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The Top 21 Tech Flops

samzenpus posted about 7 years ago | from the it-sounded-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 432

PetManimal writes "Whatever happened to Digital Audio Tape? Or Circuit City's DIVX program? Or IBM's PCjr. and the PS/1? Computerworld's list of 21 biggest tech flops is an amusing trip down the memory lane of tech failures. Some are obvious (Apple Newton), while others are obscure (Warner Communications' QUBE). Strangely, Y2K didn't make the list."

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Zune (5, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | about 7 years ago | (#18615233)

Next on the list... Zune.


Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615657)


Your fuckng whore of a mother sucks cock under the bridge and everybody knows it.

If it makes you feel any better, she is quite good at it.

Slurp. Slurp. Slurp, your mother says.


TheShadowHawk (789754) | about 7 years ago | (#18615755)

Yes... let out your anger... that's right... it will aaalll be ok soon.

Now take back the zune you bought..... and buy an ipod.

That's a good boy.

If were going to pick on Microsoft (5, Interesting)

MSRedfox (1043112) | about 7 years ago | (#18615801)

I'd say Windows ME is pretty high up there. While BOB was dead in the water from the get go, Windows ME just took a little while longer to die.

What happened to DAT? (4, Informative)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | about 7 years ago | (#18615235)

Frank Zappa tells [everything2.com] all.

DRM Killed DAT (3, Interesting)

Black-Man (198831) | about 7 years ago | (#18615315)

The early DAT decks... I know... I own a Panasonic SV3700 which I paid close to $1800 for back in the day... had a "copy protection" scheme SCMS where you were limited copying (digital copy) using the SPDIF I/O at 44.1KHz. So... it basically killed the market for a cheap (mass produced) consumer model, so you had to pay outragous $$ for the Pro version. All studios mastered onto DAT, so you again were forced to buy one. You could use the pro I/O without the copy protection and there actually was a DIP switch on the SV3700 where you could defeat the SCMS. I think it was the only one who had that "feature".

DAT is dead... good.

Re:DRM Killed DAT (4, Interesting)

AshtangiMan (684031) | about 7 years ago | (#18615379)

DATs strength was field recording . . . live concert recordings. Better than tape and minidisc. But for listening purposes, it was best to create CDs. That way you get direct access and reliability. I've not experienced it directly, but hear that dat suffers from shelf life issues . . . happily my library is intact. I believe that these issues must arise from usage rather than simply age. At the end all of the Dead tapers had transitioned to DAT, and the early mixing board bootlegs were also being traded as DAT (from the original reel tapes, not dubbed from cassettes). The SCMS could be switched off on the TASCAM decks, I don't know about the Panasonic models.

Re:DRM Killed DAT (3, Interesting)

gobbo (567674) | about 7 years ago | (#18615559)

DATs strength was field recording . . . I've not experienced it directly, but hear that dat suffers from shelf life issues . . .

Yes, I have some DAT tapes here that I'm anxious about, as I haven't converted them and me and my pals have all moved on to other tech.

One of DAT's more notorious flaws was its sensitivity to head alignment, so that a tape recorded on one deck wouldn't play on another, sometimes it was sheer voodoo: blood, feathers, dancing cables and hauling decks around.

While the portable Tascams were sweet machines for field recording, they were bulky and $2800 CDN. The next step down in price was $1000 and had no XLR inputs. As far as I'm concerned, we're in an in-between phase: the right replacement for DAT hasn't come along yet, and I just use MiniDV cameras when I need to record in the field. It's a drag, audio should be so much easier than video.

Re:DRM Killed DAT (1)

afidel (530433) | about 7 years ago | (#18615593)

Use a subnotebook with a USB audio card with XLR inputs, considerably cheaper than $2800 CDN and much more flexible. You can even do the postproduction on the same subnotebook.

Re:DRM Killed DAT (1)

Cylix (55374) | about 7 years ago | (#18615977)

The problem with PC audio devices...

They can have issues. Resources can get chewed up and bits lost.

Though I've not had a USB sound card. I do have to wonder about bandwidth allocation and other system issues that can interrupt audio. Basically speaking, there are a wealth of issues that can go wrong and input a chirp.Sure, it doesn't have to happen all of the time, but once is just enough to ruin a field recording.

I suppose I'm just a sucker for special purpose devices myself.

Hell, I'm so paranoid I run two decks just for the clean footage in mobile setups. It has saved my ass in post far too many times.

Re:DRM Killed DAT (1)

Blahbooboo3 (874492) | about 7 years ago | (#18615975)

As far as I'm concerned, we're in an in-between phase: the right replacement for DAT hasn't come along yet

Actually, tapers have moved to flash based recorders. The Edirol R-09 is an amazing unit for live taping... many more flash memory units coming as well...

Re:DRM Killed DAT (1)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | about 7 years ago | (#18615671)

This was a very early attempt at DRM and it carried the force of law owing to the Digital Home Recording Act or some such claptrap. Fortunately it's completely trivial to remove the SCMS with less than $10 worth of parts. Simply hard-wire a CS8416 or a similar part to set the pro/consumer flag to pro, allowing unlimited serial copies.

Re:What happened to DAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615435)

Frank Zappa said nothing about DAT, you retard.

DAT was a flop? (2, Interesting)

kinabrew (1053930) | about 7 years ago | (#18615243)

I thought it was still used?

Re:DAT was a flop? (1)

mmkkbb (816035) | about 7 years ago | (#18615339)

I think it is losing to hard disk recorders not that HD capacity is more affordable. Sony has stopped making recorders. However, it was a common thing to have among recording studios. However, it was pitched as a replacement for audio cassette in the consumer space, where it failed utterly. Worse than MiniDisc.

The article is dead wrong about Philips' involvement. Philips and Matsushita developed the competing DCC [wikipedia.org], which actually played analog cassettes. DAT has based on videotapes.

Re:DAT was a flop? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615351)

As you mention, it failed in the CONSUMER REALM, but not in the professional realm, where it was, and still is, widely used; it's still the de facto standard recording medium alongside the newer A-DAT.

Sucky article, and even suckier and badly informed author.

Re:DAT was a flop? (2)

lightversusdark (922292) | about 7 years ago | (#18615445)

ADAT is dead and buried as a tape format.
The ADAT protocol that was introduced on the hardware is still the most convenient (and cost-effective) way to pipe multichannel audio around, and will (has already?) outlast the ADAT recording medium.
DCC has nothing to do with DAT, it was positioned as a competitor for MiniDisc, and lost out basically because you didn't have to rewind MiniDiscs. Fuck all commercial albums were released in either format.

And while I'm at it, SCMS was basically the precursor of HDCP, as far as I can tell, and was in a large part responsible for the failure of DAT as a consumer format.

Re:DAT was a flop? (1)

lightversusdark (922292) | about 7 years ago | (#18615473)

And shit, ADATs are SVHS tapes, DATs are DATs (the same as DDS tapes, except DDS tapes are only cut from the centre of the tape).

Re:DAT was a flop? (5, Informative)

lightversusdark (922292) | about 7 years ago | (#18615373)

Absolutely, it still sees a lot of use.
It's still the standard way to take music to a mastering house for cutting, and even in the digital domain when people aren't burning data such as .wavs or .aiffs (many "computerless" DAWs only bounce to Red Book) it obviates all of the jitter and other issues associated with audio CDs as a master for duplication.
Consider mastering DVD audio with a 48kHz audio sample rate - you can't burn an audio CD at anything except 44.1. And the StellaDAT and some Pioneer decks support 88.2/96k on conventional tapes (use DDS to be sure).
I haven't even started on DDS drives for archival. DATs aren't going away.

P.S. The audio world is waiting for the "killer app" that allows you to stream in an audio DAT faster than real-time. DDS drives read up to 8x, and quite a few drives have audio-capable firmware. Remember when you could first rip a CD faster than it took to play? It seems archaic to pay hundreds an hour for mastering and waste the first hour striping in the album in real time. Perhaps the fact that this hasn't been addressed for a niche market with money to burn indicates that DAT is effectively "unsupported" nowadays..

Re:DAT was a flop? (2, Insightful)

fyoder (857358) | about 7 years ago | (#18615389)

I just bought a DAT deck on ebay. But I probably would not have were it not for the fact that my old DAT deck died and I have material on DAT. I suppose I should have saved it on CD or DVD, but I'm not that confident about the longevity of these mediums. Of course, tape will deteriorate as well. I suppose I should just resign myself to eventual non-existence, both of myself and of the artifacts that mark my being here. Bummer.

What are you archiving to? Is there a system for transfering digital data to vinyl? Short of carving ones and zeroes into stone, that might be the way to go, provided it were cared for properly. But until such time as I have my digital to vinyl transcriber, I think I'll keep my DAT tapes and try to keep a working deck on hand.

Re:DAT was a flop? (3, Informative)

mcpkaaos (449561) | about 7 years ago | (#18615915)

Is there a system for transfering digital data to vinyl?

Sure is! [vestax.com]. However, I wouldn't bank on a long lifespan from vinyl you cut yourself. There is a lot more to producing quality vinyl than meets the eye. I looked into doing my own 12" releases in the early 90s when I was big on live remixing (I used to fancy myself a dj at one point). The quality is extremely difficult to maintain without extremely expensive equipment (and proper masters). Still, cutting your own records from something that'll fit on your desk is pretty nice, and you can't beat the sound of fresh vinyl through a good stylus!

Re:DAT was a flop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615947)

Man, back them up onto dvd.
DAT tapes don't last forever. You don't even know yours will play on another old DAT machine. They can be finickety. Helical scan with 4mm tape and all that.

I have no expectations that recordable DVDs will have a longer life span than my DAT tapes, but...
They are much easier than DAT to make duplicate backups of.
You don't risk them breaking while you make the copy.

Re:DAT was a flop? (5, Insightful)

emjoi_gently (812227) | about 7 years ago | (#18615433)

All over the world, DAT tapes are being inserted into servers for the nightly backup....
Yeah, but it didn't succeed as a consumer audio product. Good idea, but never caught on.

Newtons... great devices, a bit ahead of their time. But towards the end of their life, they were starting to get the needed power to be useful. Another generation, and Apple would have gotten there.

Lisa? Great concept machine. Totally amazed me when I first saw one. But cost too much to sell many. Evolved into a Macintosh.

OS/2 2.0? A brilliant OS for it's time. It gained a good deal of support. Just not quite enough to survive against the MS beast.


None of these products were "bad". They were all quite innovative and gained fans, but they just didn't quite crack the economic threshold.

But Digital Compact Cassette was a real flop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615523)

Ever heard of DCC [wikipedia.org]? Maybe not, it was supposed to be the cassette sucessor, digital. But while DAT had some life in pro circles, this one flopped, hard. Well, it helped beer [newscientist.com], yeah, I am surprised too.

Computer World should do its homework better.

Why would Y2K make the list? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615251)

It was a REAL problem despite this revisionist attitude that some now have that it was nothing at all. You know why you get to think that? Because a lot of people spent a LOT of time fixing the problem so it wouldn't be a problem. What you see is a sign of success. Sheesh.

What next? The polio vaccine was a flop, too?

Re:Why would Y2K make the list? (3, Insightful)

Typoboy (61087) | about 7 years ago | (#18615529)

How much was spent? US$8.6 billion by the US Federal Gov't [gcn.com] and a lot more elsewhere. An 'industry' that big is hardly a flop. I think the problem is that people want drama, they want something sensational. Potentially Bad Problem Gets Fixed gets old quickly.

Re:Why would Y2K make the list? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#18615973)

An 'industry' that big is hardly a flop.

      So when is the "next" one - 2037 or something isn't it? Not as "catchy" as y2k though :D

Re:Why would Y2K make the list? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615591)

True; but there was also a heck of a lot of hype from clueless consultants. Mostly, it was fiancial systems that were going to be affected and when there is real money on the line, they make damn sure they get fixed. Most non-finacial systems were designed by engineers that were never stupid enough to store two digit dates.

Clueless consultants were going on about air conditioning switches that don't even care what day of the month it is - they just go five days on, two days off...

Re:Why would Y2K make the list? (5, Funny)

funkdancer (582069) | about 7 years ago | (#18615679)

What's this bullshit with car maintenance. They tell me I have to spend $250 every 6 months, and I do it, and my car STILL doesn't brake down or have any issues. Bloody rip off.

Biggest flop? This first post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615279)

And the mods will prove it. ;-)

Mod parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615557)

Prove him wrong.
By the way, this article is so far off that I would actually consider it flamebait.

Y2K?? (5, Insightful)

Yakman (22964) | about 7 years ago | (#18615301)

What's Y2K got to do with tech flops? While there's no way to know one way or another, it could well be that nothing major happened precisely because people made effort to remediate and test any issues prior to 1/1/2000.

Y2K??-"Stoves are hot!". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615393)

You know every time I hear something like "false alarm" when it comes to Y2K? I'm tempted to say that it should have never been fixed. A little pain seems to be required to drive the point home that you don't wait till the shit hits the fan before you do something about it. A lesson the submitter doesn't understand.

Re:Y2K?? (1)

reemul (1554) | about 7 years ago | (#18615569)

I was one of those testers fixing an enterprise product for y2k. There were a lot of things that needed corrected, not just the 2 digit year problem. For example, correctly knowing that 2000 was a leap year was a lingering problem. Without a large testing and programming effort lots of software would have crashed. It was a non-issue to the world at large because a bunch of geeks kicked ass fixing the bugs before they blew up.

F22 Raptor trip over dateline Re:Y2K?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615879)

I think the recent test flight of the new F22 Raptors as previously reported on Slashdot: Software Bug Halts F-22 Flight [slashdot.org] is all one needs to point out when discussing how successful the Y2K effort was.

Re:Y2K?? (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 7 years ago | (#18615885)

Really? I once wrote a piece of code that used the simplifying assumption that year mod 4 was 0 ==> leap year.

This was documented in the code, as well as in the design documentation. This was for an embedded system that there was less than a snowball's chance in hell of being around in 2100. I think it's out of service now (and no, it wasn't a bad system. It was one of the unsung well-designed systems used in Gulf War I).

Y2K (1)

ktappe (747125) | about 7 years ago | (#18615307)

Y2K isn't on the list because it was a bug not a flop. They're not the same thing.

Not a bug. (1, Interesting)

Belial6 (794905) | about 7 years ago | (#18615907)

Y2K was not a bug. It was the fact that the software was used out of spec. The programs that would have had a problem with Y2k were never designed to be used past the year 2000. That was the point. Saying that Y2K was a bug is exactly the same as saying all of our software now suffers from the Y10K bug. The Y2K problem was usually created because the software lasted longer than expected. It's usually considered good when a product lasts longer than expected.

Now, you could argue that choosing a 2 digit year was a bad design decision, but the reality is that every product draws a line where they expect their product to fail, and decide that making the product even more robust just doesn't justify the cost.

Dreamcast was not a flop (5, Interesting)

PoderOmega (677170) | about 7 years ago | (#18615309)

When I think flop, I think something embarrassing that no one bought or appreciated. The Dreamcast was a loser in terms of sales, but not a flop. The article itself says 10 million were sold. In terms of gaming fun I had with the system, it was a huge success.

Re:Dreamcast was not a flop (1)

soft_guy (534437) | about 7 years ago | (#18615537)

If we are going by that criteria, I guess the Newton was a success too because I sure love mine.

Re:Dreamcast was not a flop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615767)

agreed. i love my dreamcast, and while i don't play it as much as i used to i still keep it around.

Lisa was a step, not a bomb (2, Interesting)

Toe, The (545098) | about 7 years ago | (#18615333)

Lisa was a step in the evolution from the Apple II line to the Macintosh.

The other things on the list are dead-ends. Lisa wasn't profitable, but it also wasn't a dead-end.

Re:Lisa was a step, not a bomb (1)

soft_guy (534437) | about 7 years ago | (#18615427)

After they cut the price and renamed it the Macintosh XL, it actually sold pretty well.

Re:Lisa was a step, not a bomb (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#18615455)

Uhh no. The Lisa was more advanced than the Macintosh.. Apple had to take a step back to make something that they could actually sell to the mainstream. Unfortunately they took YEARS to get back the baseline of the Lisa cause, hey, if you're onto a winner, don't screw with it right?

Re:Lisa was a step, not a bomb (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 7 years ago | (#18615835)

The Lisa was more advanced than the Macintosh

I love the Lisa UI. When I use Gnome for documents (as opposed to code) I always work as close to the Lisa model as I can. Inidently there was an article on digg a couple of days ago about Lisa emulators. They are toys of course, but it would be nice to see a pure document oriented UI, perhaps as a Gnome configuration.

Y2k isn't on the list because it was a success! (2, Funny)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 7 years ago | (#18615335)

Strangely, Y2K didn't make the list.

Y2k isn't on the list because it was a HUGE success for the consulting firms that flogged it. (That, and it was the COBOL programmer full employment act for a few years.)

Next up.... (1)

grimdawg (954902) | about 7 years ago | (#18615353)

Forget tech flops, what about tech GIGAFLOPS??

I heard PS3 was going to be about 100 gigaflops or something.

Don't bad-mouth my IBM PS/1 (1)

Skreech (131543) | about 7 years ago | (#18615357)

Hey! That was my primary system back in the day. I don't see how it was a flop, it was pretty much like other 386s of the time. Many a BBS were dialed and game played. What was the problem with it?

Couldn't get Linux to recognize something in that system. I can't remember now but there was some proprietary bus or something not supported (and I doubt it was ever added after the fact either). It would refuse to find the hard drive, so I could only boot Linux from a floppy.

That couldn't be why it's supposedly a flop, though. News to me. =/

Re:Don't bad-mouth my IBM PS/1 (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 7 years ago | (#18615741)

Do you mean the MCA bus? Kinda like VLB but a bit better, the only problem was that it was locked in (proprietary).

And I think Linux has support for certain MCA adapters nowadays...

To clarify (2, Informative)

madsenj37 (612413) | about 7 years ago | (#18615369)

A flop to the writer is a product that had more hype than users. For example, he notes that DAT is used in pro arenas only and that OS/2 has a user base but one that has never reached the hype it had...

They're mostly marketing flops, not technical ones (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#18615419)

Most of these product were OK technically (or at least not awful compared to some products out there). They did not flop necessarily due to technical flaws but due to marketing flaws (failure to read the market, or getting upstaged by some other product).

To clarify-Blue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615527)

That would be Microchannel.

Re:To clarify (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615819)

OK, if we go by the "more hype than users" concept, I nominate:

VAX 9000, DEC's humongous 32 bit system that had a number of interesting
technical innovations (e.g., speculative execution). They even ported
ULTRIX to it, but kept secret the fact that ULTRIX could run most
applications about 10-15% faster than VMS. The number of ULTRIX/9000
(paying) customers could be counted on one hand. The total number of
VAX9000 customers were under 100, IIRC. Development costs ran into 9 figures...

TRAX - anyone remember this one? It was a 16-bit Transaction Processing
operating system that DEC threw out over the transom in the late 70's,
and probably didn't sell more than a dozen copies, despite a lot of marketing.

AT&T's 3B series computers - they even managed to win some interesting
gummint contracts, but when the end-user agencies tried to use the things,
they turned around and bought VAXes instead...

Thinking Machines Corp's massively parallel processors. Incredible technology,
phenomenol performance, IF you could figure out how to program it properly.

I disagree with Smart Appliances being listed (4, Interesting)

Trojan35 (910785) | about 7 years ago | (#18615385)

It's a technology that's on its way to becoming a reality. As soon as RFID replaces bar codes, you're going to see smart applies everywhere. It won't fix someone putting the milk carton back in the fridge when it's empty, but it will still be very useful. Imagine pulling recipes just for the foods you currently have, printing out a shopping list straight from your fridge, etc. It *is* a good idea, it just won't work until RFID arrives.

Still the article was a fun read.

Re:I disagree with Smart Appliances being listed (1)

physicsnick (1031656) | about 7 years ago | (#18615777)

Yeah, the article had a few of those. I disagreed with the paperless office. Yes, the paperless office hasn't arrived yet, but that's because we're just now finally getting to the point where we have the software to manage huge databases of files accessible by hundreds of employees, the widespread internet connectivity to make electronic documents easier to mail than paper ones, and the storage space required to actually hold the stuff.

I'd like to think that slowly, companies will be more interested in data storage than having to maintain a warehouse full of millions of sheets of paper. Hard drives crash, but buildings burn down. It's a heck of a lot easier to archive data twice than to build two warehouses.

No TI-99/4A? (1)

mmkkbb (816035) | about 7 years ago | (#18615387)

The first 16-bit PC that eventually went on to take down TI's personal computing division by losing too much money? Meanwhile, I see fridges in the store that can display TV and whatnot. Lame.

Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615391)

Somehow, the submitter is confusing Y2K with a disappointing product introduction?

DAT, etc. (5, Insightful)

ktakki (64573) | about 7 years ago | (#18615397)

DAT might have flopped in the consumer sector (I blame CD for that), but it was the bee's knees for audio professionals, considering that it was the lowest cost and most convenient PCM format at the time. Prior to DAT, digital masters meant using a Sony 1630, PCM audio on a large videocassette. There were digital open-reel solutions, but these never caught on for mixdown and mastering.

As for the rest of this list, it seems to me that a lot of these entries (Newton, PC jr, VR, Qube) were just inadequate hardware/software implementations of valid concepts. Consider the Newton: ahead of its time, it just needed sufficient CPU/RAM/display tech to become the Palm/Blackberry/smartphone that it should have been. The IBM PC jr was unarguably a flop, but the concept of an affordable home PC lives on in the $299 Dell or $399 Mac Mini. VR was a whole lot of hype (and yes, I bought into it, seeing as I was a 3D animator back in the mid-'90s), but now look at WoW or Second Life. And Qube? One word: TiVo. I realize that Qube was meant to be a more interactive product/service, but the web co-opted the e-commerce aspect of the Qube. I think the only interactivity people want from their TV is to watch what they want when they want.

Finally, the paperless office is not dead. It just smells funny. I worked with a number of law firms and mortgage companies who are carrying decades of paperwork around, and are either using solutions that allow them to scan/index/search/retrieve these documents or are looking for one. It's a really big deal in the real estate industry considering that each mortgage closing generates a package that can be a couple of hundred pages. Multiply that by a typical mortgage company's 2,000 to 10,000 closings a year and consider that these documents need to be retained for as long as thirty years.


DAT Tapes in a music store... (3, Informative)

White Shade (57215) | about 7 years ago | (#18615587)

I work at a music store and I see people buy DAT tapes on a weekly basis... they're certainly not flying off the shelves, but they're not exactly sitting there collecting dust either.

Maybe DAT wasn't a huge worldwide phenomenon, but they certainly aren't a "flop"!

Re:DAT, etc. (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 7 years ago | (#18615785)

DAT might have flopped in the consumer sector (I blame CD for that), but it was the bee's knees for audio professionals, considering that it was the lowest cost and most convenient PCM format at the time. Prior to DAT, digital masters meant using a Sony 1630, PCM audio on a large videocassette. There were digital open-reel solutions, but these never caught on for mixdown and mastering.

Also, don't forget backups. Instead of large expensive proprietary tape solutions, a dat drive could fit in a 3.5" drive bay or be carried around. And 2GB (uncompressed) per cartridge in the early 90's was a lot of space.

DIVX Players (1)

BigDumbAnimal (532071) | about 7 years ago | (#18615407)

From TFA:

...and was pretty much sunk by the middle of 1999, leaving some people with worthless equipment...
As I recall, the DIVX players could also play regular DVDs. They just cost more than a regular DVD players because they had the modem and other components to facilitate DIVX service.

Re:DIVX Players (1)

glennrrr (592457) | about 7 years ago | (#18615549)

Yes, DiVX players could play DVDs as well. I bought my parents an RCA player which was built quite well, and served them for many years.

bah (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 7 years ago | (#18615443)

The PC junior wasn't a technical flop. Maybe a marketing one, but technically it was just an entry-level IBM personal computer, that ran PC software.

Or is the argument that the PC is a technical flop in general?

I love you, PCjr (2, Interesting)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | about 7 years ago | (#18615851)

Yeah, I'm a little miffed about that. The PCjr was the first home computer my family had and we had a blast with it. Some of the points in the article are a bit unfair; the wireless keyboard wasn't the only option, we had a wired one with perfectly normal keys. Some of the software was on the bizarre cartridges but most came on perfectly normal 5.25" floppy disks (including the original King's Quest, originally written specifically for the PCjr). Sure, it didn't have a hard drive, but that wasn't very unusual at the time, and is perfectly understandable since it was intended as affordable system.

For a computer of the time it had unusually good video and audio capacity (okay, so it was basically 4 channels of PC speaker. Still, that was better than most). There was a ton of good software for it. It came with BASIC in the system ROM (me and my brother cut our teeth transcribing games from Family Computer magazine). If it weren't for the PCjr, I would be undoubtably be a different person today.

Commodore had its share (0)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | about 7 years ago | (#18615447)

In 1992 Commodore, in its great wisdom released a repackaged A500 to compete with the 486 PC. This POS known as the Amiga 600 was the beginning of the end. They also released the failures known as the CDTV and the CD 32, but the A600, and a few month later the A1200 firmly established that CBM sucked. The 1992 A1200 had a downgraded version of the CPU Apple put in its 1987 Apple II.

Re:Commodore had its share (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615717)

There are a number of errors in your comment, but I'll correct your final statement. The Apple II line used a MOS 6502 or variant of that chip, nothing like the 68000 series used on the Amiga. Every version of the Apple II was inferior the Amiga line.

Someone Remembers Qube (1)

Black-Man (198831) | about 7 years ago | (#18615479)

Time Warners ill-fated attempt at interactive TV in the 80's. Limited 2-way communication via a set-top box in 1981. I remember Todd Rundgren doing an interactive interview in '80 in Columbus and using Qube to interact w/ the subscribers. He had a series of questions he was to pose to the audience and Time Warner nixed the idea and forced him to use their's. Stupid questions like "Do you own a personal computer? Press F1 for Yes, F2 for No". How f'n stupid... who even knew what one was in 1980?? The funniest part, most replied Yes! They thought their Qube box was a PC.

Ahead of Time Flop (4, Interesting)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 7 years ago | (#18615495)

1. "Paperless office". I think word got around that this was as much Management Glamor. Of course you couldn't ban the Scribble-Note. What everyone meant was Paper-Reduced, and this HAS happened. When you're actually working on something, you're gonna have some paper floating around. (Anyone want to join me in a round of PrintReport, FurrowBrow, FixMistake ?) When everyone signs off and it becomes a done-deal, *then* you scan it, & store it on servers.

2. Virtual Reality. This hasn't happened ... *yet*. Just because the Adoption Curve is 35 years instead of 15 doesn't make it a flop. The Revenge of the Nerds movies were signs of their times. Today, we wail about Joe Average, but Joe Average *doesn't* ridicule computers anymore. 3 years from now when the eruption from the Microsoft Volcano dies down, we'll be able to concentrate a little more on *apps*, not OS's. (And 2010 is the next symbolic Arthur Clarke date, though his timeline was torched by many people.) In 2010, some elite gamers will have acquired some high end VR gaming hardware, and There It Will Be. It will take ANOTHER 5 years minimum (And getting past another OS crisis!) before Joe Average types Memos in Thin Air.

Qube (1)

Orangedog_on_crack (544931) | about 7 years ago | (#18615517)

Since I grew up in central Ohio during the 1970's, I think I can talk about the whole "Qube" experience. The remote was a big, honkin box with a 3 x 10 grid of buttons to change channels and 4 or 5 "response buttons" along the right hand side. Mostly these were only useful for playing poker with Flippo The Clown, Warner's big time celeb. Later we found out that if you mashed down all of those buttons on the side all at once, you could watch any of the pay per view movies for free.

Why should Y2K make the list? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 7 years ago | (#18615555)

It wasn't a flop - it made a lot of money for a lot of people (programmers and companies specializing in Y2K). Flops don't tend to do that and how would we measure the "success" or "failure" of Y2K? Lack of problems that developed afterward means failures?

Also lack of problems doesn't mean it was all hype. (I like to think that the raised alarm saved problems later on, but I have severe doubts about whether it was worth the worry or hype it garnered.)

PS/1 was scary. (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | about 7 years ago | (#18615571)

Seriously, for a machine intended as a user-friendly, entry-level computer, its form factor left much to be desired. It was squat, would pitch a fit if the mouse wasn't connected on boot (a first for consumer PCs at the time), and its front edges looked like a cartoon shark. Saw-toothed flanges halfway down the front of the main box, hard and sharp-looking corners, and a weirdly sock-bent monitor screamed "I'll bite you!" and "Don't try to pick me up!" It was like the Hyde to the Mac's Jekyll.

DAT (4, Insightful)

HairyCanary (688865) | about 7 years ago | (#18615595)

They give a few reasons why they think DAT failed, but it seems to me that there is a big obvious one right in front that was overlooked -- sequential access. I think CD's were immediately attractive only partly because they were digital. The killer feature was random access.

What about the Apple Pippin and AMD PIC? (1)

MojoRilla (591502) | about 7 years ago | (#18615597)

Apple's Pippin [wikipedia.org] certainly seems right for a technical flop list. A game machine based on the Macintosh; a platform well known for games. Much hype, under powered when delivered, quickly killed.

Also, although technically under the category net PC's, what about the AMD PIC (see here [wikipedia.org] or here [amdboard.com])? I briefly was involved in a project to develop media for the PIC. Remarkably, this low cost computer made its debut two years after the i-Opener failed. You would think they would learn.

Blah blah blah Newton Blah Blah MS Bob... (1)

cbreaker (561297) | about 7 years ago | (#18615627)

We see about two of these "TOP TECH FLOPS" editorials and blog posts a month.

WE KNOW. MS BOB sucked. Newton failed. We all are very much aware that the .com "bubble" burst several years ago.

Yet, these editorials keep drawing traffic time and time again. So, without further ado, visit my website for "THE MILLENNIUM'S 1,500 TOP TECH FLOPS!"

Absolute Rubbish (4, Informative)

Enderandrew (866215) | about 7 years ago | (#18615639)

The Newton paved the way for PDAs, and the Newton in certain ways compares more than favorably with existing PDAs today.

DAT has been a staple of industry professionals for ages. As an indie filmmaker, I've found cheap digital audio equipment which is supposed to be superior to be rather poor in comparison. I'd kill to have good DAT equipment.

eBook readers are perhaps a flop in that few will invest a device that does solely that, but eBooks as a whole gain in popularity every year.

The PCjr entered an area when IBM-based PCs had hardly become the norm, and many critics believed a personal computer in the home would never become a reality. It was a step in the right direction, and people forget that there were MANY alternatives back then. The fact that 99% of home computers are based on IBM standards today is not a flop.

Internet Currency? Last time I checked there are several "points" programs on the web where you can earn and use points that aren't currency themselves. This business model still operates today. Furthermore, the concept of a firm handling transactions across multiple borders for online currency paved the way for one of the most successful websites ever, Ebay/Paypal.

Just as the article states, Iridium is still in business.

Bob was a flop, and one I commonly mock. However I promise you, that the concept will be revisited and better marketed the second time around. Honestly, I imagine that Second Life will become, or inspire the next generation of Bob, allowing us all to make virtual spaces, which in turn will link to applications and activities within this virtual world.

The NetPC? I still know people who own Web TV, and the market might have continued if Microsoft hadn't bought them out. People forget that Net PC devices were a threat to people whose business depended on the PC model. People also still make homemade Net PCs out of things like XBoxes and such.

Push technology? The article fails to mention that while Desktop channels were obtrusive and filled with advertiser content, this concept is very successful today. RSS feeds, AJAX technology and the like are very much staples of today's web. The article also fails to mention that Push technology preceeded and eventually became streaming media as well, and was largely developed for and by the porn industry. You'd be surprised how much technology comes from the porn industry.

I could go on and on and on, but I have to head out the door.

Absolute Rubber. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615779)

"The NetPC? I still know people who own Web TV, and the market might have continued if Microsoft hadn't bought them out."

The main limitation on WebTV was the display. But as those improve WebTV will remain viable(HDTV). Mainly because a lot of people don't want to deal with the complexity and headache of a PC (that's why consoles do well)

"You'd be surprised how much technology comes from the porn industry."

In the past. Presently innovation is coming from elsewhere.

Re:Absolute Rubbish (1)

Osty (16825) | about 7 years ago | (#18615863)

Bob was a flop, and one I commonly mock. However I promise you, that the concept will be revisited and better marketed the second time around. Honestly, I imagine that Second Life will become, or inspire the next generation of Bob, allowing us all to make virtual spaces, which in turn will link to applications and activities within this virtual world.

The concept of Bob was definitely a flop, but the technology behind it was well ahead of its time (well, for PCs, anyway). The UI was rendered completely using resolution-independent vectors which, while NeXT was doing this for years before Bob, is really something that has only become truly practical in the latest generation of operating systems (OS X and Vista) that can offload the cost to advanced GPUs.

Also, as much as people hate Clippy (and I'm happy the Office Assistant is finally, truly dead with Office 12), Microsoft got a lot of mileage out of that portion of Bob. It also introduced the concept of different users to a market sector that was still all about single-user computing (yes, the Bob profiles were superficial and ran on top of the single-user Win3.x, but at the time I would suspect the average home user had never heard of or used NT or a multi-user *nix). Given the configurability of spaces in Bob, I suspect today's Myspace crowd would've loved it :).

If you've never tried Bob, it runs quite well in Virtual PC [msdn.com] (I'm sure you can easily find a copy of Bob and Win3.x or Win95 out there on the interwebs ...). Apparently it's also still fully functional on XP. You should try it, if only to see first-hand why it sucked so much.

Re:Absolute Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615883)

I think Swatch Internet Time and Microsoft SPOT Smart Watch deserve to be mentioned.

Re:Absolute Rubbish (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#18615933)

The PCjr entered an area when IBM-based PCs had hardly become the norm, and many critics believed a personal computer in the home would never become a reality. It was a step in the right direction, and people forget that there were MANY alternatives back then. The fact that 99% of home computers are based on IBM standards today is not a flop.

      Putting old fart hat on:

      IBM computers were at least 4 times more expensive than the IBM "compatibles" or "clones". The PC Jr. was an attempt by IBM to provide a "lower cost" PC for the home market. Unfortunately apart from the built in music chip (at a time when everyone else's machines just went "beep") and a few graphics tweaks, it was a dog of a machine and still way more expensive than IBM-compatibles (at least double the price).

      It flopped because people can detect crap, and are unwilling to pay premium prices for it.

      The fact that most computers today are "IBM" type computers is largely due to the proliferation of cheap clones. When a genuine IBM computer would cost you $5000 or $6000, a "name brand" clone (like Dell or Gateway) would cost you about $1000 less. A generic clone could be had/built for $1500 or less. IMO price is the main reason for the 80x86 architecture's great successes.

      As an aside, I wonder how popular computers would be nowadays had patents and copyrights been enforced as vigorously in the 1980's as they are today.

Segway (5, Interesting)

JeremyR (6924) | about 7 years ago | (#18615645)

More in the category of "not living up to the hype" than "flop" is the Segway. "IT" (as it was known for more than a year, shrouded in secrecy for more than a year before its unveiling) was to be "revolutionary" and change all our lives. Did that happen? I'm still waiting...

I'd also like to nominate Windows Vista for the list, but even that might be a little premature.

Speech recognition (5, Funny)

vivaoporto (1064484) | about 7 years ago | (#18615699)

From TFA:

Over the years, Bill Gates (among others) has repeatedly predicted that speech recognition will be a major form of input, but it hasn't happened yet.

That's not true. I'm posting this comment using a Windows Vista speech recognition software and Dear Aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all.

Re:Speech recognition (1)

glittalogik (837604) | about 7 years ago | (#18615833)

Plus, many of us use computers in public places where speech recognition would be clumsy, embarrassing or downright rude.

Jay: "All you motherfuckers are gonna pay! You are the ones who are the ball-lickers! We're gonna fuck your mothers while you watch and cry like little bitches!" etc. etc.

Newton != Flop (3, Interesting)

vertigoCiel (1070374) | about 7 years ago | (#18615713)

The Newton, while utlimately too large and expensive for widespread adoption, was certainly not a "flop" by any standards. Without the Newton tackling the quirks of handwriting recognition, and figuring out a GUI that works, there would be no Palm, and no PDA as we know it.

FTFA - learn binary please (4, Funny)

guruevi (827432) | about 7 years ago | (#18615771)

Quote: proving once again that in the warped universe of techno-hype, one plus one can equal zero.

In the techno universe, we do binary, and 1 plus 1 will always yield 0 with a 1 in the overflow bin.

Re:FTFA - learn binary please (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#18615861)

proving once again that in the warped universe of techno-hype, one plus one can equal zero.

      Nah, any computer programmer knows that 1 AND 1 = 1. Were you referring to XOR, by any chance?

I can't believe they forgot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615875)

CmdrTaco's wedding night. That limp-wristed, limp-dicked fag took half a dozen viagra and still couldn't get it up.

What about MiniDisc? (2, Informative)

ZeldorBlat (107799) | about 7 years ago | (#18615881)

It was as big a flop as DAT, only better. I suppose the incredibly cheap price of blank CD media can be held responsible for both these failures...

No Apple product was ever a flop!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18615897)

Please take it off the list before you make me cry.


Every stupid Apple user (aka Steve Job's buttboys)

silly article (1)

wmeyer (17620) | about 7 years ago | (#18615929)

What this article demonstrates most clearly is that the writer knows little about many of the items on the list. OS/2 was not without problems, but it got more things right than wrong, and saved my butt on a major project that was causing Win3.11 to crash in a heartbeat. DAT, as has been noted, was not a flop, but lost its shot at commercial (consumer) success because of the greed of the RIAA, and the stupidity of politicians. And so it goes. Many other comments have pointed out the errors in other topics. The real bottom line is that when you don't know the history, and don't do the research, you can write pretty silly stuff.

DRM (2, Informative)

jas_public (1049030) | about 7 years ago | (#18615949)

Some of the loudest hype has been for DRM, which is a major ongoing flop. It required US legislation (DMCA) just to artificially prolong the flop.

SelectaVision anyone? (4, Informative)

edwardpickman (965122) | about 7 years ago | (#18615989)

This had to be one of the biggest flops in history. Essentially a LP record that played movies they started to degrade after the first few playings and were never that good to begin with. RCA lost something like 60 million on that turkey and today it's all but forgotten.
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