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Gift Guide: TechCrunch’s Favorite Things of 2020


It goes without saying, but 2020 was a bad year for a lot of people.

For many, it was a year of stress, of sadness, and anxiety. It was a year of missing friends and family; of just getting to the next day, even as each day seemed to blur into the last.

As we’ve done at the end of each of the past few years, we invited our team to look back and highlight some of their “favorite things” — the things that, as we look back from the depths of December, put smiles on our faces, or helped us pass the time, or taught us some new skill. Most years this question feels like “What made your year better?” This year it felt more like “… What made your year suck less?”

Our definition of “things” on this list has always been incredibly fuzzy by design. “Things” can be whatever makes sense to the writer. “Things” can be podcasts, or songs, or movies, or people, or concepts. Some of these things are new to the world in 2020. Others are things that have been around for years (decades, even!), but popped back up in our lives this year. Whatever the case, we hope you find some inspiration; some new thread to pull, some new song to sing, or some new thing to love.


Zack Whittaker, Security Editor

WBGO 88.3FM

As a kid I used to fall asleep listening to the late-night talk show radio shows from my bedroom in England. These days I’m all about WBGO, a New Jersey public radio station broadcast from Times Square. It plays jazz all day, every day, and that’s about it. Jazz doesn’t want to talk about politics around the dinner table or post anti-vax conspiracy theories to Facebook. It’s perfect escapism from the news firehose. We have WBGO playing quietly on the radio in the kitchen throughout the day. And since it’s an easy listen, I often put it on as I work from my desk. I even bought a HomePod mini as an early Christmas treat so I can listen all day long.

Cross-stitching

Image Credits: Zack Whittaker

The TV dried up pretty early on and there wasn’t much else to do, so I took up cross-stitching. It’s easy to learn — similar to a Paint by Numbers but with sewing — and requires little skill so it’s ideal for me. It’s a fantastic way to wind down and forget about the actual dumpster fire of a year it’s been.


Natasha Mascarenhas, Reporter

Call Your Girlfriend (Podcast)

Image Credits: Call Your Girlfriend

In a year where every relationship is a long distance relationship, Call Your Girlfriend has been a must-listen podcast. It’s been running since 2014, but I only picked it up this year because I was looking for ways to think about adult friendships that are platonic. I think the topics put a lot of coronavirus fatigue into eloquent context, such as consent conversations when people have different risk tolerances, how to find joy in this time, the science behind friendship. The show, co-hosted by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, describes itself as a “podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.” I’d add that it’s an exhale during a time where all of us are very, sometimes subconciously, tense.

Graffeo coffee

San Francisco’s Graffeo Coffee is one of North Beach’s remaining treasures. The little coffee roaster was my bi-weekly stop during my quarantine sanity walks all throughout this year. And I still order the beans even though I’m not in SF anymore! Good people, small business, and get the beans whole and dark roasted.


Brian Heater, Hardware Editor

Waxahatchee Saint Cloud

Image Credits: Waxahatchee

Not to put too fine a point on it, but music might have saved my life this year. And thankfully there were some terrific albums this year — Lomelda, Thundercat, Denzel Curry, Open Mike Eagle and Death Valley Girls to name a few. But Waxahatchee’s latest was just a huge ray of country twang-infused pop-indie folk. Start with “Fire” and go from there.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Some things are worth revisiting throughout life. They’ll never change, but the lives we’ve led can’t help but profoundly impact our relationship to them. It’s been said that Moby Dick holds the secrets to the universe within its 135 chapters. But while Melville may have laid the groundwork for such revelation, it’s clear he couldn’t make heads or tails of the results. Moby Dick is a singular work in American literature. It’s profoundly strange and funny and disjoined and beautiful and sad. It’s also wildly, wildly weird. It’s a perfect quarantine companion.

Orba by Ariphon

Image Credits: Brian Heater

I’d been waiting to play with Artiphon’s Orba since meeting with the company back at CES 2020 (those weird and wild days when we used to jam humans into a room to look at products). The $99 gadget is probably the closest I’ve come so far to a device that can foster music creation among the non-musical. It’s also a terrific little time killer and great for blowing off a bit of steam between meetings.

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