'Delete your account' and other quotes that defined the 2010s

It wasn't just Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Hillary Clinton who said things worth remembering in the last decade. A frustrated judge also questioned whether an overeager Apple lawyer was smoking crack, for example.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
8 min read
Elon Musk at E3 2019

Yes, you can be sure Elon Musk said things worthy to be on this list.

James Martin/CNET

The decade that was the 2010s brought us a lot to talk about in technology, with the talking itself sometimes being a story.


Bold promises, snappy retorts and grudging mea culpas could become headlines on their own, especially when they spilled from the mouths of politicians and celebrity CEOs. Some were said in person and many came over Twitter, with its emphasis on making rapid-fire pithy musings.

But the quotes that make us think, laugh and scratch our heads weren't just from well-known people trying to be witty or profound. A celebrated scientist raised the alarm about rapidly advancing technologies like AI, a private citizen exposed a culture of sexual harassment at one of the industry's most supercharged companies and a small robot said hello from another planet.

Thanks to the help of CNET editors around the world, here are the 30 (unranked) quotes that defined the decade in technology. 

Angst at Apple

Steve Jobs at iPhone 4 antenna press event

Steve Jobs addresses the iPhone 4's antenna issues following the phone's release at a press event on July 16, 2010.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

An awkward iPhone moment

"Just avoid holding it that way."

Apple CEO Steve Jobs in an email to a customer after iPhone 4 users complained of degraded call quality when they touched the phone's antenna in a certain way. Three weeks later, Apple announced it would give all iPhone 4 customers free bumpers that would protect the antenna. (June 24, 2010)

Tough talk

"I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

Jobs as quoted in Walter Isaacson's 2011 book, Steve Jobs.

'Unless you're smoking crack'


Judge Lucy Koh has no time for you wasting time.

Vicki Behringer

I am not going to be running around trying to get 75 pages of briefings for people who are not going to be testifying. I mean, come on. 75 pages! 75 pages! You want me to do an order on 75 pages, (and) unless you're smoking crack, you know these witnesses aren't going to be called when you have less than four hours."

US District Judge Lucy Koh who presided over the seven-year-long patents court battle between Apple and Samsung, speaking to Apple lawyer Bill Lee. It's not a saga Koh cares to revive. (Aug. 16, 2012)

A Martian moment


Who's a good Mars rover?

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

"I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!! #MSL"

Mars Curiosity rover via Twitter after landing on the Red Planet. (Aug. 5, 2012)

'I'm just another guy'

WIRED25 Festival: WIRED Celebrates 25th Anniversary - Day 2

Edward Snowden speaks remotely at the Wired25 Festival in October 2018. 

Phillip Faraone / Getty Images

"I'm no different from anyone else. I don't have special skills. I'm just another guy who sits there day to day in the office, watches what's happening and goes, 'This is something that's not our place to decide. The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong."

Whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking in a video after he released a trove of secret documents showing the NSA can eavesdrop on phone calls. (June 9, 2013)

Outside the box


Levie at Box Dev 2014


"Jeff Bezos is opening a retail store and owns a newspaper. Turns out everything we thought about the internet is wrong."

Box CEO Aaron Levie via Twitter after Bezos bought The Washington Post and Amazon said it would open a physical store in New York. (Oct. 9, 2014)

Consciousness raising


Nadella speaking at Microsoft Build in June, 2014.

"It's not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. And that, I think, might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don't ask for raises have."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in an interview when speaking about women's pay. Nadella apologized for the comment the next day. (Oct. 9, 2014)

Speaking out


Cook at Apple's 2019 WWDC

James Martin/CNET

"While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven't publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

Apple CEO Tim Cook writing a coming-out column for Bloomberg. (Oct. 30, 2014)

A failed test

Squawk Box - Season 20

Elizabeth Holmes in a 2015 interview before Theranos dissolved.

Getty Images

"A chemistry is performed so that a chemical reaction occurs and generates a signal from the chemical interaction with the sample, which is translated into a result, which is then reviewed by certified laboratory personnel."

Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes speaking about the company's promised blood-testing technology in an interview with The New Yorker. After The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015 that the promises were lies, Theranos dissolved itself last year and Holmes now faces criminal fraud charges for deceiving investors. (Dec. 8, 2014)

Priming the red planet

Watch this: Elon Musk reveals grand plan to colonize Mars​

"The fast way is to drop thermonuclear weapons over the poles."

Tesla CEO Elon Musk talking with Stephen Colbert about ways to make Mars livable for humans. (Sept. 10, 2015)

New kid in town


Not all city governments warmly greeted Uber's arrival.

Angela Lang/CNET

"Apparently, they believe they're gods."

Portland, Oregon, Commissioner Steve Novick speaking to The Oregonian newspaper about Uber's  starting to operate in the city without official approval. (Dec. 5, 2015)

Bad robot


Microsoft's Tay quickly went off the deep end. 


Microsoft's AI bot Tay via Twitter. Microsoft had developed the chat bot for 18- to 24-year-olds, but quickly had to silence its Twitter feed after humans taught Tay to parrot a number of inflammatory, obscene and racist opinions. (March 24, 2016)

The power of Pokemon


Pokemon Go: Catching them all a few problems.

Mark Licea/CNET

"We thought the game would be popular, but it obviously struck a nerve."

Niantic CEO John Hanke in an interview with Business Insider about the staggering popularity of the mobile game Pokemon Go, which overwhelmed the company's servers. (July 8, 2016)

Tough talk on Twitter

Hillary Clinton

Clinton during the final day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

"Delete your account."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton via Twitter in response to her opponent Donald Trump. (June 6, 2016)

Those missing emails


Trump during a campaign rally in 2016.

The Washington Post/Getty Images

"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, during a news conference, appearing to call for Russian help to hack opponent Hillary Clinton's email. (July 27, 2016)

Hit the road, jack

Watch this: iPhone 7: So long, headphone jack; hello, AirPods

"The reason to move on: courage. The courage to move on and do something new that betters all of us."

Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, describing why Apple dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack in the iPhone 7.  (Sept. 7, 2016)

A hot topic


The Galaxy Note 7 turned out to be a gigantic headache for Samsung.

"We recognize that we have not lived up to your expectations, or our own high standards. For this we are truly sorry."

YH Eom, president and CEO of Samsung Europe, writing on the company's corporate blog after several of its Galaxy Note 7 handsets caught fire. (Nov. 8, 2016)

'A pretty crazy idea'


Facebook has a fake news problem, much to Mark Zuckerberg's dismay.

James Martin/CNET

"Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook -- it's a very small amount of the content -- to think it influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea." 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking at a technology conference two days after the 2016 US presidential election. He said he regretted the comment a week later. (Nov. 10, 2016)

Not a good look

Watch this: Uber CEO fights with driver over low fares

"I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up."

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick after he was captured on a dash cam video berating a driver. (March 1, 2017)

The gender balance

Susan Fowler at Women Transforming Technology conference

Fowler at the Women Transforming Technology conference in 2019.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

"When I asked our director at an org all-hands about what was being done about the dwindling numbers of women in the org compared to the rest of the company, his reply was, in a nutshell, that the women of Uber just needed to step up and be better engineers."

Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler writing in a blog about the institutionalized sexual harassment she says she experienced at the company. (Feb. 19, 2017)

'Nobody can recover your files'

Watch this: Ransomware WannaCry affects more than 70,000 computers

"Maybe you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but do not waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service."

Ransomware attack WannaCry announcing itself to victims. The attack, which encrypted data on a victim's computer, crippled hospitals, phone companies and even traffic cameras. It spread across more than 100,000 organizations in 150 countries within days. (May 2017)

The net neutrality fight


Jessica Rosenworcel was one of two FCC commissioners to vote against the net neutrality repeal. 


"This effort is going to give our broadband providers the power to decide which voices should be amplified, what sites we visit, what connections we make and what communities we can create online. That seems to me a radical change and it's one that I am willing to raise my voice to fight."

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel speaking in an interview with CNET about why she voted against the repeal of net neutrality. (Nov. 16, 2017)

Danger, danger


Stephen Hawking at the launch of The Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge on Oct. 19, 2016.

Niklas Halle'n/AFP/Getty Images

"The genie is out of the bottle. We need to move forward on artificial intelligence development but we also need to be mindful of its very real dangers. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether."

Physicist Stephen Hawking in an interview with Wired. Hawking would die three months later at age 76. (December 2017)

How Facebook functions


One hundred Zuckerberg cardboard cutouts stand outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC on April 10, 2018.

Getty Images

'We thought the data had been deleted'

"We thought the data had been deleted and we should have checked. They gave us assurances and it wasn't until other people told us it wasn't true … We had legal assurances from them that they deleted it."

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in an interview with the Today show about the company's privacy lapses in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. (April 6, 2018)

Follow the money

"Senator, we run ads."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a response to a question about how Facebook makes money during a Congressional hearing about the same matter. (April 10, 2018)

Stay in your lane

Tesla Alaska Testing Facility

Elon Musk signaled a swerve in Tesla's business. The SEC had something to say about that.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

"Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured."

Tesla CEO Elon Musk via Twitter, which cost him a $20 million fine and his resignation as Tesla chairman after a lawsuit from the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Aug. 7, 2018)

'Be kind to each other'

Melania Trump

Melania Trump urged a kinder, gentler social media.

Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

"I encourage everyone to be kind to each other and treat each other with respect in everyday life and on social media. Can you do that?"

First Lady Melania Trump speaking about her "Be Best" campaign. (Oct. 23, 2018)

Tending to Twitter


Jack Dorsey (right) and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg are sworn in to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, DC, on Sept. 5, 2018. 

Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images

"We believe it's important that the world sees how global leaders think and how they act. And we think the conversation that ensues around that is critical."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, in an interview with Huffpost, responding to a question about whether Trump misuses the platform. Dorsey would meet with Trump at the White House three months later. (Jan. 17, 2019)

Being Bezos

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Bezos at a press event in 2014

James Martin/CNET

"Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos writing in a Medium post alleging the National Enquirer had tried to blackmail him by threatening to publish nude photos. (Feb. 7, 2019)

Chaos and consequences

Tim Cook

Sometimes in tech, there are no easy answers.

James Martin

"If you've built a chaos factory, you can't dodge responsibility for the chaos."

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking at Stanford University, urged the technology industry to own the disruption and consequences of the products it makes. (June 17, 2019)