2014 by numbers: Reeling in the milestones

31 Dec 2014

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Photo by Ruth Black/Shutterstock

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Our year in numbers series will continue to sum up the past year’s highs and lows in 2015 but, before we leave 2014, there’s time to tally up the year’s birthdays and anniversaries.

The young ones

Celebrating a full 365 days in existence this year was CoderDojoGirls, a spin-off of the CoderDojo movement intended to get more girls learning to code. Ahead of the initiative’s first birthday in April, mentors Sarah Doran and Niambh Scullion told Claire O’Connell what they learned in those first 12 months.

“My No 1 piece of advice is to encourage girls to be confident,” said Doran.

“By writing a single word of code they have already kicked the odds! Too many kids will grow up never understanding how websites or apps are created.”

By June, it was almost two years since US space agency NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on the Red Planet, but 687 days on marked its first Martian year and mission accomplished.

The following month, both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) had a milestone to celebrate as the international Cassini mission turned 10.

Since entering Saturn’s orbit on 1 July, 2004, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft has been exploring the planet, its rings and its moons, returning scientific data and some pretty spectacular images back to Earth.

In a 2005 image re-released to mark the 10th anniversary, Saturn’s icy moon Mimas occupies the foreground while the planet’s rings cast shadows in dark streaks across the blue surface in the background.

Saturn's moon Mimas, photo by Cassini

Image via NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Back on Earth, tech services that have quickly become part of our everyday online lives were celebrating birthdays galore.

Facebook notched up its first decade of existence with personalised ‘Look Back’ videos for its massive base of more than 1.2bn monthly active users, highlighting how their lives have been documented on the social network – and perhaps reminding some users of the posts they would rather forget.

Photo-sharing platform Flickr also celebrated its 10th anniversary in February with an infographic charting its key moments from the past decade.

Microblogging site Twitter turned eight years old in March and offered users the ‘gift’ of a First Tweets tool, giving them the chance to reminisce on the tweets that started it all.

In what appeared to be a promotional push to regain lost users, Mozilla’s Firefox web browser celebrated its independence with the release of Firefox 33.1 on 10 November, a decade after Firefox 1.0’s release.

Drawing the year to a close, the massively popular internet role-playing game World of Warcraft turned 10 years old on 23 November and, to celebrate, an hour-long documentary charting the rise and rise of the series was released online.

The roaring twenties

Having first been launched all the way back in 1994, the Sony PlayStation went from being an ambitious newcomer to one of the most dominant gaming devices on the planet, and this year celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Hitting the seasoned 25-year mark this year was the world wide web itself. Its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, took the quarter-century anniversary as an opportunity to call for a bill of rights to enshrine the rights of users of his creation worldwide.

“Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture,” he told The Guardian in an interview.

“It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”

The same year that the world wide web was created, Intel set up its first Irish base in a former used-car showroom on the Long Mile Road in Leixlip, Co Kildare. The international chip-maker has invested US$12.5bn in Ireland since 1989 – averaging about US$900m per year.

Age of maturity

Waving good-bye to its twenties this year was Apple’s Macintosh computer, which will conclude its 30th year in January.

In its birthday message, the company said: “In 1984, Apple introduced the world to Macintosh. It was designed to be so easy to use that people could actually use it. And it came with a promise – that the power of technology taken from a few and put in the hands of everyone, could change the world. That promise has been kept.”

Apple Macintosh 128k

The Apple Macintosh 128k, the original Mac computer

Turning the ripe old age of 40 was Ireland’s LGBT switchboard, which originally had to be called Tel-A-Friend when it launched in 1974 because the powers-that-were prohibited the word ‘gay’ being used in the Irish telephone book.

Nowadays, the seven-days-a-week LGBT+ service offers confidential support, signposting and information over the phone and via email.

Also turning 40 this year was the Rubik’s Cube, which received an interactive tribute on the Google homepage, challenging enthusiasts and novices in a whole new way.

But the grandest anniversary marked this year was the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, prompting the realisation that there hasn’t been a manned mission beyond Earth’s orbit in almost half a century. Meanwhile, NASA’s Orion mission to get astronauts to Mars took the first steps towards rectifying that.

Moon landing meme

Birthday cupcake image by Ruth Black via Shutterstock

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Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com