Eight Biggest Tech Flops Ever
December 30, 2003 7:22 AM   Subscribe

What about that cue:cat mess with Wired Magazine? That was a pretty prominent flop.
posted by gen at 7:44 AM on December 30, 2003

I got a WebTV for my dad when he was going through chemo. I thought it'd be a good way to get him interested in the internet--he could surf from his chair, look at pictures of his grandkids, stuff like that. But then it turned out to be not much easier to use than a real computer, and not any cheaper, really.

I got the unit back about a year ago. It was hell to give away. Gave it to my mother in law, but she gave it back a few months later, unused. I finally found someone else to give it to about a month ago. What a waste.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:56 AM on December 30, 2003

In what way is WebTV not an internet appliance?

For that matter how can you talk about top tech flops without mentioning the Apple III?

And did anybody check his list of products before their time? Personally, I think I would have put the eBook on the tech flop pile: by his own criteria the eBook makes little improvement over a real book, it costs more, and it uses batteries for crying out loud. Or out Louderback, as the case may be.
posted by ilsa at 8:06 AM on December 30, 2003

Where is the Apple ///? What about Digital Research's GEM? Or for that matter (despite dedicated fanboys) the Amiga wasn't a raging success. What about any number of Internet plugins that didn't survive the arrival of Flash and Shockwave?

His list includes arguable not failures as well. The impact of Magic Cap is pretty significant and went on to shape a whole lot of devices that followed. Microsoft's Bob lives on today as Clippy and the Office Assistant. DataPlay hardly counts since alternative storage appears all the time and most just fade away. These lists are always like this, though. Written to bring in readers from MeFi and lots of letters to the editor.
posted by shagoth at 8:06 AM on December 30, 2003

The Eleventh Commandment:

Thou Shalt Not Dis the Amiga, Provider of All Things Great and Wonderful At a Really Good Price Point.

This means you shagoth.
posted by MikeMc at 8:51 AM on December 30, 2003

One of the WebTV founders died last week. I wonder if he saw a prerelease copy of this story.
posted by kfury at 9:18 AM on December 30, 2003

wanna bet videonow will end up on similar lists in ten years? (I know, it's just a toy, but what a silly toy... b/w with special discs?)
posted by dabitch at 9:34 AM on December 30, 2003

Come now, I loved our PCjr, but then again, I was 11.
posted by tomplus2 at 9:49 AM on December 30, 2003

The biggest flops in the tech industry are usually not embodied by any physicality, they are more along the lines of IBM not buying DOS outright, or Apple not licensing clones in the early nineties. It's more about what we COULD have ended up with rather than what we did.
posted by machaus at 9:54 AM on December 30, 2003

I just read a great book on software/hardware flops called In Search of Stupidity, it's a really good read if you want an in-depth analysis of why tech blunders happen.

As for internet appliances being a flop, sure, they wern't commerically viable, but now that you can get them for $30-100, and there's hacking pages available for all of them, they're fun toys to have, even if they're just used as digital picture frames.
posted by qDot at 10:17 AM on December 30, 2003

The General Magic link is a great read, for those who missed it.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:18 AM on December 30, 2003

The Amiga wasn't a success?
Sure, it's (un-)dead now, but crikey - it had it's time in the spotlight.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:30 AM on December 30, 2003

That's a great list...


posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:44 AM on December 30, 2003

tomplus2, I loved the pcjr as well - it was so much fun to boot up the RAM on cartridge and then play exciting four color games like Sierra's King's Quest or maybe key in programs I found in 3-2-1 Contact magazine
posted by djspicerack at 10:55 AM on December 30, 2003

OS/2 belongs somewhere on that list too. At least a decade of hype before floundering in the market. Version 2.0 was a great product but it was too little, too late.
posted by bonehead at 11:25 AM on December 30, 2003

That's the wrong sock puppet crash!
posted by riffola at 11:38 AM on December 30, 2003

Man, that "Click of Death" from Zip Disks brang back horrible memories from 1998 and working in a digital service bureau. those discs used to give out on a daily basis. Haven't used a Zip Disc in years. Good riddance.
posted by jeremias at 11:51 AM on December 30, 2003

Jim Louderback - ExtremeTech - uh-huh.

Iomega Clik! Drive: In 1999, just as recordable CDs started getting really cheap and popular, Iomega released its own proprietary way to write nearly 40 gigabytes of data to a removable disk.

If only.
posted by Nauip at 12:45 PM on December 30, 2003

as a longtime computer hobbyist and windows-hater, i can tell you that webtv is the best thing that ever happened to me. no, i don't own one - but virtually everyone else in my immediate family does. i have never had a call from any of them wanting to know what "Drive C: Not Found" means. my pal, on the other hand, bought 4 different computers for his elderly dad, who managed to thoroughly discombobulate everything from Win95 forward.

"What were you doing when it broke?"
"I was deleting the printer drivers."
"It was done printing."
posted by quonsar at 1:29 PM on December 30, 2003

cuecat should have definitely been on that list, and, semi-ontopic: i'm thinking cameracellphone lawsuits will be a big story this coming year, making them soon-to-be-history like the things on this list. (oh, and in 5+ years of using them, I've never had a single prob with zip or jaz disks)
posted by amberglow at 3:47 PM on December 30, 2003

What about Nintendo's Virtual Boy? It was so bad that many say it single-handedly destroyed the career of the Game Boy's creator, Gunpei Yokoi.
posted by vorfeed at 3:58 PM on December 30, 2003

cuecat should have definitely been on that list

Nah, it was a great way to get a free or cheap barcode scanner that worked with a lot of different barcode formats, including UPC. You have to decode their funky format but that is relatively trivial. I still have mine and it still works fine.
posted by kindall at 4:05 PM on December 30, 2003

...a free or cheap barcode scanner...
What do you need to scan?
posted by amberglow at 4:44 PM on December 30, 2003

Well, being able to put together a list of my books and CDs without having to type the title in is kinda nice. ReaderWare supports the CueCat natively.

Would be handy for people who run a business too, of course.
posted by kindall at 4:49 PM on December 30, 2003

ok then--cuecat is useful, but not in the manner marketed or intended? : >
posted by amberglow at 4:53 PM on December 30, 2003

Well, exactly, Amberglow. As I recall, the use case Wired talked about when they launched the damn thing was to scan barcodes from Wired's print ads so you could go directly to the company website. And they expected you to pay for a gadget to do this.

Speaking of things Wired was hyping in '96, anybody remember the whole "Push" thing?
posted by arto at 1:55 PM on December 31, 2003

anybody remember the whole "Push" thing?
actually, aren't email spam and popup windows kinda Push?
posted by amberglow at 2:48 PM on December 31, 2003

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