reduction of poverty, and the Wall Street stock exchange stayed over the 10,000 mark from 1999 to 2001.
  • After the 1992 booming of the US stock market, Alan Greenspan coined the phrase "irrational exuberance".
  • GATT update and creation of the World Trade Organization and other global economic institutions, but opposition by anti-globalization activists showed up in nearly every GATT summit, like the demonstrations in Seattle in December 1999.
  • With the creation of the E.U. there is free movement of labor between member states, such as the 1992 and 1995 free trade agreements. The EU agreed to have a single currency, and the Euro began circulation in March 1999 in 12 member states.
  • The Philippines saw great economic development after The People Power revolt. The economy gains 5% from its deficit until the Asian financial crisis of 1997.
  • The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which phases out trade barriers between the United States, Mexico and Canada is signed into law by U.S. President Bill Clinton.
  • From 1990 until 1998 inclusive, the economy of Russia and some former USSR states was in a severe depression. Eastern European economies struggled after the fall of communism, but Poland, Hungary, Estonia and Lithuania saw healthy economic growth rates in the late 1990s.
  • Except for the United Kingdom and Ireland, much of Europe had serious economic problems, such as the massive 1995 general strikes in France during its worst recession since World War II. The French economy mildly rebounds at the end of the decade.
  • Democracy, economic reform and peace arrive in Latin America, while the sluggish economies of Brazil, by a new emphasis on free markets for all their citizens, and Mexico, under economist president Ernesto Zedillo elected in 1994, were their best shape by the late 1990s.
  • Financial crisis hits East and Southeast Asia in 1997 and 1998 after a long period of phenomenal economic development. Japan was heavily affected, as was Indonesia when the 30-year rule of President Suharto ended in his resignation after widespread protests in May 1998. See East Asian Tigers.

World-changing events

Significant events that occurred during or after 1990 which would influence the course of history and character of the decade, include:

Significant events that marked the passing of the decade include:



Some technologies invented and improved during the 1990s:


  • The Pentium processor is developed by Intel.
  • Explosive growth of the Internet, perhaps caused by a decrease in the cost of computers and other technology.
  • Advancements in computer modems, ISDN, cable modems and DSL lead to faster connection to the Internet.
  • Pagers are initially popular but ultimately are replaced by mobile phones toward the end of the decade.
  • Hand-held satellite phones are introduced towards the end of the decade.
  • CD burner drives are introduced.
  • Digital SLRs and regular Digital cameras become commercially available.
  • The DVD media format is developed and popularized along with a plethora of Flash memory card standards.
  • Apple introduces the iMac computer, initiating a trend in computer design towards translucent plastics and multicolor case design, discontinuing many legacy technologies like serial ports, and beginning a resurgence in the company's fortunes that continues unabated to this day.
  • IBM introduces the 1-inch wide Microdrive hard drive in 170 MB and 340 MB capacities.
  • The first GSM network is launched in Finland in 1991
  • The first MP3 Player, the MPMan, is released in late spring of 1998. It came with 32Mb of flash memory expandable to 64Mb.
  • The introduction of affordable, smaller satellite dishes and the DVB-S standard in the mid-1990s expanded satellite television services that carried up to 500 television channels.


Computer and video games

  • 3-D graphics become the standard by end of decade. Although FPSs had long since seen the transition to full 3D, other genres begin to copy this trend by the end of the decade.
  • Lara Croft became the first video game sex symbol, becoming a recognisable figure in the entertainment industry throughout the late 1990s.
  • The console wars, primarily between Sega (Sega Mega Drive (marketed as the Sega Genesis in North America), introduced in 1988) and Nintendo (Super NES, introduced in 1990), sees the entrance of Sony with the PlayStation in 1994, which becomes the first successful CD-based console (as opposed to cartridges). By the end of the decade, Sega's hold on the market becomes tenuous after the end of the Saturn in 1998 and the Dreamcast in 2001.
  • Mario finds a rival in Sonic the Hedgehog with the release of the original game on the Genesis in 1991.
  • Arcade games rapidly decrease in popularity.
  • Fighting games like Capcom's Street Fighter II, Sega's futuristic Virtua Fighter and the more violent Mortal Kombat from Acclaim prompted the video game industry to adopt a game rating system, and hundreds of knock-offs are widely popular in mid-to-late1990s.
  • Sony's PlayStation becomes the top selling game console and changes the standard media storage type from cartridges to compact discs in consoles.
  • Doom (1993) bursts onto the world scene and instantly popularizes the FPS genre, and even how games are played, as Doom is among the first games to feature multiplayer capabilities. It is not until Quake (1996), however, that game developers begin to take multiplayer features into serious consideration when making games. Half-Life (1998) features the next evolutionary step in the genre with continual progression of the game (no levels in the traditional sense) and an entirely in-person view, and becomes one of the most popular computer games in history.
  • The real-time strategy (RTS) genre is introduced in 1992 with the release of Dune II. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994) popularizes the genre, with Command & Conquer and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness in 1995 sets up the first major real-time strategy competition and popularizes multiplayer capabilities in RTS games. StarCraft in 1998 becomes the second best-selling computer game of all time. It remains among the most popular multiplayer RTS games to this day, especially in South Korea. Homeworld in 1999 becomes the first successful 3d RTS game. The rise of the RTS genre is often credited with the fall of the turn-based strategy (TBS) genre, popularized with Civilization in 1991. The Civilization franchise is the only TBS franchise that remains popular.
  • Final Fantasy first debuted (in North America) in 1990 for the NES, and remains among the most popular video game franchises, with 12 new titles to date, with another in development, plus numerous spin-offs, sequels, movies and related titles. Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997, especially popularized the series.
  • Zelda continues its massive popularity with a series of groundbreaking games, including The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, released in 1998, which is considered one of the best and most groundbreaking games of all time.
  • Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing games (MMORPGs) see their entrance into the computer game world with Ultima Online in 1997, although they don't gain widespread popularity until EverQuest and Asheron's Call in 1999. MMORPGs go on to become among the most popular genres in the 2000s.
  • Pokémon entered the world scene with the release of the original Game Boy Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green games in Japan in 1996, later changed to Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue for worldwide release in 1998. It soon becomes popular in the U.S. and is adapted into a popular children's anime series and trading card game, among other media forms. Its popularity remains well into the 2000s with several new games and spin-offs.


  • Youth culture in the 1990s was characterized by environmentalism and entrepreneurship. Western world fashions were often individualistic, tattoos and body piercing gained popularity, and "retro" styles inspired by fashions of the 1960s and 1970s were also prevalent. Some young people became increasingly involved in outdoor activities that combined embracing athletics with the appreciation of nature.
  • The first McDonald's restaurant opens in the Moscow in 1990 with then-President of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR and future Russian President Boris Yeltsin attending, symbolizing Russia's transition towards a capitalist free-market economy and a move towards adopting elements of western culture.
  • In 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases. Increasing acceptance of homosexuality occurs in the western world throughout the 1990s.
  • The ethnic tensions and violence in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s create a greater sense of ethnic identity of the nations in the new countries, especially involving increased popularity of nationalism.
  • The 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the Americas in 1992 was popularly observed, despite controversy and protests against Columbus' expeditions victimization of Native Americans. The holiday was labeled by some as racist, in view of Native American experiences of colonialism, slavery, genocide and cultural destruction.
  • The U.S. animated television comedy series The Simpsons becomes a huge domestic and international success in the 1990s.
  • The Internet becomes available to public use in the 1990s and expands rapidly.
  • With the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa's first black president. South Africa drastically moves away from the previous society of white-minority Apartheid rule to becoming a multicultural society.
  • Reality television began on MTV; this would grow in importance in the western world into the 2000s.
  • Video games became more advanced and popular, with the development of 3-d graphics.
  • Dogme 95 becomes an important European artistic film movement by the end of the decade.
  • Eurodance music dominates discotheques and has numerous major mainstream hits in European (and to a lesser extent, North American) music charts.
  • Mainstream "Techno", as it is dubbed by the media, became hugely popular in Europe and the U.S. From the early raves of 1990 to about 1996, electronic music gradually gained widespread recognition as a new genre in its own right. This trend reached a head in the latter part of the decade as underground parties were largely replaced by massive commercially sponsored parties, and as music media such as MTV began coverage of it.
  • Media consolidation leads to increased segmentation in styles of music.
  • 24-hour CNN coverage during the Gulf War leads to increased awareness and coverage of world events and Infotainment shows.
  • Hip-hop culture grows in western societies; by the end of the decade hip hop gained more and more popularity.
  • The 1990s in popular fashion in the Western world is typically referred to as the decade of "anti-fashion". In reality, anti-fashion was only one of many trends in fashion in the 1990s. The fashion of the 1990s was characterized by minimalist styles, and many overlapping, often contradictory trends. The most significant event was the rise of grunge fashion in 1992. In the late 1990s there was a move away from grunge. Retro clothing inspired by the 1960s and 1970s was popular for much of the 1990s.

International Issues

Politically, the 1990s was an era of spreading democracy. The former countries of the Warsaw Pact moved from totalitarian regimes to democratically-elected governments. The same happened in other non-communist countries, such as Taiwan, Chile, South Africa, and Indonesia. Capitalism made great changes to the economies of communist countries like China and Vietnam, and even Cuba.

The improvement in relations between the countries of NATO and the former members of the Warsaw Pact ended the Cold War both in Europe and other parts of the world. Yugoslavia violently broke up along republic and ethnic lines during the 1990s. In 1993, the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, and PLO leader Yasser Arafat shook hands in agreement for peace, at the conclusion of peace talks sponsored by US president Bill Clinton. The outcome of these talks, known as the Oslo Accords, was an agreement by Israel to allow Palestinian self-government.

Conflicts like the Balkan Wars, the Rwandan genocide, the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia and the first Gulf War, as well as the continuation of terrorism, led some to hypothesize a Clash of Civilizations, but the decade was also a time of peace in terror-ridden Northern Ireland when the IRA agreed to a truce in 1994. This marked the beginning of the end of 25 years of violence between the two sectarian groups, Protestant and Catholic, and the start of political negotiations.





Significant events

Other significant events

See also


External links

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