2012 was already a pretty good year for technology. What happened in 2013 will blow you away.

The Upworthiest tech of the year: 2013

Yahoo News

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If you spend any time on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve run across links to mega-popular, viral, uplifting stories from Upworthy. They’re usually stories about good things happening to downtrodden people—the marginalized, the poor, the mistreated. They’re stories intended to make you well up with emotion: happiness, righteous outrage, or a combination of both.

And they’re stories with irresistible, often melodramatic headlines—clickbait, as they’ve come to be called.

Well, there are uplifting stories in tech, too. Here, at year’s end, we thought we'd combine these two impulses and share what we're most thankful for in technology from 2013, using our trustworthy Upworthy Headline Generator.

Here they are, brought to you by the writers of Yahoo Tech: The tech to be thankful for in 2013.

You Might Look At This Camera And Think It's Too Small To Be Any Good. You Are So, So Wrong.

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Sony a7

If there’s one thing that makes a camera great, it’s not the number of megapixels; it’s the size of the sensor inside.

For decades, you could get a big sensor only inside a big camera (like an SLR). But lately, Sony has been stuffing enormous sensors into tiny cameras. There’s the RX100 Mark II, for example—the biggest senor ever built into a pants-pocketable camera.

And there’s the astonishing Alpha 7: the world’s smallest, lightest, full-frame interchangeable-lens camera. Full frame means that the sensor is the size of a piece of 35 millimeter film, the biggest sensor you can get in a standard camera. Professionals use full-frame cameras (like the Canon 5D Mark III). They pay $3,000 and way up for the camera body, then thousands more for lenses.

But here’s a full-frame SLR, small enough for a coat pocket, and $2,000 with lens. And the pictures are beyond spectacular.

—David Pogue

The Hotel Chains Don’t Want You to Know About This Astonishing App. Teach Them A Lesson And Download It.

 

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Hotel Tonight

Each day around noon, Hotel Tonight, a free phone app, serves up a list of last-minute hotel discounts in over 200 cities worldwide, from Albany to Zurich. When you see one you like, you can book it directly from your phone. Four-star boutique hotels at 2.5-star chain prices? Where do I check in?

Dan Tynan

Do You Hear That Knock At The Door? It's Bluetooth 4.0, And It Brought An Amazing Secret Recipe To Your Potluck Dinner. Taste It.

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Nike FuelBand SE with Bluetooth 4.0

Everyone knows that Bluetooth is handy—it’s a wireless connection between computer and cordless keyboard, or phone and headphones, or fitness wristband and phone. Everyone also knows that it drains your battery mercilessly.

Actually, not anymore. Bluetooth 4.0, also known as Bluetooth LE (for Low Energy) or Bluetooth Smart, uses juice only when your gadgets are actually communicating. As a result, it uses a lot less battery power. As a bonus, Bluetooth 4.0 phone apps also offer “pairing” (connecting) right in the app; you don’t have to trundle off to Settings do make the connection.

—DP

I Wish More People Acted Like These Tech Companies Standing Up To Government Surveillance. Bravo.

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NSA

In 2013, the revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance led major tech firms, including Yahoo, to make some important changes. They opened up about the law-enforcement and national-security inquiries they field, they sued for their right to document their resistance to the latter, and they finally demanded restrictions on the NSA’s conduct. (The continued silence of telecom firms about all of these issues looks shameful.)

Along the way, they’ve taken some overdue moves to harden their systems against snooping of all kinds.

—Rob Pegoraro

This Artist Vowed to Make an Animation Every Single Day for a Year. The Results Are Incredible.

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365 Rounds

According to my sketchy command of Spanish, Pixel Piñata began posting one animated GIF per day for the entire year. You can follow along on Tumblr; the blog is called 365 Rounds.

I pretty much want to like and reblog every single one. Combining an incredibly charismatic illustration style with unpredictable wit, the project has been a tour de force of digital animation. I'm going to be really sad when it ends.

Rob Walker

Go Ahead And Ignore The Tech CEO Wearing The Pink T-Shirt -- If You Want To Ignore The Man Shaking The Entire Cellphone Industry To Its Core

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‘Uncarrier’ by T-Mobile

No number in technology has misled shoppers more than the prices of smartphones (except maybe processor clock speeds and megapixels). When you buy a phone for $200, the cellphone carrier is actually subsidizing its full $600 price. You’ll be paying off the rest in hidden charges in your monthly cellphone bill.

Fine, except for one thing: you keep paying these charges even after the carrier has recouped its subsidy!

T-Mobile, and its outspoken CEO John Legere, ended that odious practice in March. T-Mobile's customers are free to pay off the phone up front or over time, at any rate they like. And they’re now free to save money by buying an unlocked phone elsewhere or keeping an old device around for longer.

The rest of the industry has taken note: In December, AT&T announced that it, too, would give subscribers a discount for bringing their own phone.

—RP

Why Does Ellen DeGeneres Want You to Put Your Phone on Your Forehead? You’ll Laugh When You Find Out.

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Heads Up app

Heads Up! is an Android and iOS app, created by TV host Ellen DeGeneres, that offers a streamlined, digital version of charades.

You place your phone on your forehead to display a word or phrase to your friends, who then attempt to explain or act it out. Your phone records the madness unfolding before you; when your timed session is up, you can post the video on various social channels or send it to Ellen. She features select Heads Up clips on her show. It’s the perfect icebreaker at any party, and every time you play it in public, you’ll make about two new friends.

—Alyssa Bereznak

This Company Wants to Save You From Junk Mail: That's Fine. It Also Wants To Save The Trees of the World: Wow.

 

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PaperKarma

I am so much happier now that I don’t receive a gazillion pieces of junk mail every day.

PaperKarma does the work for you. It’s a phone app. You use it to take a picture of the address sticker on any piece of junk mail—catalogs, junk flyers you never signed up for—and it unsubscribes you automatically. How amazing is that?

You’re welcome.

—Deb Amlen

The Public Rose Up, and the Cellphone Carriers Had to Cave. You Go, Public.

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Cell phone SIM card

Paying for a phone doesn’t mean you can act like you own it, at least not when the carriers lock it so that you can’t use it on rival cellphone networks (which might cost less). A government ruling in late 2012 took away your right to get your phone unlocked—but this year, people got mad and got the Feds’ attention.

The result: Under pressure from the Federal Communications Commission, the major wireless carriers agreed to unlock out-of-contract phones and notify customers when they were eligible for that option. New legislation moving forward in Congress may expand that right further.

—RP

This App Shows You A Bunch Of Cute Cat Photos. No Vas a Creer Por Qué.

 

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Cat Spanish iOS app

CatSpanish, an iOS app by CatAcademy, uses the Internet’s vast cat meme treasure chest to teach you conversational Spanish. It matches funny Spanish phrases with their appropriate feline photo counterparts, and then tests your listening and reading comprehension of those phrases.

For a program that could’ve very easily gotten by on its adorable looks, CatSpanish’s test questions are also surprisingly witty. In conclusion: cats, laughs, language skills—me gusta!

—AB

I'm Slightly Colorblind. No Big Deal, Right? Right. Except These Sunglasses Make Me Not Colorblind. Big. Deal.

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EnChroma Cx

It’s really not a big deal being severely red-green color-blind, as I am. You don’t know what you’re missing, because you’ve never seen it. You know that the bottom stoplight is green, you figure out how to match your clothes, and you choose a career other than painting. Besides, what choice do you have?

To my amazement, there are now sunglasses ($600 fron Enchroma) that bring back the missing colors. Reds and greens pop vibrantly. Autumn in Connecticut, stoplights and even rainbows blow my mind. (They’re for outdoor use only. They won’t help you with color-blind tests or computer screens.)

If you’re not color-blind, they just act like regular sunglasses. But if you’re among the 9 percent of the male population who can’t see all the reds and greens, it’s nice to know that a solution is out there if you have the bucks.

—DP

What Can You Do With Six Seconds Of Video? Nothing. Everything. Anything.

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Vine

Vine, as you may know, is an iOS, Android, and Windows app that lets you record six-second, looping clips. Then you post them on an online service like Twitter (coincidentally, Vine's overseer).

Aside from turning everything it touches into a French New Wave film, the app offers a peek into artist projects, hilarious skits by amateur comedians, and—most importantly—the fascinating lives of the elusive millennial subspecies.

It’s the best way to entertain yourself in short bursts while on the go.

—AB

If I Were A Computer Progammer, I Would Spend All My Time Creating The Most Boring Computer Games Possible. Here's Why.

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Robot Vacuum Simulator 2013

 

Leaving,” a game that involves wandering through an airport, and “Robot Vacuum Simulator 2013,” which basically invites players to be Roombas, did something I never thought computer or video games could do: Slow me down, and make me think. Here’s to the boring future of gaming!

RW

This Soundsystem Was Way Too Expensive For Us Normal Folks. You Won't Believe What Happened Next. (It Got Cheaper)

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The Sonos Play:1, for $200 from Sonos.

For years, the drool-worthy Sonos soundsystem was out of reach for more budget-conscious shoppers. The sound quality was great, but dropping hundreds, or thousands, of dollars on speakers was unthinkable for many.

Now, however, Sonos prices are falling. You can grab a starter bridge on Amazon for $20, and your first speaker can be yours for under $200. Together with Jawbone's Jambox Mini, crystal-clear wireless sound is arriving for the rest of us. Now that's (sorry) music to my ears.

- Jason O. Gilbert

I Hate Ads, and You Hate Ads. But This One’s Worth its Weight in Gold.

This Mercedes-Benz ad promotes its cars’ “Magic Body Control,” a stability feature. But it simultaneously offers the best demonstration you will ever see of a chickens’ ability to keep its head stable—and it’s a pure delight. Best commercial of the year, hands down.

RW

The Most Important Person In My Life Is Actually A Tiny Plastic Electronic Box. Yours Should Be, Too.

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The $99 Roku 3

Years ago, we traded in our overpriced cable package for a Roku box and never looked back. It connects to your TV and delivers every conceivable Internet video service: YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, and so on.

But this year, the Roku box ($100) got even better, thanks to a new search tool that lets me find movies by actor, director, or title across all 700 Roku channels—then choose the cheapest option. I used to hate dropping $4 on a movie at Amazon Video only to find out later it was free on Netflix or Hulu. That won’t happen again.

—Dan Tynan

You’d Never Consider Buying This “Loser” Phone. But You’re Crazy Not To.

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The Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone

You can keep your iPhone or your Google Nexus 5. I'll take the Nokia Lumia 1020, thanks.

Two reasons: One is the mind-blowing 41-megapixel camera that captures amazingly detailed images and razor sharp HD video. The other: The Windows Phone 8 tiled interface beats Android and iOS for simplicity and aesthetics. Yes, really.

—DT

Okay, I Admit It, This Smartphone App Single-Handedly Changed The Way I Feel About Strangers.

 

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Waze

How could you not love a GPS system that gives you power ups while you’re trying to find your way to that new restaurant? The app Waze -- bought by Google earlier this year -- gets its information from millions of other people who are using the app right now. So you get tips on how to avoid lights or traffic jams that Google maps and Garmin don’t give you.

https://www.waze.com

—DA

Here’s Somehing to Do with All Those Rotting Music CDs. You’ll Be Glad You Did.

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Murfie.com

 

What do you do with that big stack of CDs gathering dust in your closet? Send them to Murfie.com ($25 a year for 25 CDs; additional CDs are $1 each). They convert each disc to a digital format that plays on any device: Mac, PC, phone, tablet, even the Sonos.

And what about the discs that you now don’t need? You can trade your CDs with other members or sell them. I recently bought a copy of “Exile on Main Street” on Murfie for $3—three flipping dollars. It’s now my favorite used record store.

DT

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