The Spice Girls

What Happened in 1996?

1996 was a great year for many reasons. It was the epicenter of a new age of gaming consoles, the start of the cellphone revolution, and the phrase “Girl Power” went global thanks to the Spice Girls.

However, it was also a year of celebrity births and a few tragic losses. Here are some of the biggest events from 1996 – which, if you were there at the time, you might just remember!

In this year

The Motorola StarTAC mobile phone


The Motorola StarTAC was released as of January 3, 1996. It was one of the first-ever flip phones and became an iconic symbol of the late 90s – though we wouldn’t get addicted to cellphones for a few more years, this was the phone that marked the leap from huge, brick-like devices to handheld beepers!



The Communications Decency Act was signed into law in the United States as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It was the US Congress’ first real attempt at regulating pornographic content as it became widely available on the internet. Forward thinking, then – as the internet became a common commodity from here on out!


The European Union's Veterinary Committee banned British beef exports due to concerns about "mad cow disease," or BSE. Over the years of the outbreak, over four million head of cattle were killed in an attempt to stop the disease dead in its tracks, and 178 people died. British beef was banned from certain places around the world until as late as 2019.

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In the United States, the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, was arrested. Between 1978 and 1995, he brutally killed three people and injured 23 more in a countrywide mail bombing series. His arrest reportedly marked an end to what was the FBI's longest and most costly investigation in its history.

Osama Bin Laden


The Sudanese government expelled Osama bin Laden from the country. He had spent five years in the country before being expelled. Over the five years following this exile, he would mastermind the operation behind 9/11, arguably the most devastating terrorist attack in US history.

Nintendo 64 Launched on this day


The Nintendo 64 games console was released in Japan. The console became an instant hit and was eventually released in North America in September of that same year. However, it had an uphill battle against the Sony PlayStation, a gaming newcomer that many people favored thanks to its cheaper games and a wider variety of titles.

Boris Yeltsin


Years on from the disbanding of the Soviet Union, then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin successfully secured a second term as President of the nation on July 3, 1996. He would eventually resign in 1999, giving way to Vladimir Putin.

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Microsoft released Windows NT 4.0, a major version of its operating system. It was a game-changing system oriented towards businesses. However, nowadays, it is not used nearly as much as Microsoft has moved on to different, more modern operating systems – some more controversial than others. Remember Windows 8…?

Tupac Shakur


Rapper Tupac Shakur was attacked in a drive-by shooting as of September 7, 1996 – and to this day, his assailant has never been found. He later died in hospital – in what remains one of the most shocking and bizarrely unsolvable moments in entertainment history.

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New Zealand’s government agreed to pay back some reparation to Māori people who had lost land during the 1800s. The compensation agreed upon and paid reportedly amounted to around $130 million, a landmark decision.

Bill Clinton. US President 1993 to 2001


Bill Clinton was re-elected as the President of the United States, defeating Bob Dole. He served as the 42nd President of the United States of America from 1993 to 2001, when Republican George W. Bush would take over the role, beating Clinton’s Vice President Al Gore.

Kofi Annan


Kofi Annan was appointed as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. He was appointed by the Security Council and later confirmed by the General Assembly. This officially made him the first officeholder to be voted in by the UN staff itself.

1996 was the year of the…

Chinese Year of the Rat


Like 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 2008, and 2020, 1996 was a year in which the Chinese Zodiac celebrated “Rat people!”. People born in Rat years are usually curious, optimistic, and energetic, but they can also be very stubborn! The next Rat year won't take place until 2032.

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This page was last modified on January 31, 2024. Suggest an edit

Celebrity Births in 1996

Florence Pugh, British actor, born January 3, 1996

Sophie Turner, British actor, born February 21, 1996

Anya Taylor-Joy, British-American actor, born April 16, 1996

Zendaya, American actor, born September 1, 1996

Hailee Steinfeld, American actor, born December 11, 1996

Famous People We Lost in 1996

Gene Kelly, American actor, singer, dancer, and choreographer, died aged 83

Tupac Shakur, American rapper, died aged 25

Ella Fitzgerald, American singer, died aged 79

Dorothy Lamour, American actor, died aged 81

George Burns, American actor, died aged 100

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