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Page last updated at 22:21 GMT, Friday, 28 December 2012

The tech highs (and lows) of 2012

By Alex Hudson
BBC News

An Android
From alien invasions to apps making national headlines, 2012's been quite a year

The last 12 months has been the year Facebook reached one billion users, it was the centenary of tech pioneer Alan Turing's birth and so many more key events - along with a few strange ones - took place. But what have been some of the most interesting stories of the year, both the highs and the lows?


Will self-driving cars become a reality?


Before 2012, few had before played the panpipes while in the driving seat of a moving car. If people had, chances are that their driving licences would have been quickly revoked, if nothing worse.

Now, automated cars are being tested on roads. With companies from Google to Volvo putting large quantities of money into the technology, if it is to become legal, the thought of a commute without a packed train or having to concentrate on driving is an exciting one.

And with an estimated 90% of current car accidents thought to be caused by human error, taking people out of the equation is seen by many car companies as a massive boost to safety.

Will 4G be faster than home broadband?


Less of a quick move towards wide adoption was high-paced mobile internet in the UK. 4G was going to be a thing that made it quicker to access the web from a mobile signal than it would be by wired broadband.

But at the end of the year, only urban areas currently have access to the signal and even then, an early large-scale test of the network indicated that less than half of Manchester city centre could use its high speeds. According to the study, outside the city centre there was no 4G coverage at all.

Everything Everywhere, the UK's only 4G operator, has promised 98% coverage by the end of 2014 but for the moment, quick mobile internet for everyone seems to still be a little way away.



Voting in British general elections may not be available online but the rise of "clicktivism" - the use of the internet to raise awareness of a cause or view - really hit the mainstream in 2012.

The phrase, coined in 2010, was meant originally as a criticism of degrading activism down to a few clicks. What it means now is a first response to things seen that a person does not like or passionately believes in.

For example, legal cases that first may never have received such high attention quickly pick up awareness when social media, e-petitions and the wider web get involved.

The "Twitter joke trial" started in 2010 with a single tweet about blowing an airport "sky high" leading to a fine of £385.

It ended up with people such as Stephen Fry standing up in favour of Paul Chambers, the man found guilty, and a second appeal being heard by the Chief Lord Justice who quashed the conviction.

Current e-petitions vary in their topic but not in the passion expressed by those leading them. As an example, tens of thousands of people have called for CNN host Piers Morgan to be deported from the US after he remarked about gun control.

Regardless of how the content was criticised, 1.39 million likes and nearly 100 million views of the KONY 2012 video on YouTube certainly raised the profile of the situation.

Clicktivism even made the Oxford English Dictionary towards the end of 2011.

File photograph of a passerby photographing Apple store logo with his Samsung Galaxy phone
Many manufactures' flagship devices has a resolution above 300dpi


Frankly, we still do not understand what a lot of tech buzzwords mean in the real world. SoLoMo anyone?

But one phrase that has seen a lot of attention this year has been "pixel density". This means the resolution per inch of screens.

The big companies have been fighting it out about which device has the highest. A number of major manufacturers released devices in 2012 that have resolutions above 300 pixels per inch.

There is even a prototype from Japan displaying 651ppi.

With 20/20 vision, 286 pixels or above become unable to differentiate from 30cm (12in) away or further, vision scientists believe.

A buzzword as may be, it looks like as the count gets bigger, few will be able to see the difference, quite literally.

And SoLoMo stands for social, local, mobile. It was a word widely used at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas over the last couple of years.

The logo of social networking website "Facebook"
Facebook has gone from one million users to one billion in under 10 years


At the end of 2004, Facebook, by its own estimates, had one million active users. This year, the number passed one billion. With its increases, it would now be the third biggest country in the world behind China and India.

With nearly 15% of the world's population on the service, more tweets appearing on Twitter and more photos than ever being shared on social media, if there ever was a criticism that these sorts of services were a flash in the pan, the statistics are showing a very different picture indeed.

 In this May 18, 2012 file photo provided by Facebook, Facebook founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, center, rings the Nasdaq opening bell
Facebook's share price is increasing but is still lower than its starting value


When Facebook first floated on the stock exchange in May, it opened at $38 a share. On Christmas Day it stood at around $27, more than 25% lower than it began. In a few months where it added around 100 million users, its value fell. At one point, shares fell to under $18, below half the value of where they began.

Though still not a number to be taken lightly - and it has risen from its lowest point in August - its floatation, share price fluctuations and the possibilities of a recovery have certainly been the talk of technology press the world over.


Webscape: The best apps of 2012


The number of photo-sharing apps launched this year has been vast. The one thing that has really changed is the number of sites that offer users to sell their work.

Flickr, after arrangements made over four years ago, made its first official move to allow users to sell their images through stock photo site Getty Images. Beyond that, a number of apps have set up a bespoke service.

Apps like Foap and Scoopshot take the sales element directly to the user, splitting the proceeds.

Scoopshot even calls on users in locations where news is breaking indicating that there could be a photo, just like after the Hudson River plane crash, which travels the world.

If these companies are right, there really is money to be made on the web, by users as well as chief executives.

Instagram logo
Instagram faced intense criticism after proposing changes to terms of service


One company that cannot sell its photos at the moment is Instagram. The big controversy was the recent proposal suggesting uploaded pictures, in principle, could be sold to advertisers.

It made the front pages of newspapers and within days a change in its terms and conditions had been reversed.

Despite figures indicating only minor changes in usage during the controversy, for a co-founder to apologise and promise to make it right so quickly shows what a low for the company it was.


Will Microsoft or Sony be first to draw?


If Click wants to have a discussion about the fight for console dominance between Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, why wouldn't it arrange a midday shootout in the Wild West?

The only question was who would draw their controller first. With an Xbox and PlayStation controller to pick from, the winner was quite a surprise.

Click the Movie - filmed on a smartphone


Of course there were no lows in the actual programme but the one thing we are still waiting for is the phone call from Hollywood offering us a multi-million pound film deal.

To see how far cameras and apps on phones had come, a short film was created using only them.

The result was something, we can only assume, Spielberg would be proud of. Everything from an alien invasion to explosions made an appearance.

The fact that we are still waiting for the phone call is a sad end to the year.

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