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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Gotta nuke something!

Gravitational waves

By Jove!

AlphaGo takes over the world

Microsoft's chatbot goes nuclear

The rise of the machines

FBI vs Apple

Apple vs FBI

Yahoo ya-hacked

Panama!

WikiLeaks 2.0

PC master race

"The Cyber"

#Burn

Brexit

Goodbye headphone jack, hello brave new iPhone

Apple's $300 coffee table book

Kanye West talks big business

Po-Go Schtick

A Noteable year

2016 was a busy year for Elon Musk.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO held all those events and launches, or almost launches. In between, you'd be forgiving for thinking the billionaire inventor was single-handedly driving humanity's race towards Mars.

Musk has his eyes on terraforming the Red Planet, describing it to TV host Stephen Colbert in September as a "fixer-upper" compared to Earth. But nothing that a few bombs won't fix!

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

It wasn't just a move to Mars that had our sci-fi senses tingling this year.

In February, researchers on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory project, or LIGO, found solid evidence for the existence of gravitational waves. The LIGO team said they'd observed gravitational waves created 1.3 billion years ago by a collision between two black holes.

Their discovery brings us one step closer to a grand unified theory of the universe, and proves Einstein really knew what he was talking about.

Caption by / Photo by R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

On the Fourth of July, NASA was looking beyond fireworks as its Juno orbiter beamed never-before-seen pictures of Jupiter back to Earth. After five years travelling through space, Juno will orbit Jupiter 37 times, giving people back home the chance to choose parts of the gas giant for JunoCam to photograph.

Caption by / Photo by NASA, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

This year we learned how civilised robots will be when they eventually take over the world.

In March, Google's artificial intelligence machine, AlphaGo, took on world champion Lee Sedol at the board game Go -- and won. This was no fluke. Out of five games, Sedol won just one.

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

In the same month AlphaGo politely dominated board games, Microsoft's chatbot Tay was unleashed on the world.

It started innocently enough: "I love me I love everyone," she declared on Twitter. But before long, humanity saw its darker side. Tay started parroting her followers' tweets and became a horny, racist sex bot.

Her account is now silent. We can only assume Microsoft has sent her out on the proverbial ice raft to die in digital solitude.

Caption by / Photo by Microsoft, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

So what's the key lesson from our exploits in artificial intelligence in 2016? Speaking with Larry King in June, the brilliant Stephen Hawking gave us a sobering reminder of what happens when the machines become more powerful than their makers.

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

One of the biggest tech stories of the year pitted Apple against the FBI.

In February, a judge ordered Apple to unlock an iPhone 5C used by a San Bernardino, California, terrorist. The FBI argued that unlocking the suspect's iPhone was vital for national security and the public's safety.

The issue soon became bigger than one lone device.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Apple refused to build a backdoor into the iPhone, arguing the move would compromise security across all its devices for all customers, particularly if the tool fell into the wrong hands.

Ultimately, the FBI didn't need Apple's help -- it broke into the terror suspect's iPhone unassisted.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

It wasn't just Apple worried about hacking in 2016.

In September, Yahoo revealed that a "state-sponsored actor" hacked 500 million accounts, taking details like email addresses, names and passwords. It rates as the biggest hack ever.

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Speaking of information getting into the wrong hands (or should that be the right hands?), the world's rich and powerful had a major scare when the Panama Papers were released in May.

The cache of 11.5 million documents was leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca by an anonymous "John Doe," and detailed the tax havens used by the mega rich. Time to get a new accountant.

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

With all these leaks and hacks, who will defend security and digital privacy from the grips of big corporations and law enforcement? Marking 10 years of Wikileaks in October, Julian Assange reckoned he still had some fight left in him, though corralling an army may be hard to do from the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

As the tech world contemplated new security threats in 2016, there were even bigger issues at stake: who was pwning who in the gaming battlefield. While he might look like a regular tech exec by day, we discovered at Computex in Taipei back in June that ASUS chairman Jonney Shih takes his gaming pretty damn seriously.

Caption by / Photo by ASUS, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

This year's US presidential race has to go down as one of the messiest, nastiest and (let's not lie) most enthralling in history. Despite their varied credentials, the two front-runners weren't afraid to talk about the role of cyber security in shaping the world. Or as Donald Trump called it during his first presidential debate against Hillary Clinton in September, "the cyber."

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton may have struggled to get through to average Americans, but her response to Trump's increasing Twitter tirades back in June was just priceless. (Though after the furore around her private email server, she may have wished she'd taken her own advice.)

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

The UK faced a bitter political battle of its own this year ahead of a June referendum on whether it should leave the European Union. As tech companies worried about what this would mean for the future, Britain's most famous vacuum inventor gave his two cents (or a fantastic dessert recipe, we can't quite tell).

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

The world waited with baited breath for the launch of the iPhone 7, and in September their patience was rewarded -- with one key thing missing. But don't worry about losing your iPhone's headphone jack, you can now wear a pair of fancy wireless AirPods! Now that's brave...

Caption by / Photo by Apple, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Just as moisture is the essence of wetness, design is the essence of Apple, and the company proved this with the November release of a compendium of its undeniably slick designs.

As an added bonus, "Designed by Apple in California" is "printed on specially milled, custom-dyed paper with gilded matte silver edges, using eight color separations and low-ghost ink."

Natch.

Caption by / Photo by Apple, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

One of Apple's big competitors in the music space, Tidal, faced its own problems this year. Launched in March 2015 by Jay Z with a raft of celebrity support (including from Kanye West), the service struggled in 2016 and rumours of an Apple buyout were swirling. Always one to cut to the chase on Twitter, in July West called on Apple to just get the deal done.

Caption by / Photo by Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Talk about understatement of the year.

Pokemon Go was the global phenomenon that brought young and old into mobile gaming. It hit top spot in the App Store in July, it explained augmented reality to the average Joe and led even the most powerful people around the world down a Pikachu hole.

This wasn't just a game. This was one of the defining trends of 2016, and even the game's creators just didn't see it coming.

Caption by / Photo by Sally Neiman, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

And thus we arrive at our statement of the year. Four words sum up one of the biggest tech failures of 2016.

Samsung had trouble on its hands when batteries inside some Galaxy Note 7 devices started catching fire in October, but it had a real crisis when they kept doing so, forcing Samsung to issue two product recalls and a global mea culpa. No doubt Samsung is glad to see the end of 2016.

Caption by / Photo by Juan Garzon, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET
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