2012: The Tech Year in Cartoons

From SOPA to the Petraeus affair, here's a look at some of the year's biggest IT stories from the pen of Computerworld's editorial cartoonist, John Klossner.

John Klossner, © Computerworld

January: SOPA causes a stir

The year opened with a big to-do in Washington as Congress considered the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Ostensibly designed to curb piracy by foreign websites, the bills prompted intense backlash from netizens arguing that the measures would stifle Internet freedom while protecting the interests of industry groups like the Motion Picture Association of America.

Our Jan. 23 cartoon depicted SOPA as an establishment measure put forward by politicians out of touch with the young and engaged protestors. Indeed, the bills eventually died in the face of a widespread grassroots protest that included many websites choosing to go dark to illustrate the chilling effect such laws could have.

John Klossner, © Computerworld

February: Facebook files for IPO

In February, Facebook quieted all the speculation that it was planning an IPO when it filed papers with the SEC for an initial public offering set for May. The documents didn't list a share price -- though the company was expected to be valued at upwards of $100 billion -- but they did indicate that the social network had seen strong revenue growth in recent years.

Our Feb. 13 cartoon drew attention to the fact that skeptics wondered whether Facebook could sustain its growth rate. In the end, the company's stock stumbled out of the gate and it hasn't yet regained its initial price of $38 per share.

John Klossner, © Computerworld

February: The FBI goes social

Shortly after the hubbub surrounding SOPA and PIPA died down, the issue of Internet privacy came to the fore again when the FBI said it was looking for a tool that would allow it to gather and mine data from social networks like Facebook, Twitter and blogs. In a request for information sent to IT vendors, the FBI said its goal is to keep on top of breaking events, incidents and emerging threats.

Our Feb. 27 cartoon slyly noted that certain private-sector companies don't need anyone's help gathering data about people. (More on that later.)

John Klossner, © Computerworld

March: Encyclopaedia Britannica goes online-only

In March, the world took a not unexpected but nonetheless noteworthy step toward the day when dead-tree media will be no more, when the Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that, after 244 years, it would cease publishing the print edition of its flagship encyclopedia.

The cartoon in our March 26 issue made light of the notion that many people were probably surprised to learn that the print edition hadn't gone the way of the dinosaur years ago.

John Klossner, © Computerworld

May: Yahoo parts ways with another CEO

In May, Yahoo fired CEO Scott Thompson after reports surfaced that he had padded his resume with a phony computer science degree. Our May 21 cartoon pointed out that the once-proud company didn't have such a great recent track record either. Thompson had been on the job just four months, having been hired in January to replace Carol Bartz, who had been dismissed the previous September after less than three years at Yahoo.

By hiring Thompson, the Yahoo board apparently aimed to convey confidence that the company could be rejuvenated. The task of bringing Yahoo back to its former glory now falls to Marissa Mayer, who was hired away from Google in July.

John Klossner, © Computerworld

June: Hackers link into LinkedIn

In June, we learned that hackers broke into LinkedIn, stole 6.5 million hashed passwords believed to belong to LinkedIn members and posted them on a Russian hacker forum. Shortly after that news broke, it was reported that close to 3.5 million of the unique passwords had been cracked and made available in plain text.

Our June 18 cartoon played with the notion that out-of-work IT pros might have welcomed the breach if it had paid off with career opportunities abroad.

John Klossner, © Computerworld

July: BlackBerry blues

In July, Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry devices that were once must-haves for on-the-go businesspeople, found itself floundering in a rapidly evolving mobile market. Facing stiff competition from Android and iOS devices, RIM announced sweeping changes, including plans to delay to a key update to its BlackBerry operating system, reduce the number of phones it sells and shed almost one-third of its employees.

And not only was BlackBerry 10's release pushed back from the end of the year to the first quarter of 2013, but details about the next major upgrade to the company's line of iconic smartphones were hard to come by -- as our July 16 cartoon made clear.

John Klossner, © Computerworld

August: Google pays a price, little else, for tracking users

In August, the FTC slapped Google with a record $22.5 million fine to settle charges that the Internet giant bypassed privacy settings and used cookies to track Apple Safari users who visited Google's DoubleClick ad network.

But our Aug. 27 cartoon wondered what $22.5 million amounts to at a company that reported more than $12 billion in pretax earnings in 2011. "Chump change" or maybe "a rounding error," said observers who noted that Google didn't even have to admit guilt and expressed doubt that the company would change its ways.

John Klossner, © Computerworld

September: No more peace at 30,000 feet?

For all the hassles of air travel, one of the upsides is that we don't have to listen to our fellow passengers yakking on the phone. But that may change. The FAA has formed a panel to investigate whether it's really necessary to ban cellphones on planes to prevent interference with onboard systems.

Our Sept. 10 cartoon pointed out that a ban could remain in place, one way or another.

John Klossner, © Computerworld

November: Spies are just like us

The "Petraeus Affair." One of the biggest news stories of the year, it had angles for everyone from celebrity gossip sites to the most serious news outlets.

Yes, even those of us covering enterprise IT had something to write about. In the wake of the scandal that caused the resignation of Gen. David Petraeus, one of the country's most decorated military professionals, our Nov. 19 cartoon addressed a question no doubt on the minds of many corporate security managers: If the head of the CIA can't figure out how to keep his emails private, do the rest of us even stand a chance?


John Klossner, © Computerworld

December: XP is dead! Long live XP!

No matter how much IT may change, Windows may always be with us. Exhibit A: Windows XP. Microsoft has vowed to stop distributing official security updates for the 11-year-old operating system next April. But some security experts question whether the vendor will be able to cut off support completely. Millions of customers still use Windows XP, and they won't just unplug their PCs when support ends.

Our Dec. 17 cartoon raised the spectre of an exploit of a previously unknown XP vulnerability threatening the entire Windows ecosystem. In such a scenario, Microsoft may have no choice but to issue a patch.

About our cartoonist

Computerworld celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2012, and John Klossner has been creating our editorial cartoons for more than one-third of that time, starting in 1996. His cartoons and illustrations have appeared in a wide variety of other print and electronic publications, including The New Yorker, Barron's, Federal Computer Week and The Wall Street Journal.

John lives in Maine with his wife and two children. He welcomes questions and comments. Simply drop him a line at john@jklossner.com, or visit his website at www.jklossner.com.