1990 1999

According to popular opinion, the 90s marked the beginning of the information age as the internet flourished and companies began to build the first e-commerce sites. The decade also saw the dissolution of the Soviet Union and a third wave feminist movement that was promoted by events such as Lilith Fair.






  • World Wide Web
  • Many computer software programs
  • Cloning


  • Gorbachev elected President of Russia
  • Soviet Union Dissolved
  • Nelson Mandela elected President of South Africa
  • Oklahoma City bombing
  • Princess Diana dies in a car crash

Defining Decades Webpage

Think different. (1998) Apple Computer


There were many popular styles of music in the 90s.  One style having a powerful influence was alternative rock, an umbrella term that encompasses a number of different sub-genres such as indie rock and grunge.  Some of the most notable alternative rock groups of the decade include:  Red Hot Chili Peppers, Goo Goo Dolls, The Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots.  Grunge music, which combines rock, punk and metal sounds, was popularized in the 90s by groups such as Pearl Jam and Nivana.  Pop punk, another strand of alternative music, gained mainstream popularity thanks to the success of groups such as Green Day, Blink-182, and Weezer.

Country music enjoyed major growth as a genre during the decade as newcomers such as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.  These ones paved the way for others’ success later in the decade, including Shania Twain, Lonestar, The Dixie Chicks, and Martina McBride. Reba McEntire was one of the most successful female solo artists of the decade, selling over 20 million albums throughout the decade. In 1992 Time magazine detailed country music’s rising popularity with a cover story featuring Garth Brooks.

Pop music was driven by many European artists through the decade.  All Saints, the Spice Girls, George Michael, Ace of Base, Robert Palmer and Oasis were some of the top groups/artists.  Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera had their first chart-topping hits in the late 90s, and their careers boomed in the 2000s.  Paula Abdul, Hanson, and R. Kelly are just a few of the others’ enjoying success in the 1990s.

Adult contemporary music was popular in the form of soft-rock and singer-songwriter styles throughout the decade.  Lilith Fair exemplified the singer-songwriter style and provided an outlet for a feminist wave.  Participating artists included Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Lisa Loeb, Joan Osborne and Meredith Brooks.  Other popular artists in this genre that borrowed from this style included Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews Band, Natalie Merchant and Edwin McCain.  Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey topped the adult contemporary charts in the early 90s.


The top five grossing films of the decade were Titanic, Star Wars Episode 1, Jurassic Park, Independence Day and The Lion King. Titanic would hold the record for the highest grossing film of all time until Avatar was released in 2010.  The decade saw many other memorable feature films, a few of which include The Matrix, Pretty Woman, Home Alone, Forrest Gump, Bravehart and Mission: Impossible.

In television, adult animated sitcoms became a new offering that enjoyed much success.  This stemmed from the launch of The Simpsons and led to other shows like Beavis and Butthead, South Park and Family Guy.  This category remains popular through today, and many of these same shows are still releasing new episodes.

Sitcoms ruled television throughout the 90s.  Fraiser, Friends, Married…with Children,  Full House and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were just a handful of the most successful of this genre.  Soap-opera style shows like Beverly Hills: 90210, Felicity, Dawson’s Creek, Melrose Place and Baywatch were also popular and held their own against the competing sitcom genre. Shows like ER, NYPD Blue, The X-Files, Dr. Quinn – Medicine Woman, and The Practice were favorites in the drama genre.

Notable celebrity/entertainer deaths from the 90s:  Jim Henson, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, John Candy, Kurt Cobain, Elizabeth Montgomery, George Burns and Frank Sinatra.


Fashion of the 1990’s has been quoted as “The decade fashion has forgotten.” Trends that peppered the 1990’s were an eclectic mix of influences from the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, and the combination of styles from the three decades can be seen throughout. The late 1980’s fashion trends carried over into the new decade, as women continued to wear aerobic leggings and stir-ups in bright florescent colors, blue jeans with matching denim jackets in acid wash, baby doll dresses, over sized t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweaters, with slouch socks over high-tops sneakers and keds. The 1960’s and 1970’s styles were revived in the mid-90’s with fashion taking on hippie style floral dresses, flowered floor length skirts, lace blouses, Gypsy tops and wedge heeled shoes. Another trend that began in the 80’s is the Z Cavaricci pants, or parachute pants, which were worn by both men and women.

At the same time mainstream fashion looked back to previous decades for inspiration, another alternative trend developed. In the middle of the decade, with the influence of rock band Nirvana and their lead singer, the iconic Kurt Cobain and his wife Courtney Love, the new grunge era began. Cobain and Love were the antithesis of conservative and inspired fashion trends to adopt what is known as the 90’s grunge.

The new grunge was an amalgamation of punk, which began in the 1970’s, and gothic (Goth). Some of the key elements of the 90’s grunge are jeans that are ripped, patched with fabric, and/or drawn on with a permanent marker, long sleeved flannels, long sleeved cotton shirts with a rock band t-shirt over it, doc martens, skate shoes, chuck taylors, or any other type of boot. The main influences driving grunge fashion are comfort and creativity; your attire should reflect a desire to break away from conservatism and be free. In conjunction with grunge, another fashion trend that was seen in the 1990’s was inspired by the influx of hip-hop artists as the sagging-jeans era began in the early 90’s and carried through into the 2000’s.


The 1990’s was flush with funds as America continued to see the prosperity of the 1980’s carry into the new decade. Americans had extra money to spend, and one area they spent money on was cars. Truck and car sales grew throughout the early 90’s, with a few dips early in the decade due to the Gulf war. However, after the war car sales increased as Americans bought SUV’s (Sports Utility Vehicles), sports cars, and luxury cars.

Sports Utility Vehicles became popular in during the 90’s. One of the first Sport Utility Vehicles to be made is the Ford Explorer. The Explorer was created and designed to replace Ford’s Bronco, and turned out to be a smart move on Ford’s part. “The Explorer was instrumental in turning SUV’s from an area of interest to one of the most popular vehicles sold.” Since its inception, the Explorer has seen 5 generations, beginning in 1991. The body was designed to replicate certain aspects of the Ford Ranger’s pick-up truck, such as space and the option of four- wheel drive, while allowing the driver to have a more refined drive. Though there have been a number of competing SUV’s, the Ford Explorer continues to be one of the most popular SUV’s sold.

Sports cars were widely sought after during this decade. The 1990’s opened the road to foreign sports cars alongside of American sports cars. Some of the popular foreign sports vehicles in the 1990’s are the BMW Z3, Mazda Miata, Jaguar XJ220 and XK8, Lotus Espirit, and the Mercedes Benz SLK. Some of the most popular American sports cars sold during the 90’s are the Chevy Corvette, Chevy Camaro, Dodge Viper, and Ford Mustang. With the advent of innovative technology, new car companies such as Saturn emerged. Saturn’s were touted for their “plastic” exteriors, allowing for better gas mileage and lighter tread. The car designs were sleek and sporty, which fit the car trends of this era.


Although the terms "Internet" and "World Wide Web" are often used interchangeably they are not the same. The "Internet" is a global system of interconnected computer networks. The "Web" is a collection of textual documents and other resources, linked by hyperlinks and URLs, transmitted by web browsers and web servers. In short, the Web is an application running on the Internet. The Web as we know it today came into being when Tim Berners-Lee.
created the World Wide Web and Internet protocol (HTTP) and WWW language (HTML) in 1990.

A few of the Computer Innovations from this decade…

  • 1991 - Sega Game Gear Handheld, Super Nes, Sonic the Hedgehog
  • 1992 - Windows 3.1, Linux, Wolfenstein
  • 1993 - Windows NT 3.1, Mosaic browser, Age of Empires, Doom
  • 1994 - Netscape web browser, Warcraft
  • 1995 - Windows 95, Netscape 1.2, PlayStation, Pokémon
  • 1996 - NT 4.0, Netscape Navigator 2, Internet Explorer 3, Nintendo 64 the N64, Quake, Tomb Raider
  • 1997 - Netscape Communicator 4.0, Internet Explorer 4
  • 1998 - Windows 98, Nintendo Game Boy Color Handheld, Grand Theft Auto
  • 1999 - Internet Explorer 5, Neo-Geo Pocket Color Handheld, Sega Dreamcast, Tony Hawk's

On July 5, 1996 a white lamb was born, the first to be cloned from an adult cell not an embryo. Proof that scientists do have a sense of humor, albeit sometimes a little twisted, the lamb was named Dolly after Dolly Parton because the nucleus of a mammary gland cell was used. The first step of the process involved reprogramming the udder cells from a white sheep to keep them alive, but not growing, then injecting them into the unfertilized egg of a blackface ewe. The nucleus had been removed from the egg in preparation for implanting the donor dna, and then electrical impulses were used to force the cells to fuse. After it was determined that the cell was dividing normally it was implanted into a third sheep, another blackface ewe. The development of cloning technology has led to new ways to produce medicines and is improving our understanding of development and genetics, but it also set off a firestorm of ethical concerns.
(Artwork by Linda R. Herzog)


June 13, 1991
Boris Yeltsin elected President of the Russian Republic.
August 18, 1991
High-ranking members of the Soviet government aided by military and police forces executed a coup and placed Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev under house arrest. The coup leaders claimed Gobachev was ill, declared a state of emergency, and attempted to take control of the government. Yeltsin and his backers from the Russian parliament called on the Russian people to strike and protest the coup. Even some of the soldiers involved choose to join the resistance. The coup only lasted three days, thousands of citizens took the streets to demonstrate. Gorbachev returned to Moscow, but his regime was crumbling. Over the next few months, he granted independence to the Baltic states, disbanded the Communist Party, and proposed an economics-based federation among the remaining republics.
December 1991
Gorbachev resigned. The Soviet Union is dissolved and becomes the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loosely organized federation of 15 independent states. Yeltsin emerges as a powerful leader in Moscow due to his part in defeating the coup.

May 8, 1994
Nelson Mandela is elected president. In the nation's first democratic all race elections Mandela and the African National Congress declared victory with 62% of the national vote. He is the first black South African president in a country that has been enforcing the apartheid system, separate lives for black and white people, since 1948.

Mandela was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with National Party President F.W. de Klerk for the struggle to abolish apartheid, establish universal suffrage and hold free democratic elections. The impressiveness of his accomplishments are underscored by the fact that until 1990 Mandela had been in prison serving a life sentence for inciting armed revolution against white dominated rule in 1964.

April 19, 1995
A federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed and 168 people, including 19 children, were killed. Later, two anti-government, American terrorists - Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols - were convicted of the bombing. The bombing was carried out in retaliation for the standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidian cult (led by David Koresh) at the Davidian compound in Waco, Texas which had ended in a fiery tragedy two years prior. The huge explosion tore through the building at 9:02 a.m. almost the entire north side of the 9-story building was ripped off and blown to bits. The country was stunned by such domestic terrorism and watched horrified as it took weeks to sort through the debris to recover the bodies of victims.

August 31, 1997
Diana, Princess of Wales - "The people's princess" - died in a Paris tunnel car accident. The car carrying Diana, her new love interest, "Dodi" Fayed, her bodyguard and a driver went out of control and crashed. Fayed and the driver were killed instantly; Diana suffered massive injuries and died later in a hospital despite heroic efforts to save her. The bodyguard was critically injured but survived.
The people of the world were stunned. First came horror and shock. Then blame directed at the paparazzi, the driver was apparently trying to escape photographers who were following the princess' car. Later tests showed the driver had been well over the legal alcohol limit, but immediate blame was placed on the photographers and their relentless quest to obtain images of Diana that could be sold. There was an outpouring of sorrow and grief. The entire world mourned the Princess - a champion for worthy causes such as the elimination of AIDS and landmines and a role model for those who suffer from depression or bulimia - taken away in the prime of her life.

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