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The Twelve Most Tarnished Brands In Tech 430

harrymcc writes "Polaroid, Netscape, CompuServe, Westinghouse, Heathkit — these were once among the most respected names in the technology business. They're still around, but what's happened to them is just plain sad. I took a look at the tragic fates of a dozen mighty brands that have, in one way or another, fallen on hard times."
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The Twelve Most Tarnished Brands In Tech

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  • Microsoft (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Who trusts these bozos anymore?
  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:38PM (#30609488)
    Odd. They lost the HP way a long time ago.
    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      Or if not HP, then at least Compaq.

      • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @06:04PM (#30610338) Journal

        Hell yes! If anybody deserved to be on the list it was Compaq. Did everybody just forget the "fun" that was Compaq RAM? For those kiddies too young to remember. Compaq, in an epic attack of douchebag behavior, decided they needed to "lock" in customers so that they would come to them and ONLY them for RAM, which of course they bent you over and treated you like the latest bimbo in a Seymore Butts movie when you came to purchase it.

        You see, they had the boards rigged so they would run just a little bit undervolted or overvolted on the RAM, so if you tried to put in "normal" RAM it would cause weird errors, throw BSODs, or just fry. Fun, huh? And woe be unto you if you were a PC repairman at the time, because Compaq RAM often wouldn't work in...other Compaqs! That's right, because some ram ran under and some ran over you couldn't even use Compaq RAM in another Compaq unless it was rigged the same way! Gee, isn't that nice of them?

        And that of course don't count the substandard parts, or building boards with only PCI slots when everyone else had AGP (hell I wouldn't be surprised in this age of PCIe that Compaq still sold models with only PCI) or shitty caps, lousy sound chips that sounded like a speaker at a drive-in, etc. At the shop I was working at at the time we had a mound of PCs that were scrap, and guess what a good 7 out of 10 were? Compaq. The other three were usually little old ladies that were foolish enough to have bought a Packard Smell.

        So yeah Compaq should have been in the top 5 at least. A truly craptastic brand of PC that deserves to be right up there with Packard Smells and IBM Deathstars on any "giant can o' suck" PC list.

    • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @06:49PM (#30610674)
      They lost sight of "the HP way" about the same time they put Carly in charge. Note to HP buying up other companies to convert yourself to a service company and compete with IBM is just a waste of money if you can't get those new divisions to stop fighting with each other and actually work together towards a common goal.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by haruchai ( 17472 )

      If you care to nominate HP, I'll second the motion. We've come to despise them for both their services and
      their products. And, they have a couple of account managers who can only be described as oily. Unfortunately,
      they're assigned to our account and we can't seem to get rid of them.

      And I've never heard the word "can't" used so often by techheads - considering that Hewlett and Packard essentially
      founded the original garage startup. They must both be rolling in their graves.

  • HP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:40PM (#30609522)
    When you say HP, the first words that comes to mind is innovation and great engineering. However you look at the past 10 years and HP has done surprisingly little in innovation or great engineering, and has not been creating market changing technology. They've gotten stuck building pcs and selling printer ink because that's the safe way to make money.

    I don't know whether it was the compaq acquisition or the carly regime that made HP soft,. Maybe the HP name hasn't fallen and it's not tarnished as much as some of the other names on the list, but the company behind the brand isn't what it used to be.

    • Re:HP (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tibman ( 623933 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:42PM (#30609540) Homepage

      The first thing that comes to my mind is huge bloated printer drivers that are constantly updating.

      • Agreed but why use their software in the first place? I normally just go for the bare drivers and keep the rest of their crap off a system.

        The one thing I can say is that it seems that HP is slowly crawling back out of the hole on SOHO printers. Nothing in the laser arena seemed to be as bad as the HP 1100/1200 printers of the late 90s/early 00s. They seem to have gotten back to some of the basics that made the HP 4 series a great little printer.
      • Re:HP (Score:4, Funny)

        by darkpixel2k ( 623900 ) <> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @06:06PM (#30610358) Homepage

        The first thing that comes to my mind is huge bloated printer drivers that are constantly updating.

        What? I thought customers and admins *loved* their 2 MB printer drivers to come bundled with the .NET framework and constant reminders to buy ink when levels dropped below 75%...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Phroggy ( 441 )

          The first thing that comes to my mind is huge bloated printer drivers that are constantly updating.

          What? I thought customers and admins *loved* their 2 MB printer drivers to come bundled with the .NET framework and constant reminders to buy ink when levels dropped below 75%...

          Um, customers do love 2MB printer drivers; it's the 300MB printer drivers that are a bit tough to swallow.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Itninja ( 937614 )
      Have you seen their recent blade server technology? While their support is awful, the hardware itself (namely the C-class blades) is pretty impressive.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I liked the HP server line, and when I was shopping around last spring for a new server, even got a couple of quotes, but at the end of the day, they just weren't willing to price match Dell. I felt bad, because, support-wise, Dell has gone to shit, too. I also got quotes on some low-end HP workstations (22 workstations) to upgrade some old Dells, and the only way I could get them to compare to similar Vostros was to dump DVD burning and buy smaller LCD monitors. It's like they didn't give a fuck at all.

    • Re:HP (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheRealFixer ( 552803 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:56PM (#30609670)
      I think most people would blame Carly Fiorina. She effectively took HP out of the hands of the engineers who made the company great, and put it squarely into the hands the shareholders who were concerned only with short-term stock price during the dotcom bubble. She spurred a massive shift in culture that killed off the innovation that they were famous for, obliterated morale throughout the company, and generally made it an undesirable place to work. The Compaq acquisition was just one aspect of her failure.
      • Re:HP (Score:5, Insightful)

        by japhering ( 564929 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:23PM (#30609954)

        I think most people would blame Carly Fiorina. She effectively took HP out of the hands of the engineers who made the company great, and put it squarely into the hands the shareholders who were concerned only with short-term stock price during the dotcom bubble. She spurred a massive shift in culture that killed off the innovation that they were famous for, obliterated morale throughout the company, and generally made it an undesirable place to work. The Compaq acquisition was just one aspect of her failure.

        sarcasm on

        Isn't that the function of Great CEOs... first drive the company into the ground will getting multi-million dollar bonus for cost reductions and stock value, then sell it to some hedge fund at a profit of 2 or 3x the share price for all share holders, which always includes the hedge fund paying the execs to exercise their options on 10s of millions of shares, thus increasing, yet again, shareholder value. Ah..the bright side of capitalism

        sarcasm off

        Seriously, so many at the Executive level haven't got a clue about what their company does and to make up for it simply rely on what the bean counters are telling them.

      • Personal Anecdote (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:53PM (#30610226)

        I was on the phone with HP Premium Printer Support when the official announcement was made in their office that Carly was leaving.

        All hell broke loose. People were screaming, crying, shouting for joy. It sounded like total pandemonium. It sounded like the celebrations of slaves suddenly freed from a cruel master.

        It was nearly impossible to finish the call. Having worked under cruel/crazy/incompetent bosses before and known the joy of release when they move on, I couldn't help but be happy for them. HP may have never recovered but for at least a few minutes those poor folks had hope, God bless 'em.

        • Re:Personal Anecdote (Score:5, Interesting)

          by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:04PM (#30610788) Homepage Journal

            Indeed! I had a couple support tickets open with HP at that time. In one of them the tech and I were exchanging an email two or three times every hour, trying to troubleshoot a group of networked printers; I saw the announcement in my news feed and mentioned it to the tech in my next email back, his response was along the lines of "Thank god the bitch is leaving, we're all celebrating after work!" I was transferred to another tier up a couple days later because that tech didn't have the expertise to solve the problem we were having, but the relieved and happy attitude was obvious in the calls and emails there, too.

            It seemed to me that after that there was a noticeable improvement in their tech support, especially on the phone. I hadn't been paying much attention to it at the time, but it was obvious afterward just how badly that woman screwed that company up.

            Slashdot's article [] was quite a fun read as well :)

            I still use HP printers exclusively at home, and recommend them to customers as well. They aren't perfect, but they are certainly among the best. My most reliable printer, a PSC 2350, has performed like a champ since I bought it new, despite having been dismantled and rebuilt a couple times to clean out enormous amounts of cat hair and assorted species of dust bunnies. Like another poster mentioned, I tend to use the raw drivers and my own apps, but I have a lot of customers who are happy with their software as well. (Hint: Don't update unless it's absolutely necessary for a bug fix).

              I've also found that overall their printers tend to be the ones that work the best with linux.



      • Re:HP (Score:5, Insightful)

        by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @06:23PM (#30610502) Journal

        She wasn't the only one. I joined HP in 1988, and the job was horible. Donuts on Friday disapeared the week I arrived. the "HP Way" was being scuttled. I could only take it a year and a half, and then I moved on to more intresting work. The problem was that David Packard had retired from the board and no longer guided the company. It got so bad, he came out of retirement a couple years later to put HP back on track. When he passed away, there was no way to replace him. Stockholders always lean towards the likes of Carly Florina, for the reasons already described - short-term profits. It takes an genius evangelist with nearly unlimited power to keep a company great. Take a look at what's happening at Microsoft since Bill stepped back, and how the stock market follows Steve Job's health.

        Anyway, I veiw all those famous brands mentioned in TFA quite differently. What they have in common is that they have faded, but that's all. Heathkit is a brand spoken even today in awe of what they did for America. Polorooid revolutionized film based photography, and faded into obscurity when their strong leadership faded. Westinghouse faded through conglomeration. What do they make now? Coffee or nuclear reactors? Netscape killed themselves, through incredible stupid and evil strategy - make the Internet so complicated that only Microsoft and Netscape could offer functional browsers... someone should be shot.

        I reject the idea that a company the dies with it's market has failed. Sun Microsystems is the most amazing workstation vendor in history. They gave the world technologies that will benefit the world for generations. Just because my cell phone has more power than a 1990-vintage workstation doesn't make Sun less great. These are brands to be celebrated for what they did in their industry, not to be morned when their industry passes into history.

        • Re:HP (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:31PM (#30610944)
          Polaroid had one trick, instant-print film and cameras. As far as I can tell, it was never really very strong financially, stumbling to make the next advancement in its technology to rescue it from impending doom. Quality never met conventional processing, and additional copies meant weeks of delay. Cheap 1-hour processing weakened its market substantially, and digital cameras sealed its fate. I don't think any management could have saved Polaroid. Look at Kodak, which had a huge industrial base to work from and has heavily and desperately invested in digital technology: it is struggling to remain a viable corporation.
      • I was involved with H-P in various capacities from 1994 through 1998, pre-Carly, and the high zoot engineers for whom the company was famous were nowhere in evidence. Absolutely nowhere. The company mission statement already said that H-P was a "shareholder driven" company, and the old-timers all lamented that The HP Way was long dead.

        I'm not defending Fiorina, as she was in well over her head and everyone except the BOD knew it right from the start, I'm just saying that the company was broken before she go

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by GPLDAN ( 732269 )
      Two Words: Carly Fiornia

      I hope she becomes Gov of California. She'll probably try and merge with Hawaii and then half the state will fall into the ocean.
  • I have never seen such a craptastic computer maker than Packard Bell.

    • by Itninja ( 937614 )
      Oh yeah....their PCs were horrid. But since my very first computer (as an adult) was a Packard Bell I still get a misty when I think of it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tenton ( 181778 )

      Packaged Hell, as we used to call them. You too can own your own little hell; how they could cram so much pain into such a small package defied belief.

  • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:44PM (#30609558)
    Let's be honest here; Napster brought nothing new to the table. They were just known on the same level that Balloon Boy's parents are known. Hadn't it been for being sued into oblivion they would hardly be a footnote in technology.

    I also shiver to think that the writer still considers Commodore the same company as they one that died in the 90s. It's the same company by name only. It's not like it did a massive transformation into oblivion like Westinghouse or Polaroid.
    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      I know people who purchased computers and internet access just so they could download mp3's off Napster.

      Napster probably sold more broadband than the Road-Runner.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Napster was important because it was the first P2P program. The post-lawsuit napster company wasn't important, but it brought file sharing to the masses and scared the record lables as badly as the VCR scared the movie industry.

      Were you asleep then or something?

      • First P2P? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mike Rice ( 626857 )

        Uh, Read RFC 1.

        December 1969.

        I'll agree that Napster immensely popularized the use of P2P tech... but it wasn't the first, not by a long shot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Deadstick ( 535032 )

      The original Commodore....

      -Marketed a disk drive that had a hundred percent failure rate, couldn't be stacked because of overheating, and was the slowest floppy drive ever built.
      -Marketed a computer that accessed that drive by sending BASIC statements, in ASCII, down a serial bus.
      -Advertised that the drive was user-programmable and refused to release programming information for it.
      -Marketed a computer whose ROM kernel routines didn't work, so programmers had to take up scarce RAM with their own routines to

  • A common current among these formerly great brands is the hiring out of the nameplate. When anyone can pay to slap a Westinghouse, Bell & Howell, or Polaroid name on their product, both licensor and licensee tend to lose credibility.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Deadstick ( 535032 )

      You don't even have to be formerly great. There is a company paying money to call itself CompUSA, fer chrissake.


  • This is the title (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DreamsAreOkToo ( 1414963 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:46PM (#30609586)

    Is it sad, or is it what the company deserved? How many other companies deserve this same fate but are being propped up because "They're too big to fail"?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nerdfest ( 867930 )
      How about IBM. They should have died years ago, but can still rely on the "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" fanboys. At least they still do some cutting edge R&D though, which is more than I can say for most tech companies.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cheesybagel ( 670288 )
        The IBM POWER 6 and POWER 7 processors are masterpieces on their own right. Expensive? Yes. But also remember that the top 3 shipping games consoles all use their processors (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii).

        As you said they still do some nifty R&D as well. The folks they have in the 'consulting' business I have met so far are top notch as well.

        Their consumer products... what consumer products? They sold all those divisions off so they could keep margins up.

  • Diebold? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:46PM (#30609588) Journal
    Any such list that doesn't include Diebold is lacking. Once a well respected manufacturer of safes, vaults, and eventually ATM machines, they now are known for creating voting machines that can't count, and in some cases have shown evidence of maliciousness in subverting the democratic process. At worst they are guilty of treason, at best they are guilty of selling useless and harmful junk. At least Microsoft at their worst is entertaining (Bob, Clippy); Diebold is disgusting.
    • Re:Diebold? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:54PM (#30609650)

      They're only known for making crappy voting machines on this site.

      If some news outlet actually did a hard hitting expose on them, maybe, MAYBE, they'd fall from grace.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 )
        You are right, most people don't know about Diebold, but then, on the other hand, there is a reason they changed the name of their voting machine division.
    • Re:Diebold? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:58PM (#30610286)

      At worst they are guilty of treason,

      Jeez, we went around this particular block on the last Diebold story. Treason is strictly (and narrowly) defined in the constitution itself and no act Diebold has been accused of even comes close to matching that definition. You have to either be making war on the US or giving aid and comfort to those who are.

  • Old modems (Score:5, Informative)

    by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:50PM (#30609616) Homepage

    3Com/USRobotics should be on this list.

    • Re:Old modems (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xiaran ( 836924 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:05PM (#30609782)
      Also Borland. Many programmer out there like me cut their teeth using Borland Pascal/C/C++.... then we went thru a brief optimism with Delphi... then the insane Inprise name change... then a long spiral into insignificance. RIP Borland.
  • Radio Shack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:53PM (#30609646) Homepage Journal
    Junk products and won't honor extended warranties they sell.
    • Re:Radio Shack (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tautog ( 46259 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:14PM (#30609860)

      Funny Radio Shack story - stopped into the local store a few years ago to pick up some random connectors, etc. Before offering to help me find what I needed, was offered a cell phone and then informed that they have to special order everything on my list. I asked them what they DO offer and was basically told cell phones and a few cables.

      My response: "So you're essentially a more expensive and less useful version of Best Buy?".

      The guy gave me a foul look and I turned on my heel and left.

      For the record, I worked at Radio Shack for a year or so way back when. You were required to take and pass training courses (on basic electrical theory and how to identify and match components such as resistors, capactors, etc) and failure to do so meant termination.

      I refuse to even enter their stores anymore.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 )
        Funny Radio Shack story - stopped into the local store a few years ago to pick up some random connectors, etc. Before offering to help me find what I needed, was offered a cell phone and then informed that they have to special order everything on my list. I asked them what they DO offer and was basically told cell phones and a few cables.

        Similar. A few years ago (03/04) I bought a gumstick size vid camera []. It came with a 110v wallwart. Wanting to use it mobile/helmetcam, I set about to build a battery pac
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        ever since they canceled the battery club card, things went downhill. fast.

  • by rjejr ( 921275 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:54PM (#30609656)
  • Radio Shack? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Radio Shack probably should have been on there somewhere too...Way back when, they weren't too bad of a place to get some electronics stuff, back in the Heathkit days... Oh well...

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @04:55PM (#30609664)

    It used to stand unambiguously for large-format filming (49 x 70 mm per frame), projected on large screens (around 53 x 72 ft). There were some variations, like the projection on a concave screen of OmniMAX (now IMAX Dome), but the general brand made sense. IMAX meant high-resolution film, projected on large screens.

    But for presumably commercial reasons related to a deal with theatre chain AMC, a large portion of theatres currently advertising "IMAX" films are actually projecting "IMAX Digital", a not-very-closely-related digital projection format. Film v. digital in theory I don't care much about, but the entire brand of IMAX=big is dispensed with with IMAX Digital's much smaller 28x58-ft screens. The digital projectors (dual 2K resolution projectors) also don't seem to be of sufficient resolution to match the quality of a 49x70mm film projector. As a result, it's not clear IMAX means a lot as a brand anymore, since any given theatre might well have a mostly normal sized screen and a not particularly high-resolution projector.

    • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @06:03PM (#30610326)
      If we're going to get into the film brands, no conversation is complete without a mention of Lucasfilm THX. Originally conceived as a quality-control system for movie sound, and having very strict technical requirements in the theater; George fired the inventor in the 90s and now they just slap the plaque on any theater that can write the check for the $100,000 licensing fee, and the THX name is stuck on cellphones and car stereos. Puke.

      And don't get me started on Dolby.

  • To be Fair... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clinko ( 232501 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:04PM (#30609770) Journal

    How about Slashdot?

    I know, we're the converted, but think about how Gizmodo and Engadget have changed how "Tech News" is reported.

    Slashdot used to be the ONLY good place to get tech news. I remember telling someone "Slashdot is like the 'What's New' of Popular Mechanics, but free!"

    I wouldn't even mention slashdot now. I'm not leaving, but I don't see any reason to convert others...

    • Re:To be Fair... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:19PM (#30609910) Homepage

      I respectfully disagree, for several key reasons:
      1. There are still some geek celebrities that pop in here from time to time. If we're talking Star Trek, it's not totally uncommon for CleverNickName to show up. Bruce Perens will not infrequently make an appearance on issues he knows about (or when the article is about something he did). And so forth.

      2. There are still some comments that are insightful / interesting / informative that are modded as such. It ain't universal, but it's there. And plus, some of the funny comments really are funny.

      3. There's a lot less spam-type articles. Roland and * * Beatles Beatles are both not showing up anymore. There's still the occasional slashvertisement, but they're less common than they used to be.

      It's not, and hasn't been for a really long time, just about reporting technology news.

    • Re:To be Fair... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by selven ( 1556643 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:28PM (#30610010)

      This is not a news site. This is a discussion site. And that's the way I like it.

    • Re:To be Fair... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mindbrane ( 1548037 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @06:15PM (#30610448) Journal
      I took a 4 year leave from /. (you're welcome) and came back (there's little you can do about it) after having taken a look at most of the prominent alternatives. There are two outstanding reasons I returned to Slashdot. First /. is a decent tech site that has a bias toward open source. I first came here in the late 90's to learn about Linux. Secondly the fine print still reads the same: All comments are owned by the poster. Slashdot remains a place where I can see the tech world through an Open Source lens, freely post my opinions and retain ownership and responsibility for said comments. And I appreciate /. such as it is.
  • No Novell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Salo2112 ( 628590 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:08PM (#30609808)
    No Novell? They used to own the LAN, and now they feed off MS scraps....
  • Some substitutions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:13PM (#30609846) Journal

    Napster doesn't belong on that list, because at its height, it was never a great or proud company--just an early one.

    Packard-Bell has been a joke for so long that hardly anyone young enough to care remembers when they weren't.

    Netscape doesn't really exist. They acknowledge that, but still put it on the list. Same for Netscape, and (sorta) Compuserve.

    There are some others I would add to the list, though: Silicon Graphics and Atari deserve top honours. Also, hugely powerful and profitable though it may be, Electronic Arts almost defines "tarnished brand," considering their origins. Also, how about Radio Shack? Can you even get parts there anymore?

    Now if we jump into the audio world, there are more than anyone can count. Advent, Sansui, Nakamichi, Hafler, Scott, etc..

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:32PM (#30610060)

      Good call, I was going to mention Atari. They essentially brought the first generation of videogames to the mass market, and then plummeted into obscurity when the videogame market crashed in the 80s. Incidentally, if you ever see a game with "Atari" on the label, know that it has nothing to do with the original company in any way. The name was the only thing they sold.

      I'll throw out another one related to gaming, although it certainly wouldn't belong in the top lists anywhere: Sierra On-line. They made a bunch of magnificent games, such as the King's Quest series - some of the earliest PC games I played. The stories from a long-time developer working there were pretty astounding (in a horrible way), so it was no big surprise to me when they finally closed shop.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
        Speaking of Sierra, how about Lucasarts? They went from the likes of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango to crappy Star Wars tie-ins...

        As for EA, I'd argue it would've been a fit contender some years ago, but they've improved their image and products a lot in the last few years. I think that deserves some recognition.

        There are a few mores that I feel could've made the list, namely IBM (they're still around and strong in certain areas, but they were KINGS of computing back then) or Xerox (again, they were gr
  • digital (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tengu1sd ( 797240 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:21PM (#30609926)
    Digital Equipment Corp, DEC, digital These folks started making test equipment, rivaled IBM when the PDP and VAX systems roamed the data centers. Their customer support was a pleasure to deal with. The only time a DEC field service engineer ever told me they didn't have a part in town, he told me it was coming in on a 2:00 pm flight and he'd be at my door by 3:00. A series of management by accountants slowly dissolved the company into take over bait. Despite making quality products they faded away. The low bidder trumps all.
    • by ThrowAwaySociety ( 1351793 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:59PM (#30610296)

      Unlike the companies in the article, the DEC brand is not being pimped by a lousy shell company to licensors that are slapping it on discount pantyhose.

    • Don't forget DEC also had one of the first 64 bit CPUs to be widely used. And their filesystem AdvFS did just about everything ZFS does approximately 12 years earlier!

      And the first time I ever used a computer as a kid was playing Dungeon on a VAX. I was using a DECWriter hardcopy terminal and I kept the printouts for a very long time. Looked for them recently when cleaning the house, but alas, they seem to be gone.

      I couldn't believe it when they were bought out by Compaq. I just couldn't believe it.

  • by Xeno man ( 1614779 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:21PM (#30609936)
    I'd say about half of the companies on the list were failures due to lack of vision and avoidance on making changes. If they weren't so busy trying to squeeze every buck out of their old assets and actually invested in new tech, they would still be around as the giants they once were. Now that's not true for all of them Companies like Heathkit and Napster were victims of the times. Not all markets last forever.
  • Adobe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:33PM (#30610074) Homepage

    Might not quite be there yet, but it's well on its way.

    From the abominable performance/security of the Flash player to the ever-increasing bloat of Photoshop, Adobe's users are pretty much fed up with the company.

    At one point, it would have been heresy to criticize Photoshop. Now the design community is practically screaming for a replacement. (It's twice as bad if you're a mac user. Nobody's quite sure what prompted the Apple/Adobe divorce, but it's been ugly [])

    • Re:Adobe (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:30PM (#30611322)
      Nobody's quite sure what prompted the Apple/Adobe divorce

      It's fairly simple. First, Apple made expensive hardware, with a crap OS that was like Windows 3.1 (albeit with a better interface), while Microsoft was selling Windows NT for low-cost workstations using the Pentium Pro processor.

      Then Apple started selling Final Cut Pro. That was about the time Adobe decided they would not bother to make software that ran on a competitor vendor's hardware. I guess it did not help that Adobe had years of software written in C++, while Steve Jobs wanted everyone to program in Objective-C for Ma OS X, either. Apple later developed Objective-C++, but for quite a while they lost developer mindshare when they switched to MacOS X.

  • Silicon Graphics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob Riggs ( 6418 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:34PM (#30610076) Homepage Journal
    SGI should be on that list. It was amazing to watch their death spiral in the mid-late 90s. That brand is way more tarnished than Napster (which didn't have much of a brand to tarnish).
  • SCO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nattt ( 568106 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @05:58PM (#30610272)

    surely SCO is the most tarnished?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by couchslug ( 175151 )

      The difference is that SCO was obviously turned into a weapon with no concern for its viability as anything else.

      SCO didn't try to succeed on merit and fail, and is merely the corporate equivalent of an exploded land mine.

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 ( 1400425 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @06:15PM (#30610450)
    Would be Atari and Sega. Atari used to be the biggest video game company in the world, sold tens of millions 2600's and had billions in sales at the beginning of the 80's. I wonder how many current gamers would believe me if I told them that. (Since they're just a label now. As for Sega, they used to make systems and while they might have not been the most popular they're not the joke they are today. (I mean Sonic, how badly did they screw up Sonic? Of course sometimes they do something right by mistake but you know it'll only be a moment before they mess up something else.)
  • Gutenberg (Score:5, Funny)

    by Subm ( 79417 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @06:21PM (#30610492)
    Well before HP printers, Gutenberg [] utterly dominated the printing market. For a time, virtually every printed book on the market was printed by Gutenberg.

    Perhaps due to no effort whatsoever made to maintain the brand, it is associated almost exclusively with one book [] least popular among techies.

    Now the name is associated with blatantly pirated versions of books []. If its current incarnation ever eeks out a profit it will certainly be sued by the entire publishing industry.

  • Radio Shack (Score:3, Informative)

    by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:12PM (#30611190)
    Radio Shack went from a great resource for hobbyists to get their start, to a glorified alarm clock store.
  • Amiga status (Score:4, Informative)

    by Orion Blastar ( 457579 ) <> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:24PM (#30611272) Homepage Journal

    In Europe they went crazy for the Amiga. Most Amiga users are upset at Microsoft and Apple for screwing them in the past and some dual-boot AmigaOS and Yellow Dog Linux or some other PowerPC version of Linux.

    If Slashdot had bothered to cover the Amiga we'd know what went wrong and what they are currently doing.

    AmigaOS 4.0 was written by Hyperion or some other company and there was licensing deals. AmigaOS 5.0 was supposed to outclass and outperform Windows Vista and Mac OSX. But due to lawsuits it never got released.

    The best open source project to come out of the Amiga technology is Amiga Research OS [] which will work on Intel X86 systems and virtual machines and has a version that runs native inside of Linux. But it lacks proper third party hardware drivers for modern systems so I'd run it in VirtualBox or some other virtual machine like HaikuOS does. AROS is AmigaOS 3.1 based on the APIs and started out as a WINE product and became a full OS.

    Amiga, Inc. sells some of the classic Amiga games for Windows and mobile devices under the Amiga Anywhere titles. Some day like the C64 they will port them to the WII, PS3, and XBox 360, etc.

    In an attempt to open source and modernize the Amiga and AmigaOS technology they are taking a page from Apple and making an AmigaOS merge with Linux to create Anubis OS [] but it is not Amiga, Inc that is doing it but another group. While Mac OS X was based on NextStep (A MACH kernel *BSD Unix based OS) and the Classic MacOS series the Anubis OS claims to be Linux based with the Amiga GUI and ability to run Amiga software.

    I hereby challenge Slashdot editors and readers to report on the Amiga projects as they mature and make progress. See if 2010 can be the year of the Amiga coverage at Slashdot and create an Amiga category if one doesn't already exist.

    • Oh dude.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DG ( 989 )

      I personally owned 4 different Amigas - including installing Linux on an A3000. For a little while, I sold them. I belonged to CATS. I posted on comp.sys.amiga before the Big Split to all the subgroups. I jousted with -MB- and laughed my ass off at BLAZEMONGER! I even maintained the Amiga Netrek port for a year or so (not that I accomplished much with it)

      I own an original copy of the Deathbed Vigil.

      The Amiga is DEAD. Yes, there are still Amigas functioning and a tiny core of hobbyists who still get joy out

  • by hotdiggity ( 987032 ) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @09:33PM (#30611670)
    WANG was a brand that stood out proudly in the face of stiff competition.

    Unfortunately, after a long period of thrusting its way into new markets, it sadly shrivelled into a limp entity that was incapable of further market penetration.

The next person to mention spaghetti stacks to me is going to have his head knocked off. -- Bill Conrad