Failed technology of the last decade

My last post was about the technology of the decade.  For this post, I thought I would cover the failed tech from the double-oh’s and the best of that lot.  For ‘failed tech’, I am going to include tech that may have been successful at one time, but, ultimately died. In some cases, as in the VCR, the technology was supplanted.  For others, like Sony’s Mini-Disc, it never really caught on.

Some tech began the decade with a promising future.  The PDA, for example, got popular in the late ‘90’s and rode a high wave into the double-oh’s. But, as the decade reached its mid point, PDA’s found themselves being replaced by the rise of the Smartphone. Palm, the prolific maker of the PDA, ceased production of all it’s PDA’s by 2008.  It’s LifeDrive, a hard disk based device, was its last really great PDA.  It’s Zire 22 lingered on for a bit, but, ultimately, met its demise.  You can still find a couple PDA’s being made, but I suspect that won’t last long.

Video games came into their own during the decade.  Sony had huge success with the PS1 and the PS2.  The PS1’s life cycle, along with the Nintendo 64 were near the end of life in 2000 when the PS2 was released.  One other company, however, had released its next gen console a year earlier.  The Sega Dreamcast was a marvel of a game console.  Initial sales were brisk and the future of the connected console looked bright.  Unfortunately for Sega, Sony’s release of the Playstation 2 pretty much killed the Dreamcast in Japan and put a huge dent in the console in other markets, including the United States.  Sega threw in the towel in the United States in November of 2001 and in Europe a year later.  However, Sega continued to sell the console all the way through 2006 in Japan.  There were also sporadic sales in the U.S. and other areas around globe in 2004 or 2005.  There were a few games also released during the decade, but, for all intents and purposes, Sega became a software company after 2002.  The dream ended for them. 

Dreamcast had everything going for it:  compact size, Internet connectivity, online and multiplayer games, major game titles, the works.  Unfortunately, Sega just could not compete against Sony and, to a lesser degree, Nintendo.  By the time Sega ended its console run, Microsoft had entered the game with the XBOX.  There was no way the market could support four players.  It barely supports three, but four is out of the question.  Sony went on to sell tens of millions of PS2 units and it is still selling today.  Unfortunately, Sony has not been able to repeat that success with PS3, the most technically competent console of the current generation.

The Internet took over the planet during the decade.  You couldn’t turn on your television, read a newspaper or magazine or go anywhere with out seeing a ‘www…com’ address.  It seemed, for a while anyway, that anything that had anything to do with the Internet would be a success.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  In 2000, the 3Com Corporation released the Audrey.  Audrey was an Internet appliance.  It was a portable device with a touchscreen and Internet access.  It could received email, play audio and video and could sync with up to two Palm PDA devices.  Audrey had what many considered a high price for what you got and it did not run Windows. It ran something called ‘QNX’.   The device failed to excite and was discontinued in June of 2001, just seven months after debuting.  Hackers, on the other hand, LOVE this device.

The decade was littered with promising devices like Audrey, none of them made it.  Audrey was part of the one segment in the computer world that just does not seem to find any love.  Audrey was a tablet computer.  The decade is littered with them.  Microsoft tried and tried to popularize them, but just could not find the one device, at the right price, that people would buy.  Ultimately, price, more than anything else, did them end.  And here, at the start of a new decade, another company, Apple, is poised to try the form factor—if you believe the rumor mill, that is.

The video cassette, staple of home video since the mid 1970’s, finally died a rather quiet death.  Early in the decade, the DVD surpassed sales of pre-recorded VHS for the first time.  Seemingly, overnight, stores dumped the lowly VCR.  They linger on as a feature on another home video device that really never caught on either:  the home DVD recorder. Home video underwent a huge transformation during the decade.  DVD players and the DVR replaced not only the VHS deck, but also relegated the DVD recorder to a niche market.  And both the XBOX and PS3 featured next gen DVD replacements and neither caught on enough to replace the DVD.  HD-DVD, in fact, did not survive and Blu-Ray is only now, with huge drops in price, beginning to catch on but it’s life span is expected to be short as digital downloads and stream high definition video are poised to take off as high-speed Internet becomes more common.

The list goes on: Microsoft SPOT, the Fly Fusion Pen Computer (a cool, cool device), Sony UMD, Sony Mini Disc, Polaroid instant film, film in general, the CRT and more.  So, which technology had the biggest fall?  The award goes to the aforementioned CRT.

In 2000, you could still buy a CRT based monitor or television.  In fact, they were often cheaper than their flat screen brethren. LCD monitors were still somewhat expensive and not overly desirable for gaming since the refresh rate was not that great.  By 2002, however, LCD monitors began to get cheaper and bigger.  Plasma televisions were getting cheaper and gaining in popularity.  It would take just three years for tide to turn, however.  By 2005, LCD monitors were quite common and more affordable.  Moreover, non-CRT based television sets had made tremendous strides in both performance and price.  CRT based rear screen projectors were still the most cost effective way to buy a large screen television, but that would last only a year more and by the beginning of 2007, you’d be hard pressed to find a CRT based television that was any good or find a CRT based computer monitor of any quality.  What was selling by the hundreds of millions at the start of the decade had pretty much been reduced to just a few million a year.  Today, I don’t think can find a CRT television set at all.  Even battery powered black and white sets are nowhere since the digital transition pretty much obsoleted them.  While you can argue that a fine CRT will have a better picture than the best LCD or plasma panel, the negatives against the CRT are just too great.  They are heavy, power hungry and, well, obsolete.  I don’t miss them.  We have two CRT based TV’s in the house, neither of them are in use.

It will be interesting to see what the next ten years will bring in both successful and failed tech.

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