What's Tech?

The Verge

Enjoy the archives of this retired, award-winning series from Christopher Thomas Plante and The Verge that explained technology bit by bit. The series finale aired December 6th, 2016, shortly before Chris re-joined Polygon as its executive editor. For more on what’s happening now (and next) in technology and gadgets, listen and subscribe to The Vergecast.


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The Verge


Enjoy the archives of this retired, award-winning series from Christopher Thomas Plante and The Verge that explained technology bit by bit. The series finale aired December 6th, 2016, shortly before Chris re-joined Polygon as its executive editor. For more on what’s happening now (and next) in technology and gadgets, listen and subscribe to The Vergecast.




The What’s Tech series finale

When I started at The Verge in 2014, I needed an excuse to learn about technology. My background was in covering video games, television, and pop culture, and I lacked the basic cognitive functions to hold a phone above my head without dropping it on my face. So I launched a podcast called What’s Tech. For two years, the show was an opportunity to learn the fundamentals about the technology that supports everyday life. Free to ask silly, obvious, and embarrassing questions, I learned a ton....


What are Snapchat Spectacles, and do I have to be a teen to wear them?

Snapchat Spectacles, the mysterious and incredibly hyped hardware from Snap, Inc., have arrived. Vending machines for the video camera sunglasses are springing up around the country, first in California and Oklahoma, and who knows where else next. Verge senior reporter Bryan Bishop joined me this week to talk about his experience hunting down Spectacles and whether we’re all going to feel like olds wearing them. Also, what’s the deal with this circular video format? Learn more about your ad...


How smartphone cameras took over the world

In the early 2000s, the digital photography revolution made it possible for miniaturized camera hardware and image sensors to be packed into cell phones without adding a significant amount of weight. Then the iPhone was announced. As the smartphone war began, the camera became an important part of the ongoing spec race. Competitors tried to beat Apple in making an excellent camera (and app) that was easy to use — and it took until this year for that to start happening. Now, two-thirds of...


How HTTPS is slowly but surely making the internet safer

Over the past couple years web security has become a staple of the nightly news. The stories usually hinge on government leaks, foreign hackers, or web encryption. There’s menacing subtext that practically everything put online is vulnerable to “cyber attacks.” Though one might wonder what steps are being taken to protect not just the government and giant corporations, but you, the individual. What keeps you safe when you stumble your way into a Wikipedia hole or click a strange link sent...


Why is everyone making GIFs of themselves?

Our most sacred and special task as human beings is to document our own existence with a single-minded dedication. That's why we have massive iCloud photo libraries, 15GB of video of that really cool Springsteen concert on our phones, Instagram accounts for ourselves, our pets, and our alter egos, and dusty yearbooks stacked up in our closets. The latest in this personal digital archive: personal GIFs. Apps like Boomerang, Motion Stills, Giphy, DSCO, and more help us make GIFs and other...


How immersive haunted houses and participatory plays are making Halloween scarier

Here at The Verge, we love Halloween and everything about it. Horror movies, non-horror seasonal movies, seasonal beverages, seasonal bots, this Pumpkin Guy, horrifying makeup tutorials, poop-shaped candy — bring it on. In particular, we love to be scared. It gives us a sweet little adrenaline burst to get us across the daunting dark tundra of November to April. This Hallo-season, senior entertainment reporter Bryan Bishop has embarked on a journey to find the most immersive, creative, and...


Why smartphone batteries explode, and why they may get worse

Samsung has officially recalled the Galaxy Note 7 worldwide, after more than 90 of the large smartphones in the US overheated due to defective batteries. Overheating is, in this case, an understatement, as some owners have claimed their smartphones outright exploded. Exploding lithium-ion batteries actually aren’t so uncommon. As my colleagues Angela Chen and Lauren Goode noted earlier this month, there are many ways for a lithium-ion battery to become dangerous, and they aren’t limited to...


How Snapchat’s goofy faces made everyone comfortable with selfies

I didn’t take many selfies until I downloaded Snapchat. But like so many people I’ve fallen in love with lenses, the optional tools that make my face look like a dog or an emoji or an advertisement for junk food. Now, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t mug into my front-facing camera. The magic of lenses is how they erase the perception of the selfie as an act of narcissism — an insipid criticism that comes from a certain clump of people who feel the need to bash people for showing a fleck of...


The good and bad news of the Earth-sized planet Proxima Centauri b

Late last month, news broke of the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b. Orbiting the closest star to our Solar System, there’s a lot to love about Proxima b since it shares a few key traits with our own home planet. But before we start making intergalactic vacation plans, let’s pump the space-brakes: half the planet is locked in darkness, it’s pelted by radiation from close proximity to its sun, and the rock is 25 trillion miles away. Our current best option for sending a probe there involves a...


A few simple tech tips for living in a dorm or a New York apartment

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A simple explanation of No Man’s Sky and its internet-fueled controversy

The first trailer for No Man’s Sky, published in December 2013, promised a universe with enough planets, creatures, and vegetation that it could not be fully explored by one player in a lifetime. The hype was immediate, and it only continued to build with each month between the game’s announcement and its release this summer. This, some fans speculate, could be a game that lasts forever. My buddy Austin Walker concisely dismantled that logic at Vice before the game’s release, but No Man’s...


Hate going to the grocery store? Maybe it's time to try food-delivery services

Imagine if grocery shopping was just another online subscription service, like Netflix or Spotify. You complete a survey, sharing your likes and dislikes, and the platform sends, week after week, precisely measured portions of proteins, veggies, fruits, oils, and spices required to make dinner and the necessary recipes to alchemize these ingredients into Food Network-level dinners. My friend and colleague Kaitlyn Tiffany lived this modern spin on the home cook life this past spring, after...


Why Sony and Microsoft are already announcing and releasing new consoles

A new round of video game consoles has began last week with the release of Microsoft’s One S. The slim, white hardware is a minor upgrade to the original Xbox One, and the predecessor to next year’s flashier upgrade, codenamed Project Scorpio. Next month, Sony is expected to announce its own update for the PlayStation 4, codenamed Neo. If it feels a little early in a generation of consoles to be talking about dropping cash on the next great thing, you’re right. But these consoles don’t...


Is your neighborhood the next great social media app?

I had never heard of Nextdoor when I lived in New York City. Social media services catering to individual neighborhoods weren’t useful in an apartment building where most tenants lasted a year, and longtime residents kept to themselves. In my first year in Texas, however, I’ve regularly relied on Nextdoor, along with my neighborhood’s private Facebook group and the handful of sites that provide hyper-local support. I’m not the first to say local online forums are the bulletin boards and...


A podcast explains the power of podcasts

For 72 episodes, What’s Tech has invited guests to explain technology and its cultural periphery — from drones and fan fiction to ASMR and biohacking. We were bound to make a podcast about podcasts eventually. This was inevitable. For this momentous occasion, our guest is Alex Goldman, co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, Reply All. After you listen, visit Reply All’s publisher Gimlet Media, which is responsible for a number of the best examples of the podcasting form. Subscribe to What's...


Why Pokémon Go is a hit, how it helped Nintendo, and when its moment could fizz out

Pokémon Go had a week unlike any video game I’ve covered in my career. Here’s a collection of the posts we penned last week, ranging from players finding dead bodies to Craigslist entrepreneurs selling pre-played accounts. My friend and former boss Chris Grant wrote about the staggering demand for coverage at our sister-site Polygon. In "Some thoughts on Nintendo’s big week," Grant contextualized the game within Nintendo’s unusual year. And he noted how Pokémon Go inspired the most popular...


The agony and the ecstasy of life as a webcomic artist

As a teenager, my only interaction with the world of webcomics was Achewood. Launched in 2001 and published sporadically ever since, Achewood is like Seinfeld crossed with Adult Swim. It felt for me in the early 2000s like this lone, weird thing. A few years later, around when I got my first writing gig, I realized how much bigger webcomics were than the stories of Téodor and Cornelius. I inevitably came across Penny Arcade and the rush of video game-inspired webcomics its inspired. And...


How The Bachelor became social media’s favorite sporting event

"Is The Bachelor tech?" You might ask this question while listening to this week’s episode of What’s Tech, a podcast that provides introductory explainers into the many pockets of technology and the culture around them. I believe the answer is yes. The Bachelor series has aired for over 14 years and spun-off numerous programs, totaling over 35 seasons, but its most recent surge of critical significance stems from the rise of social media. Who watches The Bachelor and how they watch it have...


What you need to know about doxxing, the average internet user’s nightmare

My entire body clenches when I hear the word doxxing. Each time I write something that, for whatever reason, upsets a corner of the internet, I wonder if my personal information — phone numbers, address, social security number, credit card information — will be made public, or doxxed. And if it is made public, then how will it be used? Even though our identities on the internet are more public than ever, we are still individually afforded a certain amount of privacy. Our passwords, our forum...


What you should know about torrenting

I was a teenager in the days of Napster and LimeWire, when illegal files flowed through the internet like free hamburgers through a freshman dormitory orientation session. I didn't understand the legality of file sharing, let alone the technical explanation of how it worked. Peer-to-peer file distribution has changed over the years. Though I feel more savvy to the legal issues, I am no less dumbfounded by how it all works. That’s why I invited my colleague Ashley Carman onto this week’s...