Technology is rapidly advancing as we speak, and the recent strides have certainly been impressive. We’ve seen the rise and fall of the CD, the switch from regular cell phones to smartphones, and we will see many more innovations in the next decade.
However, the road of technological advancements was never smooth. It has as many blunders as successes, if not more. Below are just a few of the glaring mistakes that stand out in the tech world up until now:
IBM PS/2 AND PCjr
While the original PC by IBM was a roaring success in 1981, the second shot by IB< was a decided blunder. The PS/2 was designed in order to be compatible with the older PC, but its Micro Channel Architecture that made this impossible. The same story happened with the PCjr and then later PS/1 series.
The PCjr was supposed to be a cheap personal computer, but its inability to run programs that a regular PC could do, as well as its keyboard and expensive software, were roundly criticized.
The reason behind the first PC success was that its parts were off-the-shelf instead of proprietary ones. This made the end product much more affordable, hence popular for the masses. However, it turned out that the clone makers for the PC, such as Compaq, managed to edge out IBM in this area.
Windows Vista faced many delays before launching and advertised its features like no tomorrow. This was supposed to be an operating system that was revolutionary and the best in the business till date. However, when it finally launched and was made available to the public, the reception was a massive flop.
In fact, the most awaited features like the Monad command and the WinFS turned out not to be a part of Windows Vista at all. The systems requirements, however, were humongous and kept growing. Moreover, Vista performed sluggishly, had compatibility issues with PCs running on Windows XP, and had countless bugs. All in all, it wasn’t much more than a recycling of the older Windows XP itself. This prompted many risk-averse users to switch to their competitor Linux.
3Com Ergo Audrey
This was basically an internet appliance from the company 3com and release in October 2009. All users have to do was connect the device to an internet provider and use the web for emails, playing videos and sounds, and synchronize the whole thing with Palm devices. Being designed for the kitchen, this device was meant to liven up what the makers considered to be the heart of every home.
The product was bulky, weighing more than a clunky laptop today. It also took up a lot of counter space with cords, keyboard, and other odds and ends. Plus, for a non-PC option, it was quite expensive. Audrey crashed and was discontinued after just 7.5 months on the market.
The cube might have looked like a sleek and shiny addition to the tech market, but its practical qualities didn’t win much attention. For one, it came at a very high price. Apple users may be used to paying through the nose now, but the world of technology wasn’t like it is now. A high price from Apple would likely deter most customers back then, even though it’s become a status symbol in current time.
Plus, the cube wasn’t able to use full-sized video cards, which was all that most people had access to. The technology might still have caught on, but an engineering flaw or some other problem caused cracks in the plastic casing. This ruined the aesthetics of the cube, which might arguably have been its best feature.
The iSmell was a scent synthesizer that strived to take Internet browsing and interaction to the next level. It was a small device that you could connect to your computer via a USB port and power through an electric outlet. It looked like a shark fin, with holes along the tip that let the small out. Using a cartridge, this device then proceeded to make new scents and release them according to the website you visited.
The device never really took off, even though there were plans for more versions. However, it didn’t even make it past its prototype stage. Simply put, there was no demand and no interest for it among computer users. The company, DigiScents, filed for bankruptcy soon after this flop, having sunk $20 million into a product that never even made it to the tech market. In fact, the iSmell was included in PC World Magazine’s list of “25 Worst Tech Products of All Time”.
The Nokia N-Gage was a device that strived to combine a telephone and a gaming system in one place. Its aim was to compete with the Game Boy Advance, which was fast taking over the tech market. By adding the telephone feature, Nokia hoped to capture some of that hype. However, they made a huge blunder in the button designs, as they were made for a phone, not the gaming people were used to.
Plus, the curved large shape of the N-Gage made users feel like they were talking with one large ear, earning it the nickname ‘Taco Phone’. This was also due to the fact that the microphone and speaker were on the edge of the device, so you had to hold it against your cheek for talking. Released in 2003, the N-Gage was finally discontinued in late 2005.
The Macintosh Portable
With almost every computer being portable these days, the Macintosh Portable should have made a lot of sense. However, the designers behind this product were clearly not updated on what the word ‘portable’ actually entailed. While it created a lot of excitement at first, the sales of the Macintosh Portable were quite low even in the beginning.
There were several admittedly attractive features here, with a hinged keyboard and a tracking ball you could place on either side of your keyboard. Unfortunately, the lead-acid batteries used to power it contributed a lot to the weight, which was 16 pounds in total. The batteries also tended to leak, which wasn’t at all a convenient aspect.
The : CueCat
This was essentially a barcode reader in the shape of a cat. While its novelty shape must have held some appeal, the product eventually didn’t work out. The premise was quite useful; customers could use the scanner to scan a barcode in a magazine and use it to directly visit a certain domain. The same could be done for an audio tone in TV commercials.
However, all this required one to also be in front of their computer. In this day and age, we have our phones with barcode apps. Back then, the PC wasn’t usually on unless it was actually needed. Plus, you had to register your gender, zip code, and email address in order to use the device. With privacy concerns all over, this device was never going to go very far.
There were many companies that tried to clone the iPod when it came out and took the tech market by the storm. Microsoft Zune was one of them, being a series of media player products that also included a music subscription service. However, all Zune services were discontinued in June 2012, with Microsoft turning to Xbox instead.
The main reason for Zune’s discontinuation was its faulty clock and the resultant crashing. Even though there were some good models of Zune devices available in the market, nothing could quite beat the Apple iPod in the end.
The Palm Foleo
This was a subnotebook computer that was announced in May 2007. Around a mere three months later, the product was canceled. The device itself was meant to be a smartphone companion. It ran on a Linux OS and has 256 MB flash memory along with a quick boot-up.
With the Foleo, users were meant to have wireless access due to both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There was also integrated software here, including an e-mail client that could sync to the Treo (Palm’s smartphone) email client. It also operated on the Opera web browser along with the ‘Documents to Go’ Office Suite.
The issue here was that the Palm Foleo just missed out on the market, being pulled before it was even started. The company announced that it wanted to focus on its main products: handheld computers and smartphones. Afterward, netbooks soon came into the market and took it over. With tablet being popular today, the Palm Foleo could easily have led the way by providing a device other than laptops and smartphones.
As we can see from the above entries, even the largest companies and the most successful names have made their fair share of mistakes. These blunders are not just fun to know, but they’re a learning experience for all of us. This is especially true if we’re involved in the tech industry in any way. By learning from the mistakes of the pioneers, we can make better and wiser decisions in the future.