Crystal balls and calendars: A look back, and forward, at the top tech news

The president election. Holiday shopping. The way we fight terrorists. They were all impacted in 2012 by technology. And what does the future hold? How about new technology spreading quickly to emerging countries, or consumers from the developed world spending a lot more of their hard-earned money on new tech? Not to mention look for the further development of miniature tablets with high-resolution screens measuring 8 inches or less. And even though 2012 was undoubtedly an enormous year for the evolution of technology, don’t expect the continued growth of tech to slow within the coming year. Here, then, is a closer look at 2012’s biggest tech stories, with some forecasts on where tech is headed in 2013.

Obama’s grip on election tech

Pres. Obama relied heavily on social media to spread his information and reach his core group of younger voters throughout his historic 2008 presidential victory. In 2012, technology again proved to be a potent ally to Pres. Obama. This time, Obama was aided by way of a sophisticated “get-out-the-vote” program dubbed Narwhal. This communications system allowed campaign staffers to regularly contact key voters in equally key states. The end result? Obama’s core of voters — whom many pundits predicted would largely stay at home this year — again flocked into the polls. Obama’s commanding leads among African-American, Hispanic and young voters helped push him to an easy Electoral College victory. Romney tried his own communication technology, a system referred to as Project Orca. While Narwhal succeeded, Orca failed, rather terribly. The system even crashed for a significant chunk of time on election day. No one would debate that technology was the crucial reason why Obama defeated Romney. But Obama’s superior grasp of technology certainly played a role in his election victory. You can bet that future presidential candidates will arm themselves with the maximum amount of technology as possible in coming presidential elections.

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Technology is evolving the way the United States battles terrorists. Unmanned Predator drones made news headlines in 2012, especially because their deadly strikes claimed several of the United State’s most-wanted terrorists. The drones, of course, were not without critics. Some worried that they can be used to spy on law-abiding citizens. Others were concerned that drone strikes routinely claim the lives of civilians along with terrorists and other military targets. What’s not up for debate, though, is that unmanned drones continue to become an important weapon in the United States’ fight against terror. As drone technology expands, their accuracy and effectiveness stand to increase.

The coming year

What can the general public anticipate seeing tech-wise in the coming year? More. That’s more consumers embracing mobile computing, turning off their desktop PCs and browsing the web, sending e-mail messages, texting, reading books, watching movies and enjoying music on tablets and powerful smart phones. More also means that consumers will continue to open their wallets for the latest technology. Tablets and smart phones were sizzling sellers in the course of the recently concluded holiday shopping season. Expect to see a lot more of these mobile devices under Christmas trees next season. And lastly, more means that technology will spread to a growing number of emerging countries. Expect developing countries to flock to social media, laptops and mobile devices simply because these technologies gradually become available to them. People like technology, regardless of where they live.