Last year in tech: 2017 edition

Fidget spinners, iPhone X, tons of hacks, and all the important tech stuff from this past year.

Magic Leap Goggles

Magic Leap Goggles

We have seen some things. Oh my, have we seen some things.Magic Leap

Year-end wrap-ups are the best. We get to sit here in our new holiday pajamas and dish out harsh judgments on everything that happened during the past spin ‘round the sun. Interestingly, though, the end of 2017 doesn’t look all that different from the beginning. Smart home stuff is still popular, social media emotions still fluctuate wildly between “ooh, fun!” and “ooh, scary!” and nobody cares about fidget spinners.

So, before we roll into 2018, let’s take a look back at all the stuff that happened in the tech world since the last time they dropped the ball in Time Square.

Best of What's New

If you want a look at the best new tech from this year, you should check out our 2017 Best of What's New selections. It's a collection of important and influential new products and technologies that came into the world in the last 12 months or so. It's a great way to see promising new tech, free from all the negative stuff that also happened.

Fidget Spinners came and went

Fidget spinners

Google Trends: Fidget Spinners

Here, you can see the Google Trends graphs for "fidget spinner" (blue), as it compares to "Samsung Galaxy S8" (yellow), and "chicken fingers" (red), which apparently didn't have a great year.Google Trends

The Google Trends report—a graph showing how many people were searching for any given topic at any given time—for fidget spinners is fascinating. At the beginning of the year, these plastic toys registered a zero, but by the first week in April, the score was pinned to 100. It was a meteoric rise for a truly useless product. Now, the score sits around 3. The age of the fidget spinner ended as quickly as it began, leaving the toys relegated to their bargain bin coffins.

Net Neutrality died

The FCC voted to repeal 2015 regulations that classified the internet as a utility, meaning it should be equally accessible for all people. We won't know for some time how this will actually affect the Web as we know it, but it opens up the door for internet service providers to start making crucial decisions about who gets access to what content and services. Get your wallets ready.

Augmented reality got more interesting (and less depressing than actual reality)

Ikea Place App

Ikea Place iPhone App

Digital chairs were all the rage in 2017.Ikea

We spent a lot of time this year fussing around with virtual furniture in our real-world spaces thanks to Apple’s augmented reality ARKit. Microsoft also bet big on AR by integrating its Mixed Reality tech into just about every device running Windows 10l. We even got to see the wonderfully ridiculous Magic Leap AR glasses for the first time after literally years of hype. Expect a lot of digital creatures—and probably also more couches—in your future.

WannaCry

This year gave us the largest ransomware attack of all time. It spread across networks of out-of-date computers, some of which helped keep hospitals up and running. The software, which demanded a Bitcoin ransom before decrypting a user's personal data, didn't require users to click on anything or fall for an elaborate phishing attack. It simply searched for weakness and exploited it. It got so bad that Microsoft had to issue a one-time patch for Windows XP, an OS it hasn't supported since 2014.

HQ trivia happened

The top app charts are still dominated by social media, smart assistants, and addicting games, but a live game show app made one of the biggest, loudest splashes. The app started earlier this year, but now gets hundreds of thousands of viewers during each one of its live shows, which happen twice each weekday and once a day on weekends. The show has had some hiccups, including its unnecessarily toxic live chat, but it's carrying a lot of momentum into 2018. We'll see if it fares better than QuizUp, another trivia app that raised tens of millions of dollars four years ago, only to lose most of its users and sell for a bargain-basement price.

AIM died

AOL Instant Messenger played a very important role in the formative years of many internet users, myself included. It was everywhere from college dorms to workplaces, and its away message function was the prototype for the eventual rise of social media—in which we have to type everything we think and feel into a text box that our friends can see and react to. Now, AIM is officially dead. I tried logging into my account before it was shut down, but I couldn’t remember the password. RIP, AIM. My 17-year-old self will truly miss you.

Bitcoin got expensive. Then it got cheaper. Now it's kind of expensive again.

At the beginning of the year, a single Bitcoin was worth roughly $1,000. By the end of 2017, one Bitcoin is worth approximately $15,000. Of course, it might be zero tomorrow, or it could be $100,000 and all those who got in early will be driving around in yachts with the word "blockchain" written on the back. There's no telling, really.

Tesla birthed a bunch of new vehicles

Tesla Roadster

Tesla Roadster

You could make "vroom vroom" noises while looking at this action shot of the new Tesla Roadster, but you'd be wrong because it's electric.Tesla

It was a busy year for Elon Musk and his many companies, but Tesla's 2017 was particularly packed. The first Model 3 electric cars started rolling off the line, though fewer of them than promised. That probably doesn't come as all that much of a surprise. Musk also pulled back the curtain on the new electric semi-truck and a new Roadster that claims the title of "world's fastest production car."

AMD came roaring back

With the release of its Ryzen processor products, AMD rose up to take on Intel’s position of CPU dominance in the PC world. Even if you’re not a total computer game geek, the competition is good if you plan on buying a new computer any time soon.

PUBG PC

PUBG Screenshot

PUBG screenshot

This is a good place to pull your parachute if you want to float around for ten minutes and then die right when you land.PUBG

The biggest PC gaming hit of the year was Player Unknown's Battleground, a multi-player free-for-all shooter that drops 40 players on an island where only one player can emerge victorious. The learning curve is relatively steep and the potential for mayhem is high, but the game crossed 30 million active players on PC alone before it got a port over to the Xbox One earlier this December. If you're a player, you may have seen me crawling around in the fields, hoping to go unnoticed until I die anticlimactically.

Switch saved Nintendo

Both Sony and Xbox unleashed powerful new consoles this year, but it was Nintendo that dominated the living-room. With its portable playability and an arsenal of really excellent first-party games—including the best game of the year, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild—the Switch was the most fun gadget to happen this year.

HDR became really important

High-dynamic range is a complicated concept, especially when you consider how many different aspects of electronics it actually touches. TV makers embraced HDR to give their displays more impressive colors; content providers like Netflix and Youtube started providing more HDR-compatible content to take advantage of those fancy TVs; and most major smartphone makers, including Google and Apple, made HDR the default mode on their cameras. We have seen the future, and it's extremely colorful.

Homes got smarter

Smart Home

Google Home Max speaker

The Google Home Max is the most powerful smart home assistant speaker around, at least for now.Stan Horaczek

We won't know exactly how many smart home devices sold in 2017 until this year is in our rearview mirror, but Amazon says it sold "tens of millions" of Echos during the holiday season alone. Google doesn't share its sales numbers, but with the Google Home Mini matching the Echo Dot's $30 price point at most major retailers, it's a fair assumption that they sold a bunch of them. The notable exception in the smart home boom is Apple, which missed its 2017 shipping window for the upcoming HomePod speaker, now slated for early 2018.

iPhone X

While Apple had trouble on the HomePod front, it also released the most-notable smartphone of the year. The iPhone X made waves with its FaceID unlocking tech as well as its $1,000 price tag. Real talk: Phones aren't that much different at the end of 2017 than they were at its beginning.

Twitter grew up, literally

You can now tweet messages with up to 280 characters and conglomerate threads into one big message you can send all at once. The company also updated the way it treats its blue checkmarks for verified users and kicked up its fight against hate speech,—but it still has a long way to go. Elon Musk sure seemed happy about Twitter this year, at least.

Equifax leaked your info

Remember when one of the world's biggest credit agencies gave up a bunch of crucial personal info on people who had never even actively engaged with the company as customers? That sure was fun.

Drones were kinda boring

DJI Spark Drone

DJI Spark

This tiny drone from DJI can understand hand gestures, which is cool, even if it's not all that practical.Stan Horaczek

DJI unleashed its adorable Spark drone in 2017, but not a lot has changed in the space when it comes to hardware. We did get some confusing drone legislation though. In May, the government repealed the requirement for drone pilots to register their crafts when used recreationally. Then, in December the regulation came back. Not confusing at all.

The year in cameras

As a photographer and camera writer, this segment of the market remains close to my heart and, despite the continued dominance of smartphone shooting, cameras actually made a small sales comeback in 2017. Compact camera sales are still off the proverbial cliff, but both mirrorless cameras and DSL

OK, that's it for 2017. Alexa, set an alarm for 2018.