top-stories-of-2020:-how-the-occasions-of-this-yr-upended-the-worlds-of-tech,-science-and-extra
The pandemic, race, cybersecurity and financial points dominated headlines in 2020. MacKenzie Scott Photo by Elena Seibert. Black Lives Matter Photo by Monica Nickelsburg. Bill Gates Photo by Todd Bishop. SolarWinds Photo by way of BigInventory. GeekWire Graphic.

To say that 2020 unfolded in sudden methods could be an epic understatement, as illustrated by these GeekWire headlines from the spring.

Microsoft’s new coronavirus plan: Seattle-area staff to work at home for subsequent 3 weeks — March 4, 2020

Another month? Computer modelers estimate how for much longer coronavirus shutdowns ought to final — April 17, 2020

Zillow’s housing market projections: Home gross sales will fall 60%, costs will dip 2-3% — May 4, 2020

With many people nonetheless working from residence because the yr attracts to a detailed, and resilient housing and inventory markets defying an in any other case struggling economic system, the adjustments brought on by the pandemic promise to affect tech, enterprise and every part else for years to come back.

A nationwide reckoning over race, sparked by the killing of George Floyd, introduced renewed consideration to the tech trade’s range and inclusion issues, and fueled what’s going to hopefully develop into lasting momentum to lastly repair them. 

The affect of Seattle’s tech and scientific communities rippled all through the world. The area’s life sciences establishments performed a key position in uncovering and battling COVID-19, and Bill Gates emerged as a number one voice for science and fairness within the pandemic. Enterprise tech corporations offered the bedrock for an enormous international acceleration of digital applied sciences.

MacKenzie Scott’s daring strategy to philanthropy set an instance for her fellow billionaires, as she took extraordinary steps to distribute her Amazon wealth.

And as if 2020 wasn’t eventful sufficient, the tech trade and U.S. authorities grappled with an unprecedented cyberattack within the closing weeks of the yr within the type of the SolarWinds hack, threatening to undermine key establishments and organizations, and prompting a unprecedented response from Microsoft.

Ed Lazowska, University of Washington laptop science professor. (UW Photo)

We replicate on this unprecedented yr on a brand new episode of the GeekWire Podcast, as considered by our concentrate on expertise, enterprise and innovation in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Joining my colleague John Cook and me for the dialogue is visitor commentator Ed Lazowska, laptop science professor on the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

To inform our dialogue, we every reviewed lists of high tales on GeekWire for the total yr and every month, as decided by total readership, then provided our personal views on the tendencies, tales and points that mattered most.

Listen above, or subscribe to GeekWire in any podcast app. Continue studying for highlights, plus a listing of the highest 50 most-read tales of the yr.

Looking again on the tales from the early a part of the yr felt like watching the opening scenes of a catastrophe film by which the hapless villagers had been utterly unaware of the tsunami that was about to hit them.

The most-read story from January 2020, for instance, was an insightful slice of life concerning the divide between longtime Seattleites and relative newcomers, because it was taking part in out on the sidewalks round Amazon’s headquarters: Take cowl: Amazon’s huge umbrellas renew a stormy previous debate about Seattle tradition.

The first indicators of the pandemic emerge in February’s most-read tales. Bill Gates instructed the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual assembly in Seattle that the affect of COVID-19 could possibly be “very, very dramatic.”

Bill Gates “had an enormous impact” on the nationwide and international dialog about COVID-19, stated Lazowska, who held the place of Bill & Melinda Gates Chair on the UW laptop science college for a few years. Gates was well-positioned for this position, not solely by his work on the Gates Foundation and his previous warnings about the specter of a pandemic, but in addition for his previous work comparable to bringing the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to the UW; and funding the Seattle Flu Study, which resulted in early detection of COVID-19 instances within the U.S., and spawned the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network.

Shortly thereafter, after all, Gates’ prediction got here true. Here’s my very own qualitative checklist of high 10 tales of the yr associated to solely COVID-19 and its affect.

  • Early strikes by Microsoft and Amazon to implement work-from-home insurance policies, setting the tone for a lot of the trade. 
  • Acceleration of digital applied sciences within the office, together with the rise of collaboration and communication instruments for distant work and studying.
  • Resilience of cloud and enterprise expertise corporations, a conventional energy of the Seattle area’s tech trade, fueled by that digital acceleration .
  • Implosion of the worldwide journey trade, eating places, conventional retail, occasions companies and others sectors that relied on bodily interplay, and didn’t have a digital technique as a security web.
  • Desktop and laptop computer PCs reemerge within the heart of our lives, taking a few of the momentum from smartphones and different cell units.
  • One of the individuals who initially put the PC within the heart of our lives, Bill Gates, cements his place as a number one voice for international well being.
  • Seattle solidifies its position as a key life sciences analysis heart, by early COVID-19 detection, plus ongoing work on therapies and vaccines.
  • Economic various universes —  the inventory market and residential actual property growth whereas many Americans wrestle to make ends meet.  
  • Stay-at-home orders give Amazon an much more very important position within the economic system. The firm spends billions to handle the implications of COVID-19 in its distribution community. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos re-emerges as a day-to-day drive inside the corporate, and Amazon Consumer CEO declares plans to retire. 
  • Record-breaking growth of vaccines by Pfizer, Moderna and others create a brand new mannequin and timetable for coping with infectious illness.

All of this has made an afterthought out of what in any other case may need been the highest story, the antitrust crackdown on Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple.

Among different information objects not solely to the pandemic, Lazowska pointed to the philanthropic initiatives of MacKenzie Scott, the previous spouse of the Amazon founder, as one of many greatest tales of the yr. Scott made headlines this month with the announcement that she was giving greater than $4 billion to 384 organizations as a part of her pledge to offer away nearly all of her wealth, utilizing a data-driven strategy to make “unsolicited and unexpected gifts” with “full trust and no strings attached.”

“This is just game changing. It’s utterly wonderful,” Lazowska stated of Scott’s strategy.

In the realm of feel-good tales, John Cook pointed to the efforts of Seattle teenager Avi Schiffmann to trace the unfold of the pandemic. (Although his story took a twist later within the yr when he examined optimistic for COVID-19.) And for me, one silver lining in an in any other case scary story was the usage of expertise to trace down a nest of homicide hornets.

Here’s the total checklist of high 50 most-read tales revealed on GeekWire this yr a minimum of to this point. We’ve nonetheless acquired a number of days left on this loopy yr, and also you by no means know what would possibly pop up subsequent.

  • Microsoft unleashes ‘Death Star’ on SolarWinds hackers in extraordinary response to breach
  • Bill Gates warned us of a COVID-19-like pandemic — watch his TED Talk from 2015
  • High college scholar close to Seattle builds web site to function a number one place for coronavirus data
  • Another month? Computer modelers estimate how for much longer coronavirus shutdowns ought to final
  • Whale specialists launch free, digital marine biology camp to entertain and inform youngsters
  • Bill Gates outlines 3 steps US authorities must take ‘to save lives and get the country back to work’
  • SpaceX’s Starship SN1 prototype blows up throughout stress check on its Texas pad
  • Amazon sues former AWS advertising VP Brian Hall after he takes Google Cloud job
  • Earthquake specialists lay out newest outlook for the ‘Really Big One’ that’ll hit Seattle
  • Coronavirus laptop modelers revise their dates for alleviating state shutdowns
  • Expedia cuts 3,000 jobs, together with 500 at new Seattle HQ — learn the interior electronic mail to staff
  • Univ. of Washington researchers predict 80,000 COVID-19 deaths in U.S. by July
  • Zillow’s housing market projections: Home gross sales will fall 60%, costs will dip 2-3%
  • Jeff Bezos exhibits off Blue Origin’s BE-7 engine — and makes a daring prediction
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella warns concerning the penalties of embracing distant work completely
  • ‘We should’ve accomplished extra’: Bill Gates says US was too gradual on COVID-19, shutdown now unavoidable
  • Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos who bought on-line shoe retailer to Amazon for $1.2B, dies at 46
  • Amazon worker in Seattle checks optimistic for coronavirus
  • Bill Gates: Entire nation must shut down for 6-10 weeks to successfully battle coronavirus
  • Oh, child, ‘LEGO Masters’ finale lands like a brick on outraged followers who dispute alternative of winner
  • 5 trillion bytes a day: SpaceX engineers flash some info about Starlink satellites
  • Microsoft’s new coronavirus plan: Seattle-area staff to work at home for subsequent 3 weeks
  • Seattle restaurant supply grievance in ‘reply all’ electronic mail turns into $10K donation to meals charity
  • Bill Gates warns that coronavirus affect could possibly be ‘very, very dramatic,’ outlines long-term options
  • Closer than humanly potential: New launch pad pictures seize historic SpaceX liftoff in all its glory
  • Amazon warehouses will cease accepting non-essential objects amid COVID-19 outbreak
  • T-Mobile and Sprint reveal new management construction — right here’s the e-mail despatched to staff
  • Inside ‘Amazon Go Grocery’: Tech big opens first full-sized retailer with out cashiers or checkout traces
  • Amazon: Trump corruption the one believable clarification for Microsoft successful $10B cloud deal
  • Report: Bill and Melinda Gates purchase oceanfront residence close to San Diego for $43M
  • Coronavirus sleuth outlines his ‘Apollo program’ for bringing down the pandemic
  • NBA groups and Microsoft Teams in motion: How followers can get in, and get kicked out of, digital seats
  • Face it, these mask-making efforts throughout the COVID-19 disaster reveal who we actually are
  • Viral sensation: Seattle child who constructed coronavirus web site catches eye of a high Twitter tastemaker
  • Amazon dives deeper into video video games, launches first big-budget title Crucible
  • Bill Gates says coronavirus will endlessly alter work, however face-to-face college is ‘totally irreplaceable’
  • Amazon Sidewalk rollout exhibits the way forward for ‘forced opt-in,’ taking classes from Xfinity Wifi
  • What’s actually taking place in Seattle’s protest zone? Photographer creates 360-degree immersive tour
  • Bill Gates calls out federal authorities for disorganized COVID-19 testing in Reddit AMA
  • If working from house is the ‘future of work,’ listed here are 11 explanation why the workplace sounds higher
  • Geek of the Week: Jen Haller acquired first coronavirus vaccine shot, and like all of us, misses regular life
  • Analysis: Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda is an enormous disruption for the online game trade
  • T-Mobile CEO says Sprint merger could possibly be greater than anticipated for ‘growth and synergy attainment’
  • Bill Gates Sr., 1925-2020: Microsoft co-founder’s father made his personal mark on Seattle and the world
  • Washington state’s ‘stay home’ order prolonged by May 31 — right here’s the underlying information
  • Photos: Tree deep in Asian big hornet nest, entomologists get better ‘chewed off’ radio tracker
  • Amazon provides staff choice to work at home till “at least” early October beneath new tips
  • RedfinNow pauses making provides on houses as CEO says housing market has taken ‘turn for the worse’
  • Package security: COVID-19 is ‘stable’ on cardboard for twenty-four hours, however threat of transmission is low
  • Seattle-based Big Fish Games lays off 250 individuals — learn the memo despatched to employees

Podcast edited and produced by Curt Milton.