Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

'Delete your account': Amazing quotes that sum up 2016

Whether you thought 2016 was a success or a dumpster fire, tech played a major role in shaping our world. We look back at the year, as told by the people at the heart of the action.

1 of 20 Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Gotta nuke something!

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!

2 of 20 R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Gravitational waves

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.

3 of 20 NASA, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

By Jove!

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.

4 of 20 Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

AlphaGo takes over the world

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.

5 of 20 Microsoft, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Microsoft's chatbot goes nuclear

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.

6 of 20 Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

The rise of the machines

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.

7 of 20 James Martin/CNET, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

FBI vs Apple

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.

8 of 20 James Martin/CNET, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Apple vs FBI

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.

9 of 20 Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Yahoo ya-hacked

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.

10 of 20 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.

11 of 20 Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

WikiLeaks 2.0

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.

12 of 20 ASUS, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

PC master race

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.

13 of 20 Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

"The Cyber"

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."

14 of 20 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.)

15 of 20 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).

16 of 20 Apple, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Goodbye headphone jack, hello brave new iPhone

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...

17 of 20 Apple, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Apple's $300 coffee table book

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."


18 of 20 Getty, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Kanye West talks big business

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.

19 of 20 Sally Neiman, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

Po-Go Schtick

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.

20 of 20 Juan Garzon, edited by Claire Reilly/CNET

A Noteable year

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.

More Galleries

3-Row VW ID Buzz Electric Microbus Is Headed to the States in 2024
Volkswagen ID Buzz three-row EV

3-Row VW ID Buzz Electric Microbus Is Headed to the States in 2024

47 Photos
Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

16 Photos
CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

9 Photos
2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

14 Photos
Best sound bars under $300

Best sound bars under $300

18 Photos
2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke reports for diesel duty
2018 Ford F-150 diesel

2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke reports for diesel duty

22 Photos
Cosplay at Comic-Con 2016: From Stormtroopers to Sansa Stark

Cosplay at Comic-Con 2016: From Stormtroopers to Sansa Stark

34 Photos