Our understanding of synaptic transmission has grown dramatically during the 15 years since the first issue of Neuron was published, a growth rate expected from the rapid progress in modern biology. As in all of biology, new techniques have led to major advances in the cell and molecular biology of synapses, and the subject has evolved in ways (like the production of genetically engineered mice) that could not even be imagined 15 years ago. My plan for this review is to summarize what we knew about neurotransmitter release when Neuron first appeared and what we recognized we did not know, and then to describe how our views have changed in the intervening decade and a half. Some things we knew about synapses--"knew" in the sense that the field had reached a consensus--are no longer accepted, but for the most part, impressive advances have led to a new consensus on many issues. What I find fascinating is that in certain ways nothing has changed--many of the old arguments persist or recur in a different guise--but in other ways the field would be unrecognizable to a neurobiologist time-transported from 1988 to 2003.