Children took to Tamagotchis, tiny Japanese electronic pets, and in the spring we all stared at the Hale-Bopp comet streaking across the sky. Lara Croft, busty babe in the computer game Tomb Raider II, took over cyberspace while Xena, warrior princess, became a star of the new Channel 5.
In pop, the big names of '96 shrank. Out went Oasis with their indifferent third album and Britpop lost its edge. We finally realised the Spice Girls were a con. In came sounds of the Asian underground and Big Beat, while The Verve were the success of the year, with their album, Urban Hymns.
In a retro world, oldies made a comeback. Elton John's song for Diana, Princess of Wales, took him back to the top of the charts; Mick Jagger kept rocking and became a dad at 54; and Michael Parkinson replayed his best bits and got a new show for 1998.
The likes of Wham!, Spandau Ballet and break-dancing were big again in an 80s pop revival as Dallasty dressing - glamour, glitter and sequins - returned with big City bonuses. Fake fur was everywhere - knickers, kagouls, you name it - and faux cow bedspreads were more than a compensation for the banning of T-bone steaks.
Buffalo Trainers with their Seventies platforms made jogging hard for the fashionable in their turned-up trousers. Looking back a little further, the "secret agent'' look a la Diana Rigg in The Avengers raged after Liz Hurley's success in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery; and Medieval Babes cut a CD that made Gregorian chants hip for the first time in centuries.
If you wanted to make it big on the London stage, it paid to play dead. So Sian Phillips excelled in Marlene, while impersonators of Hilda Baker, Kenneth Williams and Oscar Wilde (theatrical face of the year) all drew big crowds.
Success as Oscar in the movie Wilde rehabilitated Stephen Fry; and Michael Collins, the IRA leader, became a star again 75 years after his assassination, due to a biopic featuring Liam Neeson and because Gerry Adams became the first republican leader to enter Number 10 since the "Big Fellow" in 1921.
"Sensation" caused a stir in the art world - prompting fears of barbarians at the gates of the Royal Academy, which made a portrait of Myra Hindley, comprising children's handprints, the centrepiece of its exhibition.
Arundhati Roy wowed the literary world with her first novel, the Booker- winning God of Small Things. Lord Chadlington of Shandwick PR resigned from running the Royal Opera House. Condemned for leaving such a mess, applauded for carrying the can, he took the only course open to a smart PR man.
On TV, This Life was smothered and Men Behaving Badly was retired after a final Christmas binge. Michael Grade stubbed out his last cigar at Channel 4. Bet Lynch and Racquel pulled their last pints on the Street, while Cindy Beale deserted EastEnders only to return to huge acclaim. Steve Coogan was saved by Alan Partridge.
Kirsty Young, Channel 5's sexy blonde newscaster, was the big new discovery, putting the wind up the likes of Jon Snow. And ordinary folk like Maureen who couldn't pass her test in Driving School and Eileen, the manager from hell in Hotel, became instant stars of the new "reality soaps".
Zoe Ball took over Radio 1's early-morning DJ slot from Chris Evans, but Ginger had the last laugh with the success of his rival show on Virgin, later joining the ranks of media entrepreneurs by buying the company. A kindred spirit, Nicola Horlick, started the year sacked - from her job as a fund manager with Morgan Grenfell, and returned to the public eye in September with her book Can You Have It All?
Manchester United's Eric Cantona has kicked his last spectator. Since leaving with another championship medal, he has been living in Barcelona and making a film about gangsters in Marseilles. Peter O'Sullevan bowed out after commentating on his 50th Grand National.
Graham Gooch left the crease at 44, and Dickie Bird called over for the last time. The young sporting pretenders got younger: Tiger Woods won the US Masters and 16-year-old Martina Hingis became the youngest Wimbledon women's champion this century.
And, of course, the Grim Reaper thinned the ranks of the great, the good and the infamous. From academia, AL Rowse, Isaiah Berlin, Hans Eysenck; from politics, Mobuto Sese Seko, Deng Xiaoping, Chiam Herzog, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Michael Manley, Georges Marchais, Paul Tsongas, Paulo Friere; from the cinema, Fred Zinneman, Stubby Kaye, James Stewart and Robert Mitchum; from the arts, Allen Ginsberg, Stephan Grappelli, Jonathan Silver, Roy Liechtenstein, Sir George Solti, William Burroughs, Laurie Lee, John Denver and rock singer Michael Hutchence.
Gianni Versace and Sir James Goldsmith also passed away. The world mourned Diana and Mother Teresa. Journalism said goodbye to Sir John Junor, Vincent Hanna, Jeffrey Bernard, Bobby Campbell, and our own Ruth Picardie.Reuse content