As the final days of the year 2013 tick off our smartphones like marching drummer boys, it’s time for one last reflection on what could only be named, “The Year of Information.” When it comes to our personal info, hackers were stealing it in droves, the government was spying on it, and all the major tech companies were pushing the limits on how much protection they could offer. The year wasn’t all bad though; tablets exploded in functionality, several top tech firms saw a changing of the guard, and Twitter showed us all how to take an IPO public. We also saw a year where T-Mobile decided to finally be the first to dump cellular contracts as well, so overall it appears that we have a lot to be thankful for.
Here are the other notable stores of 2013 and how they ultimately shaped our lives-
Edward Snowden and the NSA
The top tech story of the year is still unveiling and it’s entirely possible that Edward Snowden will end up the most talked about technology topic for 2014 as well. Almost single-handedly, this young NSA contractor exposed a global-spying conspiracy by the US government that alleged unobstructed access to all American communications. With the initial release of information through the Guardian newspaper, Snowden fled for Hong Kong and eventually sought asylum with both Russia and China. Although Snowden has stated that he’d like to return to the United States, he refuses to do so if the title “traitor” will be pinned on his back. As of 12/23/2013, Snowden still faces numerous criminal charges in the United States.
After Snowden’s initial leaks to the public, the story within the story soon unfolded and tech firms like Google, Verizon and Yahoo all lined up to tell of their involvement in this government spying scandal. Although the NSA was granted an almost unlimited reach without a court order, communication tech businesses sought ways to force the government into a more uniform compliance. Part of that journey was beefing up their own personal security so that the NSA could not access their servers whenever the government felt like it, which brought forth another round of accusations and denials.
That Mysterious Google Barge
Another huge tech story this year has been the mysterious barges that were floating off the coasts of San Francisco and Portland, Maine. They remained a local curiosity for several months, but once the barged were accredited to a secret program in the design stages for Google, the online searches skyrocketed into the millions overnight. To this day we still have not received a fully straight answer on what the floating buildings actually are; we’re heard everything from a mobile Google Glass showroom to a high-tech training center for employees and partners. Whatever these two Google barges end up being, it was fun to spend the majority of 2013 speculating.
Bitcoin Surges in Value/Popularity
At the beginning of 2013, the average person had absolutely no idea what a Bitcoin even was. Sure, some of us in the tech industry knew that we could dedicate our computer hardware to solving complex equations, and in turn Bitcoin would give us credits for out contributions. The problem was that those cyber-coins were worth mere fractions of a penny, nobody would accept them, and it took some serious computing power to complete the required tasks. When the value of the Bitcoin soared almost equal to the price of gold though, people were suddenly interested. There have been breaking stories late in 2013 that the Bitcoin will eventually become a global currency and replace the dollar, the Euro and the Yen…while others see it as a completely worthless idea. Who knows, 2014 may well be the Year of the Bitcoin, but we’re certainly not expecting it.
Google Glass & Wearable Tech
Google Glass was another huge tech story in 2013 simply because it was one of the first tech innovations that actually stood a chance of gearing us away from smartphones. Of course, Glass is still in development at the writing of this article and only a select few developers and Beta testers have been able to place their hands on this hardware. The big story about Google Glass is not necessarily the technology itself, however; it’s the idea that wearable tech can further evolve our lives with even faster access to what’s important. That’s essentially why the Pebble Smartwatch was the most gifted produce of 2013 as well; the possibilities are almost bigger than the product itself.
Of course, 2013 could not be complete without a government tech meltdown of epic proportions. That’s exactly what happened on healthcare.org, the government’s one-stop shop for affordable health insurance. Its initial rollout in the fall of 2013 was a disaster with countless bugs and other issues that made it near impossible to gather information, much less actually purchase healthcare. This story became even more prominent as the government reached out to experts within the tech community to get things back in order, with programmers from Google, Microsoft and several other notable firms coming to the rescue. At the time of this post, healthcare.org is fully functional, and the President and his team are continuing to working hard to address other small issues to ensure top user experience for visitors.