2013 was a jam-packed year in tech, featuring the full gamut of emotions we associate with the industry: nostalgia, hope, paranoia, fear, and unbridled excitement. This year, longstanding mobile manufacturers shut their doors, our worst fears about surveillance and privacy turned out to be true, and smartphones kept getting better.
The tech industry moves incredibly fast—blink for a second and you’ll end up missing the singularity. So here is our collection of the biggest and best tech news stories of 2013:
10. T-Mobile Kisses Contracts Goodbye
Although technological advances move incredibly fast, the gatekeepers of the industry tend to move at a much slower pace—the mobile phone carriers are no exception. But with an enthusiastic swagger, T-Mobile CEO John Legere got up on a stage in New York City earlier this spring and said “Stop the bullshit,” referring to the 2-year contract deals that other carriers use. T-Mobile may be fourth place position in the US carrier market, but they now offer something their customers will love: a contract-free cell phone bill.
9. Gabe Newell Announces Steam Machines
Ever since the game developers Valve first released Steam, we’ve been wondering when they’d take the deep dive into living room consoles. Just a few months ago, Valve surprised the world by not only introducing their new game consoles called “Steam Machines”, but also a brand new controller, which has some new input ideas of its own. Details are still relatively scarce, but expect Valve’s Steam Machines to make a big splash in the home console market in 2014.
8. Facebook and Twitter Go Public
The two biggest social media companies in the world have been quietly fighting neck-and-neck for years now—purchasing startups and aggressively pursuing financial expansion through ads. But in the social media world, 2013 marks the year that Facebook and Twitter both went public. Although Twitter’s attempts ended up a bit better than Facebok’s, the financial destiny of both these two social media giants is still very much up in the air despite their popularity.
7. Elon Musk Announces Hyperloop
No tasks seems too daunting or implausible for the innovator behind SpaceX, PayPal, and Tesla. The Hyperloop is Musk’s latest project—and it’s no less ambitious than his previous outings. According to Musk, the Hyperloop “is an elevated, reduced-pressure tube that contains pressurized capsules driven within the tube by a number of linear electric motors.” The result is a new mode of transportation that will allow riders to travel from the Los Angeles region to the San Francisco Bay Area in just 35 minutes at an average speed of around 598 mph. It’s nowhere near a reality as of now, but if Musk is involved, you know he’ll be determined to make it become one.
6. Apple Reveals iOS 7
Since the death of Steve Jobs, the technology industry has been patiently waiting to see what Apple’s next big move would be. Would they continue to be able to innovate in the ways they did with the iPhone and the iPad without their figurehead? The overhaul that was iOS 7 certainly wasn’t revolutionary, but it did mean one thing: Apple wasn’t afraid to make big moves as leaders in design—moves that have already made a rippling effect across the industry.
5. Microsoft Purchases Nokia
Google purchased Motorola in 2012 and now Microsoft has picked up one of the last remaining phone manufacturers of old—one that is remembered with a lot of fondness. Seemingly out of the fear that Nokia would move on to begin making Android phones, Microsoft purchased the mobile phone section of Nokia’s business for a mere $7.2 billion. The dream of a beautiful, well-designed Android phone with a fantastic camera may have died with this one, but the integration of the Lumia brand just might give Windows Phone the momentum it needs to turn things around.
4. Blackberry is Done For Good—Almost
Despite attempts to stay relevant with their new phones and mobile operating system released in 2013, Blackberry announced back in August that they would be open to being purchased. After losing an estimated $62 billion dollars in worth and laying off around 4,500 employees, Blackberry has still not finalized any deals that would seal its fate. There are still those who believe that under their new CEO, Blackberry might make a successful jump into a new market, but it’s hard to say at this point.
3. Microsoft Announced Xbox One and Everyone Hated It At First
Microsoft’s next-gen console might be doing some really cool things in the living room space, but let’s not forget what a total PR nightmare the reveal of the console was. Fans and industry watchdogs were upset about a huge handful of issues including that the Xbox One had to always be on, the lack of backwards compatibility, the fact that Kinect was no longer optional, and the whole used games fiasco. Microsoft ended up having to retract and clear up many of the statements made, revealing how powerful and influential the consumer now has in the industry.
2. Healthcare.gov Trips At Launch
Regardless of how you feel about the new healthcare law, Healthcare.gov will now be remembered more by a cacophony of error messages, not how they helped or hurt the general public. Perhaps the most striking thing about the technological failure is that it happened under the most technology savvy administration to ever hold presidential office. The Obama administration had always been known for the way it used social media and online advertising to push its campaign in 2008 and 2012—but the implementation of the first Internet-only national government service wasn’t as easy to pull off as it may have seemed.
1. NSA Spying Grid Revealed
Paste doesn’t usually cover politics, but it’s hard to avoid when it hits this close to home. Edward Snowden’s leaked documents about the NSA’s secret spying grid, Prism, was not only the biggest tech story of 2013, it was one of the biggest pieces of news for the entire country, thrusting the debate over Internet privacy and data collection in the mainstream consciousness of Americans and people all around the world.
Luke Larsen is the tech editor at Paste Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @lalarsen11.