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Year of innovations, challenges

2004's top stories in science, technology

Google created buzz on Wall Street, and in the technology field, when it began selling its stock publicly.

(CNN) -- The year in science and technology ran the gamut, shedding new light on the past while also foreshadowing a more dynamic future.

Google, digital music, wireless technologies and blogs all boomed in 2004. But there were also plenty of battles, such as efforts to fight human and computer viruses and reel in online ID theft.

The year in technology

As many innovations as challenges emerged in the technology arena in 2004.

Personal technology lived up to its name more than ever, with miniature devices that seamlessly delivered high-quality audio and visual content. However, the banes of Internet users everywhere -- spam, computer viruses and spy programs -- made surfing the Web much more aggravating and confusing.

Google's IPO

Google's unconventional IPO gave investors a roller coaster ride before settling down and valuing the Internet search company in the billons of dollars. (CNN/Money: Google-goo at Nasdaq)

Portable audio

The runaway success of Apple's iPod -- and a growing catalogue of digital competitors -- means that personal audio devices will be adding more memory, longer battery life and new features. (The Steve Jobs way)

Digital music stores succeed

Apple's iTunes claimed to have sold more than 100 million songs by 2004, even as a host of other competitors sprang up to offer alternatives to peer-to-peer file sharing. (Special Report: Online Music Revolution)

Spam, spyware and adware

Spam overtook the volume of legitimate e-mail as companies, the government and consumers struggled to stanch the flood of unwanted mail and invasive programs, like spyware and adware.

ID theft and phishing scams

A new wave of ID thieves attacked consumers, in some cases swiping credit card numbers and personal information from tens of thousands of customers in a single operation. (Full story)


Internet diarists were noticed more than ever, even playing a role in the presidential election and in calling the major media corporations to account. Dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster named "blog" the most looked-up word on its Web site. (Bloggers get convention credentials)


Computer experts say they did not detect major discrepancies with e-voting technology, but, due to a lack of verifiable data to compare against, they warned that few ways exist to detect malfunctions or fraud. (Full story)

Hybrid vehicles

The booming popularity of hybrid cars such as the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius propelled the market far beyond early expectations, with hundreds of thousands of the vehicles on the road by the end of the year. (Full story)

Wireless revolution

Mars rovers
Two rovers, like those in the graphic shown here, examined Mars' surface.

The spread of high-speed Internet -- through Wi-Fi and sometimes even municipal wireless networks -- took off, promising to once again change our relationship with technology. (Special Report: Wireless life)

Computer viruses

Netsky-P was the hardest-hitting virus of 2004, disrupting tens of thousands of businesses and homes worldwide, while other viruses also exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Windows operating system. (Sasser worm rips through Internet)

The year in science

Science stories this year chronicled everything from ecological destruction in the seas to the amazing accomplishments of entrepreneurs in space.

Many of the achievements of 2004 bode well for an exciting 2005, when these scientific advances can start to fulfill their promise.

Large fish gone

A new global study found that large fish have been almost completely stripped from the oceans, with just 10 percent of large individuals of species such as tuna, swordfish and marlin left.

Mars rovers

Two Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, exceeded all expectations by roaming the red planet for months. The images and Martian surface data the rovers sent back marked a stunning achievement for NASA. (Full story)

Debate over Kyoto protocols, climate change

The Kyoto protocols went into effect for many countries, though not the United States, sparking a global market in carbon credits and highlighting the alarming implications of global warming.

Hurricane season

A higher than average number of hurricanes pounded the East Coast, particularly Florida. The season also shaped up the costliest ever, causing more than $20 billion in damages. (Special Report: Hurricane season)

X Prize

SpaceShipOne climbed to an altitude of 377,591 feet (71 1/2 miles) to win the Ansari X Prize .

SpaceShipOne became the first private spacecraft to leave the Earth's atmosphere carrying a passenger-size payload and return, making the flight three times to win the $10 million Anasari X Prize and become a beacon for space tourism. (Full story)

Solar system exploration

Astronomers were ecstatic with the data from NASA's forays into our solar system, such as the Cassini mission to Saturn and the crashed but salvageable Genesis solar mission. (Ripples detected in Saturn ring; Hopes to salvage Genesis science)

Save Hubble movement

NASA's initial proposal to abandon the Hubble Space Telescope evoked outrage and spurred the agency to search for a way to save the observatory from a fiery re-entry. (Full story)

Stem cell research

Fierce political battles raged over stem cell research, but California and nations around the world poured billions of dollars into the promising field.

Human origins

Fossils of what may be a newly discovered species of human and an archaeological dig in South Carolina that may push back the arrival of humans in North America by as much as 50,000 years offered possible new insights into the history of mankind. (Full story)

Viral threats

Research into preventing viral pandemics became a top concern for many public health officials after a flu vaccine shortage in the United States. Scientists warned that vaccine production and viral outbreaks still pose serious challenges to medical science. (Special Report: Cold and flu)

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