Technologizer

This Dumb Year: The 57 Lamest Moments in Tech 2012

From Apple's Maps flub to Microsoft's removal of the Windows Start button, it's been a very strange year.

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Performance artist Mike Daisey, who admitted that he fudged and fabricated anecdotes in his monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

19. He got lame.

Amid the controversy over George Zimmerman’s shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, moviemaker and Twitter user Spike Lee retweets a Twitter message that supposedly reveals Zimmerman’s home address. Except it’s really the home of David and Elaine McClain, a couple in their seventies, who begin to receive threats and hate mail. They flee to a hotel; Lee apologizes.

April

Han Solo dancing

Microsoft

20. Every Jedi dance now.

Star Wars fans are traumatized by a dance-off minigame in Microsoft’s Kinect Star Wars that shows characters like Han Solo and Lando Calrissian boogying to contemporary music. One devastated blogger says the game “violates our childhood.”

21. Choose your own adventure.

BioWare is forced to promise that it will release free downloadable content for its game Mass Effect 3 — including a revised conclusion — after gamers carp that the original denouement lacks sufficient emotional punch.

May

Springfield Gazette

Nate St. Pierre

22. It is true, however, that Rutherford B. Hayes devised a pocket-size phonograph that was eerily Zune-like.

Numerous credible websites report on the amazing discovery that a youthful Abraham Lincoln attempted to patent his idea for local newspapers to give each citizen a personal page to “discuss his Family, his Work, and his Various Endeavors” — in effect, a 19th century dead-tree version of Facebook. It’s a great story. It also happens to be a hoax.

23. What the Dell?!

At a summit held by Dell in Copenhagen, the M.C., notoriously offensive Danish comedian Mads Christensen, rants about women, saying, “There are almost no girls in this room, and I am happy. Why are you here at all?” Dell uses its Google+ page to apologize and says it’ll select entertainment more carefully in the future.

Scott Thompson

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24. Apparently he minored in ill-advised self-aggrandizement.

Barely four months after becoming Yahoo’s CEO, former PayPal president Scott Thompson resigns after activist shareholder Daniel Loeb reveals that Thompson’s official biography includes the false claim that he has a degree in computer science from Stonehill College — an institution that didn’t even offer such a major during Thompson’s school days.

25. All too public.

In one of the most anticipated IPOs ever, Facebook goes public. Nasdaq technical glitches spook investors, which leads to the stock’s tumbling rather than rising, resulting in a flurry of lawsuits.

June

26. Wait till next year.

Still beleaguered BlackBerry maker RIM delays its new BlackBerry 10 devices for the second time. Once expected in early 2012, they now aren’t scheduled to hit the market until early 2013.

July

Nexus Q Glowing

Jared Newman / TIME.com

27. On the plus side, it doubles as a damn fine bocce ball.

Shortly after announcing its first consumer hardware product, Google abruptly suspends sales of the Nexus Q, a mysterious $300 orb that can only stream audio from Android phones running version 4.1 Jelly Bean. (The New York Times‘ David Pogue calls it “baffling.”) Those who have already preordered the Q get a developer version for free.

28. Oh, the hilarity.

Microsoft apologizes when someone digs into its Hyper-V virtualization server and discovers that some prankster at the company has designed the software to use the hexadecimal code snippet 0xB16B00B5 — “big boobs” — whenever a user loads Linux onto a virtual machine.

Shell ad Greenpeace hoax

Greenpeace

29. Shell game.

Media outlets report on Shell’s misguided attempt to crowdsource an ad campaign for its “Arctic ready” drilling efforts, which prompts an avalanche of creatively cynical, satirical contributions. But it turns out that the whole thing, including a launch event at Seattle’s Space Needle, is a hoax staged by Greenpeace.

30. Freedom of, um, tweetch.

During the Olympics, British journalist Guy Adams of the Independent, who’s unhappy with tape-delayed event broadcasts, tweets the work e-mail address of an NBC vice president so his followers can register their disapproval. In response, someone at NBC complains to someone at Twitter, an official NBC partner for the Olympics, and Adams’ account is suspended. After thousands of tweets in support of Adams, Twitter apologizes and reinstates him.

August

31. Sorry, Safari.

The FTC fines Google $22.5 million, settling a case that accused the search giant of overriding the privacy settings of Safari users to serve targeted advertising. In levying the penalty, the agency chastises Google for violating a 2011 settlement over its ill-fated Buzz service.

Apple Store

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32. If it ain’t broken, break it.

Newly minted Apple Store leader John Browett reportedly aims to boost the chain’s profit margin by ordering a hiring freeze and cutting back the hours of store employees. The move becomes a news story, denting the stores’ reputation for exceptional customer service. Before long, Apple undoes Browett’s plan and says it was “a mistake.”

33. Funny, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer seemed O.K. with it.

German retailing giant Metro A.G. is reportedly unhappy with Metro, the radically new user interface seen in varying forms in Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Microsoft responds by discontinuing use of the Metro name. But rather than replacing it, the company wavers, calling the interface by several different names — none of them very catchy — including “the Modern UI,” “the Windows 8–style interface” and “the new user interface.”

September

Jeff Bezos Kindle HD launch

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34. The art of overpromising.

At a splash launch event in Santa Monica, Calif., Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos calls the company’s new Kindle Fire HD the best tablet available at any price. The first reviews aren’t exactly raves, in part because the software is buggy but also because reviewers instinctively zero in on Bezos’ overreaching claim and use their stories to explain at length why the Fire, despite its multiple virtues, isn’t in fact the best tablet available at any price.

35. Moto no go.

In a forum posting, Motorola, which had promised to release upgrades for all its Android phones for at least the first 18 months after their release, informs customers that some models won’t be getting Ice Cream Sandwich after all.

Nokia demo

Nokia

36. Optic fable-ization.

Nokia bases much of the publicity campaign for the Lumia 920 smart phone, its new flagship product, on the Windows Phone handset’s impressive PureView photo and video capabilities. But as online news site the Verge reports, it turns out that Nokia faked its demos of the 920′s optical-image-stabilization technology: neither the still pictures nor the video were shot with a Nokia phone. (A reflection in a trailer window reveals what seems to be a professional camera crew.) Nokia fesses up and apologizes.

Alec Saunders

RIM

37. RIM Slowwagon.

At RIM’s BlackBerry Jam developer conference, the keynote on the much postponed BlackBerry 10 operating system includes a curious rock video, based on an REO Speedwagon song, in which a bestubbled Alec Saunders, the company’s vice president of developer relations, acknowledges the delays and promises to “keep on loving” developers.

38. Pat that man down!

For an investigative report, ABC News “accidentally” leaves 10 iPads at security checkpoints in U.S. airports. Nine are returned; the 10th is not. The network’s reporters use the Find My iPad feature to track the tablet to the home of startled TSA employee Andy Ramirez. He claims that his wife brought it home, but the TSA doesn’t buy the alibi, and he loses his job.

Scott Forstall introduces Apple Maps

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39. You could always just stop and ask someone for directions.

The new Maps app in Apple’s iOS 6, introduced by mobile-software chief Scott Forstall at a WWDC keynote in San Francisco, has spoken turn-by-turn directions and looks beautiful. But users around the world quickly discover that its mapping data, compiled by Apple itself to replace the Google Maps info in previous versions, is, ahem, rough around the edges. It shows businesses that closed in the last century as still being extant, misplaces landmarks (including at least one Apple Store) and is ignorant of the very existence of Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, in England.

October

40. Who’s sorry now?

After Apple iOS honcho Scott Forstall suddenly leaves the company — apparently not by choice — the Wall Street Journal reports that his termination came after he refused to sign a public apology for the Maps fiasco. (His boss, CEO Tim Cook, ends up being the one who shoulders the blame.)

Machine Gun Kelly at the Microsoft Store

Instagram

41. It’s the Microsoft Store. Any publicity is good publicity.

At a concert held by the Source at an Atlanta Microsoft Store, rapper Machine Gun Kelly leaps onto a table, spouts obscenities, flips off concerned employees, reportedly tramples five computers and refuses to come down. Cops are called to help escort Kelly out; he proudly tweets about the event. Microsoft stresses that it wasn’t the event’s sponsor and says Kelly’s behavior was inappropriate.

42. Stick to building refrigerators, KitchenAid.

Appliance maker KitchenAid inexplicably tweets a bad-taste joke about Barack Obama, followed by an apology. The company says an alleged social-media maven on its Twitter team accidentally tweeted a joke meant for a personal account.

Paul Ceglia

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43. And he seemed like such an honest young man.

A U.S. district attorney announces that Paul Ceglia has been arrested and charged with mail and wire fraud. In a 2010 lawsuit, Ceglia had claimed that a 2003 agreement between him and Mark Zuckerberg entitled him to a 50% ownership stake in Facebook. The feds say Ceglia tampered with the contract and forged e-mails between himself and Zuckerberg.

44. Superstorm, meet superjerk.

During the devastating Sandy storm, Twitter user @ComfortablySmug tweets breaking news about the destruction, claiming that the New York Stock Exchange is flooded and Governor Andrew Cuomo is trapped. His much retweeted alerts are alarming — and utterly false. The perpetrator turns out to be Shashank Tripathi, a hedge-fund analyst and campaign manager for a Republican congressional candidate. He apologizes and resigns his campaign post.

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11 comments
VideoMrChris
VideoMrChris

My dumbest idea was to by a mini tablet. The screen is difficult to see and I lose all my work when I place it in my pocket. I can't recommend the Pocket Etch a Sketch.

ChuckMangione3
ChuckMangione3

 LOL, tablets, despite the stupid name, are such a lame a fad. A 400$ web browser, how.. cool? Even the "best" games Apple has to offer suck. Anyone who thinks Angry Birds is fun is a moron. Angry Birds is proof the masses will buy anything an advertising bot rates a 5 star. Then after 5 minutes of playing (any iPhone game) you realize doing the same thing over and over and over and over isn't fun, despite the new "setting" of the game. Technology is so cool, wall paper TVs, anyone? Hologram movie projection? Bet you've never heard of that because you're all too busy focusing on the latest social network, and waiting in line for the next screen size of the device you already have.

DanMan'99
DanMan'99

@ChuckMangione3  Tablets aren't as bad as you make them sound. They're gradually replacing laptops and getting more and more powerful each year. Though, I do agree, a tablet/smartphone game (Nova) are repetitive and can't compete against a hard-core console game series that it clearly rips of (Halo).

ChuckMangione3
ChuckMangione3

@DanMan'99 Yes, tablets and macs are great for people who know nothing about good technology. It's a fad. If you haven't noticed, hipsters are in, despite their best efforts to be out.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

The biggest whopper of the year, IMHO, is Apple using recycled iPad2 parts, scaling it down and passing it off as an "innovative" alternative to 7 inch tablets and calling it the iPad Mini for those lighter data flow days...

DanMan'99
DanMan'99

@DeweySayenoff  Agreed. It (the Ipad Mini) also dishonors Jobs' legacy, since he said Apple would never release a 7-inch tablet when the Ipad Mini is classified as a 7-inch tablet.

DwDunphy
DwDunphy

Sorry Kim Dotcom. Even Time doesn't love you anymore.

harrymccracken
harrymccracken moderator

@DwDunphy I thought about putting him on the list, but he (and some other good candidates) didn't make the final cut.