Review: 2019

RIP, Tardar Sauce

Ah, 2019! The year that was until yesterday. So, how was it then?

Well, 2019 was a year full of anniversaries, astronomical achievements, cataclysmic failures and other maladies on a global scale disrupted by brief glimmers of hope for humanity. Let’s recap, shall we?

January 1st, 2019, for instance, was cause for huge celebration as troves of music, art, writing and film from 1923 finally entered the public domain.

Also on the first day of the new Terran year, NASA’s New Horizons (the same craft that gave us those wonderful images of Pluto four years ago) flew by the furthest object Earthlings had yet seen: Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, better known as “Ultima Thule”. The following day, China landed its Chang’e 4 craft on the dark side of the Moon (the first time humankind had ventured there).

German authorities freaked out after they discovered that a 20-year-old had been publishing private details of politicians and local celebrities on Twitter.

A collection of 773 million email addresses and passwords was discovered on MEGA.

My father came to live with us. Woe betide!

Approximately 350,000 US federal employees were furloughed in the longest ever shutdown following fiscal disagreements over Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall. Additional stay-aways came as a result of an extreme cold snap caused by a polar vortex.

And that was just January.

In February, the second Opportunity Mars Rover was declared dead, surpassing its planned mission by over 14 years. Israel failed in its effort to land a probe on the Moon.

In April, we were treated to the first view of a black hole.

A fire partially destroyed the Notre Dame Cathedral just before Easter. Venice was flooded (as absurd as that sounds). Fires ravaged much of California. Again.

California is ablaze (image by Noah Berger, AP)

The summer’s heat wave set all-time high temperature records in Belgium, Germany (42.6°C), Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the UK. Temperature records were broken in Australia, too as the country continues to suffer from an immense wave of bush fires.

Australia is ablaze (image via News Corp)

Indeed, the year was scarred by an unprecedented amount of wildfires that also raged in various regions in Greenland, Alaska, Gran Canaria, Siberia (some thirty million acres destroyed), and Brazil. Earth’s lung is burning.

Greta Thunberg sailed to America to raise environmental awareness and champion the largest global climate protests ever. Then she went cycling with Arnold Schwarzenegger. For her efforts, she was named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” (the youngest ever).

In March, a shooter killed 50 people at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. The act was streamed live — as was that of another right-winger who killed two near a synagogue in Halle, Germany later in the year.

In Sri Lanka some 259 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks by ISIS against destinations popular with foreigner visitors.

Controversial message board 8chan was knocked offline once it was discovered that the mass shooter at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas had posted his manifesto there in advance. Similar notes and open letters had also been posted prior to shootings in Dayton, Ohio a day later as well as others in San Diego and the aforementioned incident in Christchurch.

In Mühlheim, Germany, five Bulgarian boys aged between 12 and 14 gang-raped a woman and filmed the act. The following week they were sent back to school. Yeah, modern society’s values are sound!

Internet legend Grumpy Cat died. Apple killed off its iconic iTunes service.

Other notable deaths in 2019 include actors Peter Fonda, Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew, Rutger Hauer, Jan-Michael Vincent, Bruno Ganz as well as Doris Day.

The world of music lost Dr. John, drummer Ginger Baker, Ric Ocasek (the Cars), Mark Hollis (Talk Talk), Keith Flint (the Prodigy), Marie Fredriksson (Roxette), Johnny Clegg (Juluka), Piet Botha (Jack Hammer), and Karel Gott, “the golden voice of Prague”.

Fashion guru Karl Lagerfeld, racing legend Niki Lauda, and Jacques Chirac, the former president of France also passed on — as did Syd Mead, the visual artist and futurist who helped shape the look of influential sci-fi films such as Blade Runner, Tron, Aliens and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

And good riddance to Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe.

IBM wrapped up its $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat. Automattic (the company behind WordPress) buys Tumblr from Verizon (who had previously bought Yahoo).

Donald Trump decreed that phone manufacturer Huawei may not use the Android OS anymore. Google, Microsoft, Intel, ARM and other US companies that supply software and hardware components to Huawei cut ties with the Chinese brand.

Airbus announced it would cease production of the A380 airliner in 2021 while Boeing was forced to ground its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft following two fatal crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 shortly after take-off.

Thomas Cook went into liquidation. Warner Bros. Records became Warner Records.

Donald Trump observed that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “looked really well and very healthy” and that the Moon is a part of Mars. Then he wanted to buy Greenland.

Boris Johnson was re-elected as the UK’s prime minister and continues to drive the Brexit campaign. Julian Assange was hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

2019 was rife with general dissatisfaction by the masses as both greens and right-wing populists gain ground while Ursula von der Leyen’s ascent to the position of commissioner of the EU buried democracy, especially since nobody voted for her in the European parliamentary elections that took place. There were massive calls for independence in Barcelona, riots in places like Chile and Venezuela, and violent protests in Hong Kong.

The People’s Republic of China turned 70 years old. There was a big celebration but all mention of the Tiananmen Square massacre that occurred 30 years ago was censored. The state also blocked off its citizens’ access to Wikipedia while tourists to the province of Xinjiang got a data-sucking malware app installed on their phone.

It was 50 years ago that the Woodstock festival took place, that Neil Armstrong took a small step, that David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was released, that Monty Python’s Flying Circus was first aired, and that I was born.

Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf (image via Twitter)

Other anniversaries for 2019 include the internet turning 50, the WWW turning 30, and the Matrix movie turning 20. Facebook and Flickr turned 15, as did Gmail — which set the path for Google products beyond a mere search engine. Google+ was discontinued.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down as CEOs of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

In September, 3000 people descended upon the dusty town of Rachel, Nevada but decided not to “Storm Area 51” after all. Expected attendance numbers were much higher.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2019 was awarded “for the development of lithium-ion batteries” which were instrumental in creating our current mobile and connected world.

Elon Musk’s presentation of the new Tesla Cybertruck did not go quite as planned.

Jeff Bezos published pictures of his pecker, and then he got divorced. His ex-wife received a $35 billion settlement, making her the third richest woman in the world.

Amazon got into the business of police surveillance and then confirmed that its Alexa smart speakers retain transcripts of your voice commands indefinitely.

Myspace admitted that it accidentally lost all music uploaded between 2003 and 2015, and Facebook confirmed that millions of passwords were visible to employees in unencrypted form. Adult website Luscious exposed the personal data of its 1.195 million users by revealing personal email addresses, some of which included users’ full names.

US lawmakers descended upon Defcon to get hackers help beef up voting machines’ security. The FTC hit Facebook with a 5 billion dollar fine over last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In December, another database containing more than 267 million Facebook user IDs, phone numbers and names was discovered. The personal information of over 2.4 million customers of security camera maker Wyze was found exposed during the same month.

The IAAF World Athletics Championships took place in the very hot climate of Qatar. Nobody cared. South Africa won the Rugby World Cup.

The popular Game of Thrones TV series concluded. Fans were not pleased with the final episode. The same could be said about the conclusion of the Star Wars saga and the most recent Terminator reboot effort.

Some things should be left to die. Let’s do the same to 2019. Onwards, new decade!

Images via credited institutions. Hover for more.

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