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The Top 21 Tech Flops 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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The Top 21 Tech Flops

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  • Zune (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toe, The ( 545098 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:02PM (#18615233)
    Next on the list... Zune.
  • by Breakfast Pants ( 323698 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:02PM (#18615235) Journal
    Frank Zappa tells [everything2.com] all.
    • DRM Killed DAT (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Black-Man ( 198831 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:11PM (#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 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by AshtangiMan ( 684031 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:20PM (#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 (Score:4, Interesting)

          by gobbo ( 567674 ) <{wrewrite} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:36PM (#18615559) Journal

          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.

          • by afidel ( 530433 )
            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 (Score:4, Informative)

            by flimflam ( 21332 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @07:34AM (#18618529) Homepage
            What I know about is audio for film production, where portable DAT recorders (mostly Fostex and HHB) have to a large extent been replaced by hard disk recorders. This is definitely a step up -- more channels, higher bit depth, better workflow. Of course the machines used in this industry are pretty pricy. The machine I know best is the Aaton Cantar [aaton.com], but at $13,000 or so, it's a little pricey for use outside the industry. I'd definitely check out the Sound Devices [sounddevices.com] recorders, though. They're much less expensive, and while they don't have the features or as many tracks as the Aaton recorder, they are well known for the quality of their Mic preamps, which is really where any consumer gear will suffer. Also, they can record on Compact Flash, which is great for reliability since you end up with no moving parts. They also make a USB-based mic pre/A-D converter, if you decided to go the Laptop route (which I wouldn't really recommend for field use).
      • 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.
  • DAT was a flop? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kinabrew ( 1053930 )
    I thought it was still used?
    • by mmkkbb ( 816035 )
      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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        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.
        • 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
    • Re:DAT was a flop? (Score:5, Informative)

      by lightversusdark ( 922292 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:19PM (#18615373) Journal
      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fyoder ( 857358 )

      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

      • Re:DAT was a flop? (Score:4, Informative)

        by mcpkaaos ( 449561 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:23PM (#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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by emjoi_gently ( 812227 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:24PM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:03PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Typoboy ( 61087 )
      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FrenchSilk ( 847696 )
        A lot more than $8B was spent fixing the Y2K mess. Estimates run as high as $1.5 trillion worldwide. It was an enormous problem and the fact that the dire predictions never materialized is a testament to the people who alerted the world to the seriousness of the problem and to the thousands of IT personnel who labored for years to fix the bug and to prevent the worst from becoming reality. Y2K was not a flop by any stretch of the imagination. It was an overwhelming success story.
    • by funkdancer ( 582069 ) <funky@[ ]kdancer.com ['fun' in gap]> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:52PM (#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.
    • by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:40PM (#18616073)
      That's not why I complained about the idiotic Y2K bit in the blurb. A flop is a product that is so badly timed, badly designed, badly received, or badly something else that it fails. Y2K isn't a product. It's that simple. The polio vaccine could be a flop (such as if the polio virus were already extinct by the time it was marketed). But y2k can't be a flop any more than "off by one errors" can be. Or maybe I'm wrong. How much did you guys pay to buy your y2ks?
    • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @01:24AM (#18616849) Journal
      I had to fix a 100% genuine Y2K bug. I was doing (among other things) source control admin for a company of perhaps ~80 developers. At Y2K, we were using SCCS for source control. (Later changed to ClearCase, but that is a different story.) I was called in on I think 2 Jan 2000. Some eager developers had returned to work early, and their new checkins were messed up.

      Although we'd updated all the computers to a Y2K-compliant version of the OS (IRIX), on one of the machines the (non-Y2K) SCCS binaries had got there by copying rather than a proper install - so the OS upgrade didn't know they were there, and didn't upgrade them to the Y2K fixed versions.

      End result: I edited the corrupted SCCS files to fix them, and called a sysadmin to fix the binaries. Two people called in, some developer time lost - it probably cost about 10 geek-hours in total. I think I might have got a few hundred dollars extra pay as well - I can't remember now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SuperQ ( 431 ) *
        The one Y2K thing I had to fix was the voicemail server. We had a nice trusty old OS/2 box that sat in the corner for years doing our voicemail.. everyone freaked out when all the voicemail vanished.. sure enough, the voicemail app thought it was year 19100 and had no idea what to do. I just set the clock back to 1994, and all the voicemail re-appeared. We got the y2k voicemail server patch from our phone vendor (on a single 3.5" floppy) and we could finally set the clock to 2000.
  • Y2K?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yakman ( 22964 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:09PM (#18615301) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by reemul ( 1554 )
      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.
  • by ktappe ( 747125 )
    Y2K isn't on the list because it was a bug not a flop. They're not the same thing.
  • by PoderOmega ( 677170 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:11PM (#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.
    • If we are going by that criteria, I guess the Newton was a success too because I sure love mine.
    • by Simon Garlick ( 104721 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:35PM (#18616015)
      In terms of "hours played", my Dreamcast is the clear winner in my household console collection. Even today, Soul Calibur is the pinnacle of the 3d fighting-game genre.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper ( 135110 )

      The article itself says 10 million were sold.

      Yeah, but that was mainly because they were marked down to nearly free for the last 6 months of its life...

      When the PS2 hype was sucking the marrow from Dreamcast, and widespread piracy methods were worked out, they decided to give them away, since they knew no new games were possibly going to appear.

      In terms of gaming fun I had with the system, it was a huge success.

      I'm sure that will make Sega's stock holders feel much better about the ridiculous amounts of mon

  • by Toe, The ( 545098 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:13PM (#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.
    • After they cut the price and renamed it the Macintosh XL, it actually sold pretty well.
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:26PM (#18615455) Homepage Journal
      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Actually, I bought my first mac because I couldn't afford a Lisa. For the first year of its existence, the Lisa was the primary development platform of mac software, since the 128k "thin" mac didn't have enough RAM or disk space to run a real development environment. (Unlike the first Mac, the Lisa came with an optional small hard drive) From what I remember the biggest problem with the Lisa was the non-square pixels, and funky floppies that never took off.

      The mac itself would have died an early death an
    • by bitt3n ( 941736 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @12:09AM (#18616311)

      Lisa was a step, not a bomb
      so it was a bomb that people stepped on. let's compromise and call it a landmine.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:13PM (#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.)
    • Heh. A cousin of mine had 'retired' from programming to stay at home and be a full time mother in 96. In 98 she was offered $100+/hr to go back to work fixing y2k bugs. Two years later, with the kids college funds fully funded, she pulled the kids out of day care and re-retired.
  • Didn't Y2K turn out to be the lack of a tech flop?
  • To clarify (Score:3, Informative)

    by madsenj37 ( 612413 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:19PM (#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...
  • by Trojan35 ( 910785 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:20PM (#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.
    • 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
  • 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.
  • DAT, etc. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:22PM (#18615397) Homepage Journal
    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.

    • by White Shade ( 57215 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:40PM (#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"!
    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      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 ba

    • Well, although it would never appear in a list like this because it's just too obscure, if you're an audio geek, one of the biggest early-digital flops was the DBX Model 700 [wikipedia.org]. (Full disclosure: I wrote the linked WP article.)

      It was similar to the Sony PCM F1 in function -- basically a box without any moving parts, that took an audio signal at one end, and put out a composite video signal at the other that you recorded using a VCR. But rather than using PCM recording, it used a system that's a lot more like S
    • I had a PCjr (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ksheff ( 2406 )
      It ran Word Perfect, 123, TurboC, MathCAD, a slew of various BBS programs and games. It's what I used for a computer in high school and college. It was cheap for an IBM compatible machine at the time. While most people bitch and moan about how terrible the 'chiclet' keyboard was, they forget that it didn't take IBM too long to ditch it and replace it with a decent one. IIRC, it was about the same size and feel as the "Happy Hacker" keyboards that used to advertise on /. a few years ago.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) *
    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 (Score:3, Interesting)

      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 u
  • 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 funnies
    • I Remember Qube (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lenski ( 96498 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:34PM (#18616009)
      My first job out of school. Very cool place. Their polling system consisted of a stack of Data General Nova single board computers, each responsible for polling one supertrunk. They were supervised by a Data General Eclipse (the polling system), which had aggregate responsibility for the entire system.

      There was a separate Eclipse, the "Studio System", which used a high speed interprocessor bus to move polling data to and from the polling system.

      I wrote several of the studio system's technical scripts, which needed to be synchronized with the TV shows.

      QUBE flopped as a technology due mostly to the fact that people are (and were in the late 70's) in the habit of being couch potatoes, rather than interacting through a rather stilted 2-way system.

      QUBE gave two-way cable communications hardware people some pretty good practice in how to run signals both ways through a hierarchical network. Eventually, (with huge improvements, etc.) it led to today's cable modems.

      A cute cultural story: The two-way boxes were designed by Pioneer Electronics (the stereo folks) in Japan. The Japanese engineers had absolutely no idea how quickly Americans would learn to hack the boxes to watch pay-per-view premium content without the box reporting that they had selected premium channels. It turns out that the box was designed to detect channel change events and track the changes, rather than reporting the channel that was currently selected for viewing. The result was that as soon as someone discovered how to disable the change detection logic (with a paper clip), they started watching premium content for free.

      The business management folks had me write a program that statistically analyzed premium purchasing habits, noting (for example) when a given customer transitioned from several months of reasonable amount of premium content, to absolutely zero premium viewing. The program was called "zerobill". Naturally, its capabilities grew in various ways to track a whole range of statistics about viewing habits during the next few years. Eventually, zerobill became *the report* that every manager wanted to see, every morning without fail. I had some *exceptionally early* mornings caused by various bugs and vicissitudes in the database.

      Phone rings...
      Me: (knowing damn well what was coming next) Hello?
      Night operator: "Daily batch died."
      Me: "and..."
      Night operator: "Not sure, it looks like an error."
      Me: "Did it leave a suicide note, or was it just shot in the head?"
      et cetera...

      My best friend and I were not scheduled the evening of the Rundgren concert, and we had a *kickass* time at the concert, including a little while backstage. It was a great time and place to be a young software geek, mixing television and technology.
  • QueCat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zoomshorts ( 137587 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:29PM (#18615493)
    Quecat - major bomb. Shitty scanner too.
  • Ahead of Time Flop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:29PM (#18615495) Journal
    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.

  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • DAT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HairyCanary ( 688865 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:41PM (#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.
  • 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.
  • Absolute Rubbish (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <[enderandrew] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:47PM (#18615639) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:42PM (#18616087) Homepage Journal
      I could go on and on and on, but I have to head out the door.

      They just want to make fun of some things they didn't have a use for. They even do a really bad job at it:

      NeXT: If it's possible for a failure to be a huge success, this is it.

      So, NeXT was so good it took over Apple and now has the second most popular desktop OS on the planet. And it's a huge success. No, wait it's a failure. No .. a flop. But it's not, it's a success.

      This article is a flop.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by N7DR ( 536428 )
      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

      Just a correction to one of your points: RSS is not push; it's pull. I'm not certain about AJAX, either, but I am sure about RSS.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Niten ( 201835 )

        Just a correction to one of your points: RSS is not push; it's pull.

        I just stopped in here to make that point (RSS was branded as "push" in TFA as well), but it's good to see that somebody beat me to it. Anybody who has to pay the bandwidth for a popular Atom or RSS feed can tell you that RSS is most definitely a "pull" protocol.

        Like RSS, AJAX is really just another application of Good Old HTTP. AJAXish web sites can indeed yield more efficient bandwidth utilization than traditional designs, but from

  • Segway (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JeremyR ( 6924 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:47PM (#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.
  • Print Version (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueCollarCamel ( 884092 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:50PM (#18615667) Homepage
    How hard is it to link the the single page print version...
    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?com mand=printArticleBasic&articleId=9012345 [computerworld.com]
    AC to avoid the whoring of karma.
  • by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:54PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I always like the way some people think of speech recognition as a Good Thing(tm).

      Imagine using a computer in a quiet office with a speech recognition. Sounds good, doesn't it? That's the environment of the executive, where it might make sense.

      Now imagine your work environment. I'm in an open-plan office here, and I can clearly hear the many people around me, even quite far away. Imagine if they were all talking to their computers!

      Yup. Bedlam. Shouting. Not the office of the future, but like a stockmarket o
  • Newton != Flop (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vertigoCiel ( 1070374 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:56PM (#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.
  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <`moc.stiucricve' `ta' `ive'> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:05PM (#18615771) Homepage
    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.
  • by edwardpickman ( 965122 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:33PM (#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.
  • by stox ( 131684 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:34PM (#18616003) Homepage
    It got Bill Gates laid, and a wife. That, alone, was worth the cost of development.
  • by unfortunateson ( 527551 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:34PM (#18616011) Journal
    During the late 1980's, Radio Shack declared that they were creating the first writeable CD. Called THOR-CD, they were a couple years before CD-R of any kind, and there was a whirlwind of press. Years went by, no product ever arrived.

    Read more here: http://aroundcny.com/technofile/texts/thorcd88.htm l [aroundcny.com]
  • Tablet PCs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Timbotronic ( 717458 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:50PM (#18616155)
    "within five years it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America" - Bill Gates 2001
  • by nuckfuts ( 690967 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @12:56AM (#18616653)
    I am soooooo fucking tired of hearing people say that Y2K was a "flop" of some kind. Ya, the world didn't grind to a halt, but that's NOT because there wasn't a HUGE NUMBER of VERY SERIOUS PROBLEMS. It's because a HUGE NUMBER OF MAN-HOURS WERE SPENT making sure the problems were fixed on time.

    I personally tested systems that simply FUCKING BARFED when the date rolled over. Entire systems. Important systems. In some cases they actually had to be REPLACED because it wasn't possible to fix the problems.

    So don't ridicule the hype that preceeded Y2K. Without the hype many PHB's would not have approved funding for the testing, fixing and replacements that ensured your sorry ass didn't get stuck in an elevator or a traffic jam or whatever.

  • by tap ( 18562 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @01:00AM (#18616685) Homepage
    Not the one that's around now, but the first one from back in 1994. The Internet was just starting to take off, and Microsoft wanted to kill it. The Microsoft Network was a non-TCP/IP non-Internet network that was supposed to be a Microsoft controlled version of the internet. I saw a presentation on it by some Microsoft manager back in 1994/1995 at some Washington Software Association event. They did a demonstration of an "MSN-brower" connecting to an "MSN-site" to view some "MSN-pages" and buy some toner cartridges. Supposedly it was real, but who knows.... Someone asked if Browser X (that would be Netscape) could use the Microsoft Network, and the answer was "No, only Microsoft will be able to create software for the Microsoft Network." I predicted it would be an utter failure, and it was. Microsoft couldn't innovate their way out a paper bag, much less out innovate everyone on the Internet. Microsoft's thinking was that there was nothing else one could want with the Internet but one store where you could buy toner cartidges.
  • by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @01:34AM (#18616891)
    Are you kidding me? That Circuit City disaster was fantastic. I was able to pick up a really good DVD player really, really cheap because it had DIVX support and they were end-of-lifing the product due to lack of sales. It was like $50 at a time when DVD players were still $200 or so.
  • by Eil ( 82413 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @01:38AM (#18616909) Homepage Journal
    Although Iridium failed commercially, it's not quite fair to call it a flop. The military makes extensive use of Iridium phones. Sea-faring vessels, aircrew, ground forces, you name it. In many cases, Iridium phones are replacing medium- and long-range radio communications altogether. I've no idea what the phones or service cost. But for what civilian companies usually charge the government for well, anything, I'm sure it's more than enough to keep Iridium afloat for a good long time.

    Also the external Iridium antennas look like dildos.
  • DAT Wasn't a flop (Score:3, Informative)

    by Fizzl ( 209397 ) <fizzl@fi[ ].net ['zzl' in gap]> on Thursday April 05, 2007 @04:43AM (#18617755) Homepage Journal
    Digital Audio Tape wasn't a flop. Althou it never made it into consumer space, it was and still is used extensively in music production. It is very efficient storage, archival and transport media.
    Today ofcourse everything is moved around on DVD's, through FTP or other "consumer grade" medias, because they are as bit-perfect-copies as anything. Back in the 90's it was the standard to move the tracks from reels to DAT's for transportation from recording studio to the mixing/mastering studio. And then from there to CD plant for press mastering.
    DAT's also have the advantage of magnetic media. It doesn't deteriorate as fast as optical media. (I'm going off topic here but give me some slack.) For example, I never reuse my MiniDV video tapes. I just rip to harddrive what I expect to use in near future and stash the original to my safe box in a bank vault -- A humidity controlled, cool, dark place. This way, I expect to be able to access the originals for decades to come.
  • Virtual Reality... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zentinal ( 602572 ) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @09:44AM (#18619653) Homepage

    ...didn't flop. It was repurposed and renamed MMORPG. The huge revelation was that people (today, at least) don't want to work in virtual spaces, they want to play in them. As far as tomorrow goes, who knows?

    So, instead of Gibson's cyberspace, we have WoW, Second Life, Lord of the Rings Online, etc, etc, etc.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982