In memory of Steve Jobs, who passed away literally hours before I published this article, I present you with a look into the past:
Apple has The iPad and yet another iPhone on the way. Every time a new Apple product hits the shelves, people start buying and snatching these suckers up at a record-setting rate…until version 2 (or 5) comes out in ten months and it starts all over again. Below are some pieces of technology that were exciting for a relatively brief amount of time. At one point, they seemed to be “THE” thing to own. Nowadays, they’re just another footnote in the history of dead technology.
5. Palm Pilots. A fine example of a flash-in-the-pan tech device that seemed so very cool and then was so very gone in an instant. One of the biggest problems with this actually great idea was that the technology was constantly changing, which led to constant upgrades or simply owning a PDA that users became disinterested in. It wasn’t unusual to own a Palm Pilot that seemed practically obsolete a year later. It took several years for PDAs to really take off and, by the time they did, cell phones had already caught up with them. Having a Palm Pilot was a great idea for a couple of years. Being able to have a phone that did everything the PDA did, as well as play music and videos? It was a no-brainer. Add to that the fact that cell phones didn’t have stylus pencils to lose? What was the point of having a stand-alone PDA? They are still sold out there, literally eclipsed by sales of Blackberry and iPhones and iPads.
4. Mini Disc Players. When the compact disc hit the market, it revolutionized the music industry. Here was digital music on a small disc that was nearly indestructible, easily portable, and highly affordable. Everyone loved CDs, so it seemed obvious everyone would love MINI-CDs, right? Wrong. The mini-disc player was sleek and portable, and played tiny CDs that held more music, were recordable, and even more convenient. But people were already collecting CDs. They didn’t really want to collect more stuff. On top of that, the MP3 player explosion was literally months away. Why own a mini-disc or compact disc or any kind of disc when you could have all the digital music you wanted with none of the extra crap laying around the house. People owned mini-disc players for about a year before switching to an iPod. You can still get them on Ebay, of course.
3. Laserdiscs. Here’s a form of technology that was around for almost two decades and yet hardly anyone seemed to have it. From the start, laserdiscs were expensive and run on expensive players. The price never went down, either, as is normally the case with popular technology. On a whole, people were fine just watching their VCR, which wasn’t just more affordable, but more convenient. Laserdiscs often required flipping the disc over like a vinyl album on a turntable. The discs themselves were never produced on a mass-market level and the better, more-affordable DVD format came along and soon beat the laserdisc into obscurity. Like most forms of dead technology, the laserdisc still has it’s fans and collectors.
2. Pagers. This one isn’t exactly fair, since pagers were around for a couple of decades before they became wildly popular. And they still exist today. But do you know anyone who is carrying one? And, if so, why? When they first came on the market, pagers were only owned by doctors, lawyers, drug dealers and strippers. Suddenly, in the late 90s, massive affordability and an increasing sense of self-importance caused pagers to be everywhere. Look at any photo from around 1999 and you’ll see someone you know sporting one on his belt. Just as pagers became massively popular, cell phones became ridiculously affordable, ridiculously small and ridiculously convenient. Just as soon as people bought pagers, they were throwing them away and replacing them with a phone the same size. Then talking on a phone was replaced with texting on them and the entire universe imploded.
1. Nintendo Virtual Boy. The video game system that no one owned. In 1995, Nintendo released this hand-held system, a 3D version of the popular Game Boy. This was right in the middle of the very-wrong theory that people had that Virtual Reality technology was going to be everywhere in a year or two, and yet is still, 15 years later, just something you do for fun at Dave & Buster’s. The Virtual Boy was in 3D, but most of the games were lame. You had to wear awkward goggles just to see the colorless, boring graphics, and it was too big to be very portable. The Virtual Boy was expensive and no one bought it. Then it was cheap…and no one bought it. Only 770, 000 of them were ever sold, and only 22 games were made for it. It was considered a massive failure and was discontinued in less than a year. Its demise is known as being major reason for the decline in Nintendo’s popularity and competitive force.
With every form of technology that comes along, there is another form that becomes obsolete. These are only five quick examples, but the list is endless. For instance, an entire article could be written about how each laptop I ever owned became obsolete within a year…including the one I’m using right now.