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Television The Internet Technology Idle

Tech That Failed To Fail 428

itwbennett writes "There are tech fads that flare up quickly and then, pouf, they're gone (Tamagotchi, anyone?). And then there are technologies that industry bigwigs predict will follow that familiar pattern and instead end up withstanding the test of time. The Internet, for example, has famously failed to implode, despite dire predictions by Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe. And what about TV, the cornerstone of the American living room? Inventor Lee DeForest, known as one of the 'fathers of the electronic age,' declared TV a commercial and financial impossibility, a sentiment that was shared by 20th Century Fox exec Darryl Zanuck. And FCC engineer T.A.M. Craven was absolutely certain back in 1961 that there was 'no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.'"
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Tech That Failed To Fail

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  • ATM machines (Score:3, Insightful)

    by elucido ( 870205 ) * on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @09:47AM (#36023438)

    Despite all the problems, using an ATM machine beats standing in that long ass line trying to cash a check.

    Why are banks open only from 10-3, the sort of hours they know everyone is at work? And why is it that at least one bank teller is on break or on lunch?

    • Re:ATM machines (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Urban Garlic ( 447282 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @09:52AM (#36023474)

      I've pretty much always been in favor of ATMs, but that's because I'm relatively anti-social -- I certainly recall the hue and cry about how impersonal and awful it was when they first became common. (Yes, I'm old, get off my lawn, etc.)

      I'm still cranky about ATM fees, though -- the other thing I recall from when they were introduced was how much money the banks would save by not having to hire as many tellers, and these savings would more than cover the cost of the machines, so of course there would never be fees, they said. Simple common sense.

      • Re:ATM machines (Score:5, Insightful)

        by j00r0m4nc3r ( 959816 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:03AM (#36023608)
        No, you're right. I don't go to the bank to have a lovely little conversation with the teller about the weather and the local sports team. I go to the bank to either 1.) Get Money, or 2.) Leave Money... These two jobs are perfectly suited to a machine, and in theory the machine should cost less to operate and thus lower banking costs... That's the theory anyway. The only problem I have with ATMs is that they seem to attract morons who can't operate them, and end up taking even longer than going to a human teller... Same thing with self-checkout at the supermarket. Outstanding idea -- I can get through those things in about 1/4 the time it would take even in the express lane. However, the problem arises that anybody over 40 can't seem to work them, and if you're behind someone over 60, well, just forget about it...
        • Re:ATM machines (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:14AM (#36023740)

          I prefer human checkout operators - they're faster than robo-checkouts. The majority of the time spent checking out is rotating the goods so the barcode is visible to the laser sensor and selecting the correct item for produce by weight - both of which are something that a human has to do, and which a checkout operator has much more skill at than myself. On top of that, a robo-checkout adds a mandatory pause after each item to check the bag scale to make sure the barcode matches the mass of the item you put in the bag, so even if you DO get as fast as a checkout operator at scanning, you won't be able to operate at full speed.

          The only reason to use a robo-checkout I can think of is when you're in a hurry, you only have one item, the other checkouts are saturated, and the robo-checkout lane is empty because they are so crap. Even then, I prefer to use the human lane - a minimum wage checkout worker needs their job more than I need to buy stupid crap faster.

          • The thing I hate about self checkouts is it stops every time it calculates too much weight or not enough weight in the bagging area once its scanned. Without fail the human has to come over and bypass the error message.
          • In the city I live in, it seems there are very few grocery stores with employees motivated enough to care about getting the customer through the line as quickly as possible. Very irritating, as I used to work at a grocery store in high school which kept a record of our checkout speeds, and I was usually one of the faster ones at above seventy items per minute. Even with the inadequacies of the self-checkout systems, I can still usually do it faster than the paid cashiers. Also helps that I still remember
          • And I'd say there ain't nothing wrong with taking a couple of minutes out of your day to jaw with the little teller girl, and by doing so you make things SOOO much easier for yourself in the long run!

            Since I took the time to go in and yak at the little teller girl I can walk in there now and go "Hi Lisa, how's things? Well wouldn't you know it one of those companies I buy parts from done double dipped on my account" and she'll say "Oh don't you just hate that? That happened to my sister a couple of weeks a

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          Hmm I am 27 and I WONT USE THE DAMN SELF CHECKOUT anymore.. A human checker can always complete my transaction faster than I can unless they are new trainee or something. Its not that I have problems using the machine, most of the time I tried using them everything was fine and it was easy to understand what to do. A few times there were problems where the weight sensor did not register the item had been place in the bagging area and than you have to stand there like an idiot until the operator can come

          • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

            Hmm I am 27 and I WONT USE THE DAMN SELF CHECKOUT anymore.. A human checker can always complete my transaction faster than I can unless they are new trainee or something.

            I only use the auto checkout if I have half a dozen items or less. It is usually quicker than queuing at a checkout.

            • Re:ATM machines (Score:5, Interesting)

              by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @12:57PM (#36025734) Homepage

              I just go to stores where they call out extra check staff when there are more than two people in queue. Also, staff smile say hello and appreciate a "not to bad, how are you" with a smile in return. Life is about people, I switched insurance to a company that had local people answer the phone, I switched ISPs to a company that had local people answer the phone ie when I am paying for a service I will not deal with poorly automated answering or people with language difficulties. Not only does it make life feel a little better, a little more human, it also employs fellow citizens. Choose where you money goes, it makes a difference in everyone's life.

          • I won't use it because I'm not getting a discount to do the work myself.

          • by Kozz ( 7764 )

            Rant agreed! The only reason to use self-checkout is if:
            * you're paying cash or credit
            * you're not using any coupons
            * you're not buying alcohol
            * you have 5 items or less

            I've set things on the machines and they'd complain about items removed from bagging area or whatever, and would just freeze up, waiting for an employee to swipe their card, punch in a pin, and allow the transaction to continue.

            Many times I've said "fuck it" and left the transaction at its midpoint, seeking out a cashier who had a line of c

          • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

            A human checker can always complete my transaction faster than I can unless they are new trainee or something.

            Yeah, emphasis on the "or something" - like the checker has no motivation to live. I used to be a checker in high school and since you get paid the same to check out 5 customers or 500 there is really no motivation to keep things moving along. I did simply because psychologically I don't like having piles of work queued up, and I'm just competitive and all that (which is why I pursued an IT/science career and not life as a checker).

            I almost always prefer the self-checkout lines unless I have a LOT of stuf

        • Actually I hate ATM's, I have found I spend less if I actually have to go inside, not to mention I actually like the people that work in my bank, they all know me by name and are even comfortable enough to give me hell when I'm there (jokingly of course). On the other hand there is a branch of the same bank up the street that a requirement to work there is to be an asshole, I absolutely refuse to use that branch.
        • by vlm ( 69642 )

          No, you're right. I don't go to the bank to have a lovely little conversation with the teller about the weather and the local sports team.

          Around here, its never, ever, lovely. Its all about propositioning for sales:

          1) Would you like to "upgrade" to a checking account with higher fees and higher required balance and some useless features no one uses?

          2) We're selling home equity loans, would you like to eliminate your net worth in exchange for a jet ski?

          3) Have you talked to our co-located investment personnel about starting a retirement account?

          4) Would you like to buy this overpriced useless piece of lead painted flair handmade by Chinese po

          • Re:ATM machines (Score:5, Interesting)

            by RobDude ( 1123541 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @11:07AM (#36024356) Homepage

            Maybe I'm alone in this; but I always feel like I'm being *judged* by the human tellers.

            They see my accounts, the balances, they look at me, can reasonably estimate my age and in a split second they decide if I'm a good customer or a bad customer (and by extension a good person or a bad one).

            Maybe it's silly? I don't know...

            I distinctly remember going into my bank and asking to sit down with an investment guy. I wanted to come up with a savings/investment/retirement solution that I would follow from now until forever. Eventually, this could be large sums of money. At the time, the teller asked for my debit card, to pull up my information. She took one look at the screen and my ~$300 (combined between my checking and savings account) and handed me a fold-out pamphlet on 'How to Save Money'.

            I admit, I was fully extended on a house flip project I was doing. But I went to the bank because I was expecting a reasonably large sum of money to come my way in the next few weeks when the house sold.

            A few weeks later, the house was sold and now I had a check for ~60k. This time, all I did was go up to the teller to make a deposit, I didn't even *ask*, but they 'invited me' to sit down with one of their personal financial advisors *right now*. Truthfully, I was surprised because I didn't really think 60k would be enough for them to bat an eye at. Anyway, I declined. Later I switched banks, but I have a feeling my experience would be similar at the new bank.

            • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @11:44AM (#36024828)

              Tellers (or phone customer service reps) don't have to guess if you are a profitable customer; the computer tells them this outright. Many years ago, I was reading about a shift at a FirstUSA (now Chase) call center, and every rep had a "traffic light" appear when the customer's file came up. That light would tell them if it was a "good" customer (and therefore deserving of obsequious (and time consuming) service, fee waivers, etc.) or a "poor" customer (and deserving the bare minimum of efficient service, no waivers for anything, etc.)

              Naturally, "good" was either high-volume pay-every-month (and therefore a source of fee income), or maxed out (and paying on time.) "Bad" was small-volume, paid every month (and therefore expensive due to account overhead) or an erratic payer (and therefore likely stuck no matter how ruthless the bank was with fees.)

        • Everyone who complains about ATM fees needs to remember something. It costs a lot of money to purchase them, along with the Microsoft licenses necessary to run them. Add in the IT fees every time one of those suckers blue screens, add in the extra workload on the tellers while it's bluescreened, man, you can see it's a burden on the banks to run them. So, belly up and fork over a little more of that Microsoft tax, people. This is the good life, after all!

      • Here in the UK, there are no fees for using a bank ATM. Most accounts will also permit you to withdraw from the ATMs of other banks, again with no fee. My account (and I don't think it's unusual) will permit you to withdraw money from any bank ATM in the UK with no fee.

        The only ATMs that charge fees are those provided by convenience stores and garages (and yes, the fees are extortionate). But I can withdraw from any of them too.

        It wasn't always the case that there were no fees, but I believe we started off

        • The ATM network predates the web here.

          With one withdrawl you can be charged:
          $1-$5 by your bank for using an external network
          +$1-$5 by another bank for using their network
          +$2-$5 by an ATM vendor(like at a gas station)

          Usually, but not always, 2 and 3 are mutually exclusive. This can result in fees as high as 50% of what you take out for small sums.

          • by Tim C ( 15259 )

            The ATM network predates the web here.

            As it does here I believe.

            Those fees are insane though; the highest I've seen in the UK is around 1.85 GBP, or about 3 USD. No bank that I'm aware of charges for 1 or 2, leaving only 3.

          • It likewise predates the web here ; I do remember the age when you had to go to the right bank, but never experienced that myself. But I don't think I remember any time when you were charged for withdrawing from your own bank (my mother would never have stood for that).

            In the end it was the planned combination of charges by the card issuer AND the machine operator that was the last straw for any kind of ATM fees in this country. It would seem that the USA has accepted this state of affairs. :-(

            • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

              In certain circumstances, the convenience of the machine is worth every penny you pay. Keep in mind, there are some pretty remote places here in the US, and in those places you can be sure that ATM fees and gas prices are going to be high.

              I'm not sure why anyone would regularly use an ATM in a densely populated area, though. It's just as easy to go buy a pack of gum at 7-11 and get cash back if all you need is convenience.

          • by Old97 ( 1341297 )
            True, but you can get it all free if you shop around. I use USAA Federal Savings Bank and I don't pay to use anybody's ATM. There are no fees for the account either. I've seen other internet banks offering the same or similar deal. Often a regular direct deposit from a paycheck or social security or whatever is required.
        • by farnz ( 625056 )

          At a technical level, there still are ATM fees for using a bank ATM in the UK. It's just that our banks have worked out that it's better for business overall if the fees are internal bookkeeping between banks rather than something to pass onto a customer.

          Put simply, banks with huge ATM networks like Barclays make a net profit on ATM fees; they receive more than they pay out. Banks with small ATM networks often find it cheaper to pay the fees than to either expand their network or deal with the customer ser

        • In the US all ATMs are networked and indeed this is true across most of the world. I've withdrawn money from Canadian ATMs with a US card just fine. Also no bank I'm aware of charges fees for its own customers to use its own ATMs. You can use them as often as you like for whatever functions they have and the bank is happy about that.

          Fees start when you want to use other bank's ATMs. Every bank tends to charge a fee for non-members to use their ATM. On top of that, many banks charge you a fee for using someo

          • In the US all ATMs are networked

            For withdrawals only, not for depositing checks. Chase ATMs don't take deposits for any other bank.

            If you are with a large bank, they have plenty of ATMs. Banks like Bank of America, Chase, and so on have ATMs all over the place

            Unless, for example, your account is with Bank of America and you happen to be in Indiana, which doesn't have Bank of America. Or unless you're with an online-only bank such as Ally.

            most people simply do electronic purchasing using credit or debit cards, cash isn't used nearly as much

            Public transit in my hometown is still cash-only. Even getting cash out of an ATM isn't good enough because ATMs have nothing but $20 bills, which definitely aren't exact change for bus fare.

        • Didn't Barclay's try to charge for withdrawals a while back?

    • by morcego ( 260031 )

      Exactly so people will use an ATM machine, which is cheaper for the bank than having someone actually assisting the customer.

    • Re:ATM machines (Score:5, Informative)

      by ZamesC ( 611197 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:00AM (#36023572)
      Bank close at 3PM, because, in the pre-computer days, there was several hours worth of counting & bookkeeping that had to be done between kicking the last customer out & close for the night. Why they STILL close at 3PM, is... well... tradition, I guess.
      • Oddness. I though he was just off his rocker with that comment but someone else knows it so it can't be completely off base.

        Every bank in my local vicinity closes at 5pm. A lot of them stay open until 6pm on Fridays (presumably also due to historic reasons - prior to direct deposit people were often paid on Friday so the banks stayed open longer for people to come cash/deposit checks on pay-day).

        Of course, these days I'm even seeing a few banks start to open on Saturdays. All in all though, irrelevant. I

        • In my area, I know of one branch of one bank that opens at 8:00, a couple that open at 8:30, and all the rest open at 9:00.

          Closing time for most of them is 3:00, 3:30, or 4:00. But, a different branch of the same bank that opens at 8:00 stays open til 5:00. I guess it's up the individual manager how early and how late they stay open. On Fridays, of course, they all stay open later - some as late as 6:00. Of all the banks around me, only two have Saturday hours, which I love because I don't have to worry

      • Pretty the norm in the UK. Where I live (Birmingham), they close at midday for "half day closing" on one weekday. Some are even closed on Saturdays and all on are closed on Sundays. National holidays are also called "bank holidays". It gets me also when you walk in at 12:30 to find one cashier and the other 11 cashiers have gone to lunch, a time when everyone [none bankers] is at lunch and need to use the bank.

    • by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:01AM (#36023574) Journal

      Despite all the problems, using an ATM machine beats standing in that long ass line trying to cash a check.

      Only if it's an automatic ATM machine. :-)

      • Yes, sir, I assure you that all our ATM machines are networked with the TCP/IP protocol, so yes, they are automatic.

        • by vlm ( 69642 )

          Yes, sir, I assure you that all our ATM machines are networked with the TCP/IP protocol, so yes, they are automatic.

          Traditionally around here they were all SNA/SDLC over either analog multipoint or a short lived interval of digital multipoint or frame relay connections. I suppose times change...

      • by dogmatixpsych ( 786818 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:20AM (#36023784) Journal
        Unfortunately, it looks like many people are missing the humor in the redundancy and superfluously of your redundant comment. The thing that bugs me about automatic ATM machines is having to set and remember a personal PIN number.
        • Okay, I was exaggerating. Maybe only a few are missing your humor but there sure are a lot of people writing ATM machine.
    • Why are banks open only from 10-3, the sort of hours they know everyone is at work?

      Not all banks have hours like that. My bank is open from 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM Mon - Fri and from 8:00 - 4:00 on Saturdays. Some branches are open on Sunday.

      Of course, the only time I take advantage of those hours is when I need something out of my safe deposit box. I use the ATM to withdraw cash and online banking for everything else.

    • I love ATM machines. I see a huge queue for them and I go into the bank. Most people have forgotten you can get money over the counter and the line is often shorter. The best part is, there is usually a lovely girl selected as she is "customer facing" stuff, sat down at the desk. She doesn't have to be fast or good at her job either. Mmmm.
      • The cuties don't have to be fast but they do have to be good at their job. I once had one deposit a check for cash.... Very thoughtful of her to try expediting the process without asking but I'd rather she looked closer and listened better.
    • In my area there are many banks that are actually open when I am not working. However, I used to say that banks are in the customer service business, that's why they are never open when their customers can come in to get service because it is only recently that there are banks in my area that are open when the vast majority of people are not working.
    • I deposited $400 cash in the ATM last week, and I deposit checks with my phone. Every time I go IN the bank, they try to sell me on a loan or a credit card. It is safe to say that I don't ever need to go into a bank anymore unless I need a loan or a new credit card. So maybe BANKS are the dead tech, and ATMs live forever.

  • Despite it being a terrible browser, it managed to hold on for 10 years and is still the de facto browser for business machines.

  • the iPhone failed to fail (in accordance with general Slashdot consensus)

    • I would say the iPad.

      There was nitpicking about general features of the first iPhone (and still, not being available unlocked in the USA still is one of them) but mostly everyone recognized it would be a success. Only the people bitching about lack of physical keyboard were pretty shrill.

      OTOH, if you went by the /. on the iPad before it was released, you would have thought it would have sunk like a boat anchor or G4 Cube:)

  • iPod (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @09:52AM (#36023486) Journal

    No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:35AM (#36023948)

      The fashion was (and is). Really the tech for MP3 players has never been a big deal for most users. "Plays my music," is as far as they care about anything. Please remember that people were happy with discmans and walkmans and shit like that.

      What the iPod did was make MP3 players cool, it made them a fashion accessory. The best way to notice that is the white earbuds, with cord hanging out front where it is visible. Their commercials show this and it is the style that sold. An iPod is fashionable and has thing like the white earbuds so that you can proclaim ownership and show off the fashion. Heck when the iPod came out all of a sudden high end earbud manufacturers suddenly had a demand for white earbuds. They'd always been a darker colour before since being understated was what people wanted. However white earbuds were a fashion statement. People wanted better sound, but only if they could still have the iPod fashion going.

      That is why the iPod was so successful. Other MP3 players were just music players so people really didn't give a shit more than they had before. However the iPod was a fashion accessory that you had to have.

      Then of course once it started to take off you got one of those nice positive feedback loops. People didn't know about MP3 players, they knew about iPods. If you wanted a music player you got an iPod simply because that was all you knew, even if there were no fashion concerns. An "Everyone uses it because everyone uses it," sort of situation.

      Technology was never the big factor, and in consumer electronics that can sometimes be the case.

      • What the iPod did was make MP3 players cool, it made them a fashion accessory.

        What a tired, stupid, cliche. What the iPod did was make carrying our music around easier and remove lots of moving parts that are no longer necessary.

        You are claiming the headphone cord hanging in front is some sort of statement? That would make virtually all headphones a statement. I personally use ones that go behind the head for running, but sitting on a commuter train, I don't really care what color the headphone cord is or where it dangles.

        Only the most vapid teenager cares about white headphones.

      • Once iTunes was available for Windows, it was all over. (Prior to this, MP3 players were still a competitive market.) When I replaced my first MP3 player (a discman-shaped Nomad), I first replaced it with another Nomad. Nasty hardware problem, so back to the store it went. Next attempt was an iRiver unit. Absolutely fantastic hardware, a remote with a display, great battery life; absolutely crap software. No ripping program, no organizing software, strange filename limitations, limited tagging support

      • by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @11:57AM (#36024964)

        What the iPod did was make MP3 players cool, it made them a fashion accessory.

        It was far far more than that:

        1. It was slimmer and lighter than the competition which meant it was easier to carry around with you.
        2. It was prettier than the competition and looked like it was worth the money you paid for it, you weren't embarrassed to pull it out of your pocket.
        3. It had a far better build quality. The competition were producing players with nasty plasticy buttons and creaky bodies.
        4. The battery life (I think) was better.
        5. It used Firewire instead of USB 1.1, so loading songs onto the device averaged about 1-2 seconds per song rather than the competition which was capable of about 1 minute per song.
        6. It came with iTunes which automatically managed your library, syncing and playlists whilst the competition made you drag and drop your files.
        7. It had a user interface which was easy to use and didn't make you want to cry. As opposed to the competition which never managed to produce anything with less than 7 buttons.

        Yes, it wasn't perfect - but compared to the Creative Nomand [] or the Archos Jukebox [] it was an amazing bit of kit. In fact the only people who didn't like it were Slashdot readers and that was pretty much going to guarantee it would sell like hotcakes.

        • by Apotsy ( 84148 )
          I did a simpler but similar analysis when the iPod first came out. I considered these three factors:
          1. Size / weight
          2. Price
          3. Storage capacity

          At the time of the original iPod, you could get devices that beat it on one or even two of those points, but you could not get one that beat it on all three. The iPod was (I believe) the first device to make use of 1.5" hard drives. Until then your only choices were flash storage, which was small but at the time had very little capacity, or 2.5" hard drives such as the Arch

        • by dargaud ( 518470 )

          As opposed to the competition which never managed to produce anything with less than 7 buttons.

          I WANT to be able to use my music player without fishing it out of my pocket: changing volume and skipping songs at the very least. For this you need physical buttons, none of this touch crap.

      • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:12PM (#36025888)

        >What the iPod did was make MP3 players cool, it made them a fashion accessory

        I say this as both someone who borderline dislikes Apple and who owned several pre-iPod players: you are wrong and you're just playing to the crowd's biases and exceptions here.

        In reality, the mp3 hardware scene was a mess of manufacturers whose interfaces and software were just terrible. Techies didn't mind, but Joe Average certainly did and didn't understand how to use this technology.

        The ipod began to address all these issues. Joe Average got some hand-holding when he installed iTunes. His ipod sync'd up without him having to move or categorize or even find his own MP3s. iTunes would rip his music and also introduce him to an online store where here could buy music. And guess what? IT WAS EASY.

        The other guys were releasing half-assed PDFs on how to use Windows Media Player or CDex to do burns. They would either put in some half assed sync software or another PDF on how to use windows explorer to copy MP3s. Joe Average doesnt even know what a file format is, let alone where his mp3s are (if he has any) let alone how to do a proper copy.

        Guess which one the market chose? The other items like white earbuds are just marketing items that complement the hardware. It was a success without it. Again, interfaces and ease of use from out of the box matter. They matter quite a lot.

      • That is why the iPod was so successful. Other MP3 players were just music players so people really didn't give a shit more than they had before. However the iPod was a fashion accessory that you had to have.

        This is such a load of crap. My first MP3 player was one of the original Archos Jukebox's. It was a piece of shit. From wikipedia []:

        The Jukebox is historically notable for shipping with a user interface and operating system so unfriendly and bug-ridden as to inspire Björn Stenberg and other programmer

    • Re:iPod (Score:5, Insightful)

      by supremebob ( 574732 ) <> on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:38AM (#36023976) Journal

      In defense of CmdrTaco, the first generation iPod was a piece of crap. It was expensive, only had 5 GB of storage space, required a FireWire port, and only had software available for the Mac. It wasn't until the third generation iPod where they had those issues fixed, which is right around where they started flying off the shelves.

      • by mccalli ( 323026 )
        In defense of CmdrTaco, the first generation iPod was a piece of crap. It was expensive, only had 5 GB of storage space, required a FireWire port, and only had software available for the Mac.

        'Only' 5Gb? Unheard of in a portable player at that time. There's a reason they advertised 5,000 songs in your pocket - it's because at the time no-one was doing anything close. Most things were either CD player-sized Nomads at 20Gb or 128Mb 5-songs-at-64kbps Flash players like the 32Mb Diamond Rios.

        Required a Fi
        • the idea that a 5gb mp3 player was at all unusual at the *time the ipod was launched* is BS. There were lots of players. Focusing on hardware you totally miss the whole jobs shtick: (1) make it look nice; from the time the 2st cave man or cave woman put red dye on their hair, people have been willing to pay a premium for "luxury" whatever that happens to be at the time; (2) create an app that does something - in this case, easy to do music; prior to the ipod, it was hard (in the sense of the proverbial sla
        • 'Only' 5Gb? Unheard of in a portable player at that time.

          Dude, the very CmdrTaco quote the grandparent is defending lists a player that had more than 5Gb at the time, the Nomad. So no, definitely not "unheard of in a portable player at that time."

          Required a Firewire port and 'only' for the Mac? Yes, because they literally couldn't make them fast enough and sold each and every one of 'em that rolled out of the manufacturing plant. It also acted as a gateway drug that helped Mac sales along their merry way.

          Neither of you provides any citations to go with your observations, there. I don't have any numbers either, other than to point out that macs are still not a majority in the market, and that's after they grew tremendously in popularity since those days (the iPod popularity helped drive the macbook's popularity). That

      • Re:iPod (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @12:06PM (#36025098)

        In defense of CmdrTaco, the first generation iPod was a piece of crap. It was expensive, only had 5 GB of storage space, required a FireWire port, and only had software available for the Mac. It wasn't until the third generation iPod where they had those issues fixed, which is right around where they started flying off the shelves.

        Ignoring the price, those were only "issues" if you didn't own a Mac.

        I still remember the howls of anguish from Windows users complaining that they couldn't use it with their operating system and the software developers who, sensing the opportunity, stepped in and offered products which allowed you to do just that.

  • This is also, in large part, what drives used goods exports, refurbment, and other "parallel" markets. Early adapters who upgrade are an important source of affordable technology in emerging markets (like Egypt). Americans replace CRT monitors in record turnover from 2000-2008. But in 2007, new CRT manufacturing was still 50% of all new unit production. The biggest threat to the CRT manufacturing industry, in fact, are the used CRTs displaced in wealthy nations, which are practically given away in emer
    • Dont agree. 2007 was loong ago.
      Take a look at the development hence: []

      10 years ago it sales were basically 100% CRT. Now, its 15%, worldwide.

      Alive and well? More like sick and dying

      • What annoys me more is the equally sick and dying 4:3 flatpanel industry.

        The ridiculous economies of scale involved in producing LCD TV panels mean that a decent computer panel is harder to come by. As long as you don't mind a low vertical resolution of just over 1000 pixels, you're in luck, because they are cheaper than ever. But if you actually want progress, you need to splash some serious cash.

        I mean, FFS, I was using a 1600x1200 panel when my laptop had Windows NT on it. I'm searching through the HP we

  • There is no way in hell that I will marry a supermodel this year. Just never going to happen.

  • Come on, who would want to read what some unknown did that day, with only 140 characters? /sarcasm
  • by bored ( 40072 )

    I thought those were dead, even apple says the iPOD revenue is declining. All the iPOD people now have iphones and iPADs so they dont need a dedicated music playback device when their phone is always in their pocket.

  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:15AM (#36023744) Homepage

    To be fair, a lot of the quote sources are businesspeople being dismissive of their competitors. That doesn't necessarily mean they believe what they're saying: of course Microsoft is going to say that Apple isn't a competitor. Doing anything other than that would give Apple an advantage in the marketplace.

  • The iPod-is-deaders were right, but for wrong the reasons. It's true that no one listens to 1000 songs, but anyone working in tech knows that storage will expand. If this years model has 1000 song capacity, the next one will have 5000 and within a few years you'll find something that works for you.

    Nevertheless, that product really is doomed, though not as an evolutionary dead-end. The iPhone replaces it.

    All small gizmos are converging and for some reason, whenever application X combines with applicatio

  • It might have come with the default desktop task. I thought it was pretty stupid to have a public-facing daemon installed without even asking, but since I was just on a 14.4kbps modem at the time, I didn't care so much.

  • x86 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:30AM (#36023882)
    The x86 CPU architecture would be a good candidate too.
  • still used quite extensively. use is generally a no-brainer compared to scan/pdf/email for most offices.

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @10:35AM (#36023942)

    From my reading of these. All the technology was fine the failure predictions were based on not understanding the socialogical impact of the technology.

    Google -> search
    Internet -> sharing and remote access
    ipod -> really personal applications
    TV -> advertising

    The most important part of these technologies seem to be the humans in the loop and what the technology does for the humans. The predictions failures seem to be failures in understanding the sociology. The message seems to be understanding the sociological market for the technology.

    • by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:30PM (#36026118)

      Way back when, in my undergrad days, I earned a bit of extra money by working in the university library. One thing that was always made clear was that you had to put books and stuff back on the shelf in the right place, because if you put them in the wrong place it was unlikely anybody would ever find them again. You might as well throw them away.

      The key is searching, finding things. I thought it was pretty obvious that anybody who could come up with a better way to find things on the internet would make a buttload of money. That better way, for the moment at least, is Google.


  • Not really much of a story. "Predicting the future is hard. Film at 11." Even smart people are wrong all the time.

  • Take a gander at this paper [] on the subject. Most people have about a 50/50 shot or worse at accurately predicting binary events. The worse part is interesting--that some people are just consistently terrible.

    The truth is, you have to have incredibly detailed knowledge about a subject and a philosophic outlook on it that's appropriate. Technological change is especially hairy because there's a lot exciting technology that ends up getting killed by socio-cultural or political reasons. For instance, in the lat

  • Sadly, I have heard people use the argument that "the experts miss calls like this one" to point to how we can achieve Faster-Than-Light once we start to "think outside the box".

    None of these missed calls, esp. satellite radio, defy the known physics of their day. Those FTL-friendly people see FTL as a mere 'technological breakthrough."
  • For my entire life I've been told the paperless office is arriving and soon people will relegate printers, faxes, and xerox machines to wherever telegraph sounders and stock market tickers have been landfilled. For at least thirty years I've heard how in just short five years, people won't even remember the concept of a "printer" or a "photocopier".

    The only casualty I've seen is the FAX. With a couple exceptions, for example, a couple years ago my health insurance required something FAXed to them... I'm l

  • Tamagotchi (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @11:06AM (#36024344)
    Did Tamagotchi fail? Or did it just *ahem* evolve into Pokemon and Nintendogs?

    And what kind of an example is Tamagotchi in the first place? Tamagotchi wasn't a tech, it was just a particular application of an existing tech that had been around a long time, in fact by that point it was practically retro. All it did was make the little hand-held LCD games that had gone out of vogue around the release of the GameBoy briefly popular again by coming up with a novel new style of game.
  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @11:09AM (#36024396) Journal

    First of all, Metcalfe is a self-important asshole. He's up there with Dvorak in the most inept prognosticators category. The Internet, as we call it, had a couple of decades under its belt by the time Metcalfe made his rude noises about it. The Internet existed for a long time, it was the introduction of the ISP that was ultimately needed to get it to a wider audience. I'll wager you could find without too much difficulty a half dozen futurists and SciFi authors who foresaw a global information network.

    As to satellites, maybe I'm looking at this from the point of view of a half century of satellite technology, but it strikes me as being pretty frigging obvious that once you can get a transmitter/repeater into orbit, you're in the game.

    I don't view guys like Metcalfe and Dvorak as futurists, I just view them as contrarians who attack any new(ish) tech in the hopes that maybe they'll be right and look really smart. Ultimately, of course, they just look like contrarian morons.

  • by eepok ( 545733 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:15PM (#36025926) Homepage

    Article says the following products/concepts succeeded when they were predicted to fail.

    1) iPod (Portable Digital Media Player)
    2) Internet
    3) Personal Computer
    4) Television
    5) Google (Minimalist Internet Interfacing, unobstructive advertising)
    6) Android, iPhone (Smartphones)

    Anyone who predicted the failure of the above was obviously WAY too far removed from the target audience to be worth his/her salt.

    1) Portable Digital Media Player -- This was an obvious predictable survivor. The first realistic portable music device was the cassette player (Sony Walkman, notably). It was a hit and widely emulated. Then came the portable CD player (Sony Discman, notably). It was a hit and widely emulated. It was better than the cassette player because it offered higher-quality sound and greater convenience (if at the initial cost of "skipping" risk). Then came the MP3 player-- a device that stored CD-quality music on flash memory. It had no moving parts and great battery life. Apple then put forth the iPod (early iterations had moving parts) which was a fashion smash hit. Its staying power came from the need for the next step in portable music evolution and, surprisingly, because of its unforeseeable status as a fashion accessory.

    2) The internet, even at its earliest incarnation, was a means of connecting people of similar minds and interests for communication. Advances in communication always survive and this advance combined the opportunity for well-thought letter-style communication at telephone speed. Furthermore, it became a marketplace for wares and a means of education. Yes, and adult entertainment. Its survival was a no-brainer.

    3) Whoever said the PC wouldn't survive did not understand what a PC nor what digital computing was. It's the same as someone saying "books" would not survive because the person didn't understand that paper could transmit information beyond the death of a writer.

    4) Television... jeez. People love entertainment. Jokes, stories, gossip, games, races, drama, fantasy -- all were hits on stage, in person, and in books. The person who said TV wouldn't last had no understanding of people.

    5) Google survived initially because while everyone was annoying users with massive front-page bloat and forceful marketing/advertising, Google was simple. Google provided what the intelligent and focused internet user market wanted- a simple and efficient search engine. Word of their apparent search honest spread like wildfire and thus came the demise of the all-encompassing "web portal".

    6) Smartphones survive for a few reasons: the popularity of social exhibitionism/voyeurism, new generation reliance on internet connectivity to provide solutions, and the wow-factor of touchscreens and pretty UIs. They will continue to survive so long as the touchscreen remains the best affordable visual interface... though I'd really prefer the return of buttons... they just work.

  • Fire Alarm Boxes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Y-Crate ( 540566 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:55PM (#36027274)

    Telephone pole-mounted fire alarm boxes [] should be gone by now. Telephones should have killed them. Then cell phones. But they refuse to die off completely, and the fire departments of some cities fight to keep them.

    They exist not simply because of nostalgia, but because they just work. Quite well, actually. The system in Boston has experienced uptime of over a century. Nothing has ever managed to shut it down. Even when the telephone systems fail, cell phone towers stop working and there is absolutely no other way to communicate, the boxes remain functional and the ultimate insurance policy. No matter what happens, or where you are at any given moment, you will be able to get help if you need it. All thanks to 19th century telegraph technology. If your city is considering getting rid of them to save a few bucks, you might want to consider asking them not to.

    They're not just useful for fires. Many NYC boxes offer the user a choice between fire / police and medical options.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.