Tech 2014: BBC News Online's most read technology stories

Rare Nintendo game Image copyright muresan (ebay)
Image caption Why was this tatty old cartridge causing a stir in January?

Privacy, bugs and naked selfies - just part of a day's work for the BBC technology team in 2014.

Here we highlight some of the stories that readers enjoyed the most during the course of the year.

No year could pass without a major product launch and this year's most read was the announcement in September that Apple was entering the crowded wearable market with a smart watch of its own.

Every year could be described as the year of the hack but 2014 saw some pretty significant ones, not least the Heartbleed bug which put security experts into a tailspin in April.

Meanwhile one of the most read stories of the year was also one of our last (of the year, not ever I hope). Prof Stephen Hawking's assessment of artificial intelligence offers a tantalising glimpse into what we might be reading more about next year - the endless rise of the intelligent machine.

January: 'Super-rare' Nintendo games hits eBay

Fans of old video games were queuing up to get their hands on a copy of Nintendo World Championships, one of only 116 copies made as part of a special event in 1990.

A first bid of $4,999 (£3,000) set the tone for the eBay auction.

Even though the cartridge was in poor condition, its rarity - designed for a competition and never put on general sale - meant it would be something of a holy grail for keen collectors, according to gaming experts.

The game eventually sold to a bidder for over $99,0000 - although the winning bidder later backed out.

February: Flappy Bird creator removes game from app stores

Image caption Flappy Bird was a short-lived hit

The game theme continued into February when everyone was talking about the new gaming sensation - Flappy Bird. Seen as a natural successor to Angry Birds, it proved short-lived when its Vietnamese creator Dong Nguyen announced that he was removing the game from online stores.

Many questioned whether the real reason was because he may have faced legal action from Nintendo as the main characters resembled those in Super Mario Bros.

By the time it was withdrawn the game had been downloaded more than 50 million times, making it the most popular game of the year.

For those who had it installed on their phones, it put an immediate premium on the device with people selling handsets on eBay for $1,000 until the online auction site put an end to such trades.

March: Thousands make #nomakeupselfie donation error

Before the ice bucket challenge took hold this summer, another charity-raising craze hit social media in the spring - taking a self portrait wearing no make-up.

Once the picture was posted on social media, users were asked to donate to Cancer Research UK.

But unfortunately not all of the funds raised by the stunt went to the intended cause.

The BBC discovered that thousands of pounds were accidentally donated to Unicef instead of Cancer Research UK, as people sent money by texting DONATE rather than BEAT.

Unicef told the BBC that over £18,000 had been identified as being accidentally pledged to it and that it was working with Cancer Research to transfer the money.

April: Heartbleed Bug: Tech firms urge password reset

Image copyright codenomicon
Image caption The bug was an 11 on a scale of one to 10, said one expert

It took a quarter of a year for the first big security story to hit but when it did it was a big one.

The Heartbleed bug affected software used by millions of web servers with some advising people to stay away from the internet entirely until it was fixed. One security expert said that on a scale of one to 10, Heartbleed was an 11.

The biggest story of the month was not the one revealing the bug but a follow-up in which several tech firms advised people to change all their passwords.

That suggestion proved controversial, with other experts later pointing out that even if users created brand new logins they would remain at risk until all the online services they used updated their servers.

May: eBay makes users change their passwords after hack

The security theme continued through the spring with May's biggest story focusing on eBay's security woes.

The US online marketplace admitted that a database had been hacked between late February and early March, which had contained encrypted passwords and other non-financial data.

But there was confusion about how eBay would communicate the problem to its 128 million active users.

Initially it said it would oblige users to choose new passwords but later said that it would be optional.

June: Android and Windows to get 'kill switch'

Image caption Authorities claim that a kill switch feature would help reduce phone theft

The middle of the year saw efforts by the tech industry to combat the problem of mobile phone theft which police said had risen dramatically.

According to a report by the US authorities, some 3.1 million mobile device were stolen in the US in 2013, double the number stolen in 2012.

By adding a kill switch, a function that would render any stolen device useless, they hoped to cut the crime.

In June Google and Microsoft announcing that they will add a kill switch feature to their phone operating systems.

Apple already offered such a switch and according to US reports the theft of iPhones had fallen significantly in the months following the launch.

July: Naked selfies extracted from 'factory reset' phones

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Older, second-hand smartphones are at greater risk of their "wiped" data extracted

In July it was reported that a Czech-based security firm had managed to extract thousands of pictures, including naked selfies from mobile phones that users thought had been wiped.

Avast used publicly-available forensic security tools to find the images from second-hand phones bought on eBay.

It warned that the only way to completely delete data is to destroy your phone.

August: Man jailed for filming Fast and Furious in cinema

Piracy is always a hot topic and there was proof in August that it is not going away any time soon with news that a man had been jailed after recording Fast And Furious 6 from the back of a cinema in Walsall.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) claimed it meant millions of pounds lost for the film's distributor, Universal Pictures.

Philip Danks, 25, was jailed for 33 months after the movie he uploaded was downloaded 700,000 times.

The judge said his behaviour was "bold, arrogant and cocksure."

September: Apple Watch unveiled alongside larger iPhones.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Apple hopes its smart watch can disrupt the wearables market as it previously did with music and phones.

It wouldn't be possible to get through a year in tech without a new product launch and this time it was details about Apple's smartwatch that grabbed attention.

The watch will offer 11 different watch faces and will run Siri - Apple's voice-activated digital assistant.

It will also offer maps and act as a heart rate monitor.

The watch goes on sale in 2015 and will compete with a crowded market but Apple chief executive Tim Cook was hopeful that its history of entering sectors relatively late and then changing the landscape would prove true for watches as well as phones and music players.

October: Nude 'Snapchat images' put online by hackers

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Stolen selfies were a recurring problem in 2014 (this image was posed by a model)

The readership of the BBC technology site seem to like a headline if it includes the phrase 'naked images' - and in October a second such tale took their fancy.

This time it was news that hackers had put explicit images sent through messaging service Snapchat online with threats to upload more.

Half of Snapchat's users are aged between 13 and 17, raising concern that many of the images may be of children.

Snapchat blamed third-party apps but security experts said that it too had to take more responsibility over user data.

November: Breached webcam and baby monitor site flagged by watchdogs

Image caption This edited screenshot shows a bedroom, living rooms, a hallway and a driveway

November saw the extraordinary tale of a website containing thousands of live feeds to baby monitors and CCTV systems around the world.

It included a child's bedroom in Birmingham, an office in Warwickshire and a shop in London.

The site, based in Russia, broadcast footage from all the systems that used either default passwords or no log-in codes at all.

It claimed that it was simply highlighting the dangers of weakly protected cameras but others felt it was a gross violation of people's privacy.

The UK's information commissioner Christopher Graham described the feeds on show as "spooky" and said he was working with the Russian authorities to have the site shut down.

December: Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prof Hawking joins a growing list of leading thinkers who have cautioned about AI's risks

A cheery note to end the year when world-renowned scientist Prof Stephen Hawking revealed his fears about the development of artificial intelligence.

His view was that the rise of the intelligent machine could signal the end of the human race and his thoughts hit a note with the public - the story was one of the most read of the entire year.

Most industry watchers are marking out artificial intelligence as one of their 'technologies to watch' next year although it may be a little longer until it poses any real threat to its human overlords.

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