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2014: The Year in Tech

Dan Tynan

Though it sometimes feels like at least a decade, it was barely one year ago that Yahoo Tech first hit the Web. What’s happened since then? Lots — from the announcement of groundbreaking products like the Apple Watch to earth-shattering events like the Sony hack attack. Here’s a month-by month account of some of the year’s biggest stories, and our most popular page-turners.

JANUARY: A whale of a debut

Katie Couric and Marissa Mayer
Katie Couric and Marissa Mayer

Katie Couric and Marissa Mayer. (Yahoo)

Onstage at CES 2014, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer unveiled Yahoo Tech and Yahoo Food, the first of nearly a dozen brand-new digital magazines to be launched over the next 12 months. (She had some onstage help from David Pogue, Katie Couric, and the cast of Saturday Night Live). Also in January, Target admitted that the data breach it suffered in December 2013 was much worse than originally reported, affecting some 70 million consumers. Yahoo Tech readers could not get enough of the Digital Whale, an animated orca that follows your mouse cursor across the screen like it’s a school of yellowfin tuna.

FEBRUARY: Hello Satya, goodbye net neutrality

Satya Nadella
Satya Nadella

(Wochit)

The world said hello to Steve Ballmer’s successor as Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, while virtual-currency fans bid farewell to more than $450 million as the Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange went belly-up. Comcast and Time Warner agreed to create the world’s biggest cable/Internet/entertainment colossus, a deal that’s still awaiting a final thumbs-up from the feds — something fans of net neutrality hope never happens.

MARCH: Billionaires in space

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. (Reuters)

Apple slashed the price of the iPad 4, Sony introduced its own virtual reality headgear, and the Winklevoss twins booked tickets on the Virgin Galactic spaceship (using bitcoin, natch). Our video report on the multimillion-dollar estates of high-tech CEOs was catnip to Yahoo Tech readers curious as to how the other 0.0001 percent live. They also ate up David Pogue’s take on the Asus Chromebox, one of the most affordable computers around. It seems our readers like their computers cheap and their housing insanely expensive.

APRIL: Oh, baby

Amelia McLaughlin
Amelia McLaughlin

Amelia Savannah Joy McLaughlin. (Facebook)

The Heartbleed bug affected the security of thousands of websites, leaving them vulnerable to data leaks and scaring the crap out of Internet security experts. Nearly as frightening: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advised consumers to avoid using Internet Explorer until Microsoft patched its leaky security. Yahoo Tech fans welcomed the birth of Amelia Savannah Joy McLaughlin, whose parents wisely decided to ignore the Internet’s decision to name her Cthulhu All-Spark after opening it up to an online vote earlier in the year.

MAY: A different kind of traffic jam

Traffic jam
Traffic jam


(Thinkstock)

In May, eBay got hacked, Microsoft introduced its impressively expensive Surface Pro 3 tablet, and a European court upheld the EU’s controversial “right to be forgotten.”  But the story Yahoo Tech readers loved best involved a 60-year-old Florida resident named Jason R. Humphries, who used a jamming device to disable the cellphones of nearby drivers for more than two years before he got caught, racking up more than $48,000 in fines.

JUNE: Amazon’s Fire is no fox

Fox
Fox

(Michael O’Neal)

Amazon got skin in the mobile game with the release of its Fire Phone (which it was later forced to unload at fire-sale prices). Apple unveiled iOS 8 at its Worldwide Developers Conference; at its I/O Conference, Google countered with Android 5.0 (aka Lollipop) and its smartwatch OS, Android Wear. But our most popular story in June was the 2014 iPhone photography awards — because who can resist pictures of adorable animals?

JULY: Burned by Comcast

Bedsheets burned by Galaxy smartphone
Bedsheets burned by Galaxy smartphone


(FOX 4 news)

It’s not just your over-the-top paranoia; your phone really is trying to kill you — whether it’s via excessive radiation or by catching fire under your pillow as you sleep. Still, even murderous mobiles are preferable to being stuck on the phone with a customer service agent who won’t take no for an answer. Former Engadget editor-in-chief Ryan Block recorded his abuse at the hands of an unnamed Comcast employee and shared it with the world. The recording went viral and inspired Yahoo Tech readers to share even more jaw-dropping horror stories from the bowels of cable-support hell.

AUGUST: The naked truth

Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence. (Associated Press)

This was the month the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, inspiring tech execs and celebrities to dump icy-cold water over their heads to bring money and awareness to the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Sadly, some of the challenges went a little too far, ending in at least one tragic death. Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and other celebrities got an icy-cold shock of their own when their nude smartphone photos were distributed across the Net.

SEPTEMBER: Apple Apple Apple

Apple Watch
Apple Watch

Apple Watch. (Siemond Chan/Yahoo Tech)

It was all Apple all the time in September, as the iconic company unveiled not only two big new iPhones but also its long-rumored smartwatch. First there were the rumors, then our live coverage of the announcement, then our hands-on reviews on what Apple introduced and why it matters. And, of course, Bendgate. We suspect other things happened that month, but we’re not sure what they were.

OCTOBER: Birds 1, Drones 0

Drone photo of a hawk
Drone photo of a hawk

(YouTube)

The first full month of fall brought us a sneak preview of Windows 10, proving that Microsoft was so intent on distancing itself from the disastrous Windows 8 that it skipped right past 9 and went straight to double digits. We also rode an actual working hoverboard, albeit more limited and expensive than the one Michael J. Fox piloted in Back to the Future 2. Our biggest story, though, was the evidence that birds hate drones at least as much as the rest of us — and they’re doing something about it.

NOVEMBER: Paper or plastic?

image

Alex Lee and Brooklyn Reiff (Twitter)

Who knew bagging groceries was the first step toward fame and fortune? Alex Lee, aka Alex from Target, dominated Internet conversations for the first half of November, landing the 16-year-old from Frisco, Texas, 700,000 new followers on Twitter and an appearance on Ellen. Why? Who knows. But our exclusive interview with the girl who took the photo that skittered across Twitter was one of our most well-read stories of the year. Also popular: a truly disturbing story about the crud that lives on and in your phone. Be afraid, be very afraid.

DECEMBER: Hack to the future

Scene from 'The Interview'
Scene from 'The Interview'

Seth Rogen and James Franco. (Sony Pictures)

When an anonymous hacking group destroys your network and reveals all your dirty corporate laundry, that’s bad. But agreeing to the demand that you kill the movie that inspired the attack is going too far. The good news? In a Hollywood-style last minute plot twist, Sony agreed to release the film to independent theaters across the United States — and free speech was saved yet again. The bad news? Famed physicist Stephen Hawking warned that one day artificial intelligence might kill us all. Suddenly, a massive network hack attack doesn’t sound so bad.

Send holiday greetings and spiked eggnog to Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.