For me, 2m SSB began with the purchase of a 10W pep Belcom Liner 2, which opened up 2m SSB to the masses. Before then, people used homebrew transverters and HF rigs to get on VHF SSB.
After that I owned the IC202 from ICOM which had a very good VXO but less power (3W pep). Later, the first digital synthesised rigs appeared and 2m SSB really took off.
In the last 20 years or so, certainly here in the UK, VHF/UHF SSB took a nosedive and what little VHF/UHF activity there is is mainly using FM. Here in the UK there is good SSB activity in contests and in good lifts, but little casual use of the SSB/CW modes, which is a pity. Ranges on SSB can be much greater than FM for similar power levels.
When I first used my Liner 2 I was amazed how far I could reach in flat conditions, even with 10W and a small indoor antenna.