Technology is something that has greatly evolved over time, but in order to find the good stuff we had to go through the bad stuff first. Computer World put together a great article today that details what they believe are the 10 biggest technology flops of the past 40 years. So I thought I would take a look at their list and make my own comments…
- Apple Newton – This device was created in 1993 as a $700 PDA. The handwriting recognition was awful, and often the aspect of the Newton that people made fun of. One of these bad boys will still run you a few hundred dollars (used) on eBay.
- DIVX – This is different from "DivX" which many of you know to be the popular video codec. DIVX is an abbreviation for Digital Video Express, which was an attempt by Circuit City to start a new video rental system. Customers would "rent" DIVX discs which they could keep and watch for two days, or pay a continuation fee to keep it longer. After the time was up the customer would just throw the discs away, and as you can imagine this didn’t last long because customers needed "DIVX enhanced DVD players" to watch the movies. Here’s a Circuit City commercial promoting the service:
- Dot-bombs – The dot-com bubble could only last so long. One website after another launched in the late 90’s, and as the new millennium hit many of these sites came crashing down. It almost makes me wonder if we’re entering another one of these "bubbles" with all of the Web 2.0 services popping up.
- IBM PCjr – This was a personal computer sold between 1984 and 1985, but it had several downfalls. It costed almost $1300 without a monitor, had no hard drive (it used cartridges), and the keyboard was different from what people were used to.
- Internet Currency – This was started by sites like Flooz and Beenz with hopes of creating a type of money that could be used only on the Internet (much like frequent flier miles or gift cards). Um, yeah, we can just use credit cards to buy things online.
- Iridium – Motorola provided the technology and financial backing to launch 66 satellites into space to be used for voice and data communications. To make a call you would have to fork out between $3 and $14 per minute on one of the brick-sized phones. Try putting one of these in your pocket: :)
- Microsoft Bob – This is often considered to be one of the worst products ever created, and all it was intended to do was add a familiar interface on top of Windows 3.11. The problem was that cartoonish rooms were created for users to group applications and tasks, and it essentially made you feel like you were a two-year old trying to learn how to use the computer. Microsoft Bob is still floating around the file sharing networks, and is even said to run on Windows XP, but this gallery should be enough to keep you satisfied.
- Net PC – CNet covered the original announcement on these computers back in 1997, and said "Net PCs typically will have no floppy disk drive or expansion slots. Promoted by Microsoft, Intel, and Compaq, among others, the systems are supposed to reduce ownership cost for companies that currently use networked PCs. They will purportedly allow IS staff to maintain and update desktops from the center of the corporate network, instead of visiting each PC."
- Paperless Office – The dream that everything we read, send, and share is done only in a digital format does not appear to be true quite yet. A study by MIT Press in 2002 even said that email causes a 40% increase in paper use for most organizations. Sure we keep putting more and more things in a digital format (especially books), but we’re not ditching the paper copies quite yet.
- Virtual Reality – Being able to throw yourself into a game, or visit a place that you’ve never been to all in the comfort of your own house is an appealing idea. For some reason it hasn’t really taken off, but maybe some day it will be as good as this demo:
So those are the top 10 technology achievements that Computer World says are the worst from the last 40-years. It took me awhile to find interesting videos or images for each one, but it was fun writing this and taking a look back at how far we have come.
Drop us a comment below saying what you think is the worst gadget or application ever developed. It can be one that is on this list, or it can be something that just popped into your head. I can’t wait to hear what everyone comes up with!