10 'Great' Tech Products that Really Weren't
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, it's clear many products people thought were great at the time don't look so great any more. In fact most weren't all that hot when new. Yet many continue to worship them as if they were even better than sliced bread.
Well, enough of that. Here are ten technologies that don't deserve all those accolades. Join us as we stumble down memory lane and tip over a few sacred cows.
10. Vinyl Records (1948)
We're not big fans of compact discs or evangelists for MP3s. But the utter devotion "audio purists" pay to those hissing, popping, scratched-up slags of warped plastic earns vinyl a spot on our curmudgeon's top 10.
"Sure, vinyl records sound warmer than digital, whatever that means to you," says Troy Davis, CTO for coupon marketing site CoupSmart (and a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music). "But that's because of low-level distortion inherent in the process of scraping vinyl to reproduce complex, high-frequency information, not some magical hippie goodness that comes from the forces of nature."
9. Segway PT (2001)
It was supposed to revolutionize personal transportation. Jeff Bezos was an early investor, and Steve Jobs allegedly predicted future cities would be designed around them. But when the first Segways rolled off the production lines, most of us uttered a collective "Huh?" Who uses them today? Tour guides, Google employees, mall cops (at least, the Hollywood version), and a handful of stubborn Segway devotees who've managed to rack up nearly 4 million miles on them... very, very slowly.
8. Apple Lisa 1 (1983)
The Lisa is often hailed as the first personal computer to sport a graphical user interface (but only by those who conveniently ignore the Xerox Alto, built a decade earlier). That -- and a $10,000 price tag -- are really its only claims to fame. Yet some fanboys still can't let go of Lisa, even though Apple did, burying the last 2,700 of them in a landfill in 1989.
"The Lisa is only noteworthy for being Mac-like before the Mac was released," notes Dave Farquhar, a network security engineer who writes The Silicon Underground blog. "It was unreliable, there was no software for it beyond what was shipped with it, and nobody bought it."
7. Amazon Kindle (2007)
With its boxy shape, clumsy keypad, and putty color, the original Kindle looked like the bastard offspring of an IBM PC and a Texas Instruments calculator. The no-glare screen looked great, thanks to its E-Ink electronic paper; but so did the Sony Reader, which had been using E-Ink technology for more than a year. The Kindle's primary advantage was it let you download book directly via Sprint's wireless Whispernet. But that also allowed Amazon to undownload books, as we discovered in July 2009 when when Amazon deleted unauthorized copies of Animal Farm and 1984 from users' Kindles.
6. CP/M (1973)
Before Windows there was DOS, and before DOS there was the Control Program for Microcomputers, or CP/M. (Before CP/M? Typewriters.) As the legend goes, had CP/M developer Gary Kildall of Digital Research Inc. not blown off a meeting with IBM about licensing a version of his OS in 1980, DRI might have ended up ruling the PC roost. Instead, Bill Gates and Paul Allen adapted a clone of CP/M for Big Blue, and the rest is history.
The problems with that story? 1. Kildall didn't actually blow off the meeting; and 2. CP/M wasn't really all that good, says Winn Schwartau, author of Information Warfare and chairman of smart phone security firm Mobile Active Defense.
"A number of my friends still run Kaypro CP/M machines because they're still fast and not cluttered up by endless DLLs and other crap," he says. "But I think CP/M was a kluge that fell far short from a usability standpoint."