Technology from the past that really flopped

Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Nintendo, Google and Co. – the big names in the tech industry are known for their innovations that delight millions of users. But even these tech giants have missed the mark a time or two in their careers with their extraordinary ideas.

Whether they appeared at the wrong time, were ousted by the competition or were simply too weak – some technical innovations turned into huge flops for their respective companies. atechbook presents the 13 biggest technology fails from Microsoft, Apple or Nintendo.

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Eyetop Wearable DVD Player

This gadget may well be one of the most impractical in tech history: The ugly plastic glasses are equipped with a low-resolution display and are supposed to make it possible to enjoy DVDs on the go in 2004. Of course, the DVD player and a battery have to be lugged along for this. Users may already know this from the Discman back then, but what they probably don’t know is the feeling of nausea that the Eyetop Wearable DVD Player is supposed to cause.

Sony Betamax and Video 2000

The Sony Betamax Video 2000 video formats had to admit defeat to the Video Home System (VHS) from manufacturer JVC in the format war of video recorders in the 70s. While Sony Betamax, just like VHS, was launched as early as 1975 (in the USA and Japan), Video 2000 was not available in stores until 1979. Although both systems are technically superior to VHS, JVC manages to dominate the market with its format. Competitor Betamax is outstripped because JVC, unlike Sony, makes its technology available to other manufacturers. When Video 2000 comes onto the market, VHS already has an unassailable lead. Nevertheless, Betamax remains on the market for more than 10 years.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7 after explosion
Das Note 7 entpuppte sich als brandgefährlich | Photo: Reddit / User: crushader Photo: Reddit / User: crushader

In the meantime, Samsung has weathered the crisis quite well, but in 2016, the company’s headquarters in Seoul were literally on fire. The reason was the notorious Galaxy Note 7, which turned out to be a literal time bomb shortly after its market launch. The smartphone received very good test scores and was certainly one of the best devices on the market at that time, if it hadn’t been for the battery defect that caused the Galaxys to explode in rows all over the world. Samsung tried to quickly manufacture replacement devices with new batteries and distribute them to users, but they also went up in flames. As a result, Note 7 owners were no longer allowed to board buses, planes and stores with their smartphone. Overall, the Note 7 caused $17 billion in economic damage to the company. Samsung quickly recovered from this, however, as the Note 8 and Note 9 sold better than ever before.

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Apple Newton

The Newton dates back to a time when tablets were still called PDAs and were small mini-computers that could be used to access calendars, addresses and notes on the go – and when Apple was far from being the most valuable company in the world. The $700 Newton appeared in various guises for five years starting in 1993, until Steve Jobs canned the device as part of his restructuring of Apple in 1998. The main reason for the Newton’s failure, apart from its high price, is the miserable handwriting recognition of the first models.

Google+

When Google+ was launched in 2011 as a competitor to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg was terrified. The search engine giant, with its billions of users worldwide, could have easily outcompeted Facebook as potential members for a social network. Initially, user numbers soared, with hundreds of millions signing up in the first year and over two billion users in 2015, but those numbers turned out to be a farce because Google required users to sign up for Google+ in order to use its services. In fact, only a few million users who actually posted anything on the social network were active. Since these numbers are not worth mentioning for a social network, Google announced the discontinuation of the public Google+ version in 2018. Due to a data leak discovered in 2018 that affected over 50 million users, the end date was brought forward to April 2019. However, users can still access their old account and download their data.

Nintendo Virtual Boy

Oh Nintendo, how you have shaped the video game community with your consoles. Whether it was the NES, Super Nintendo or N64, you spoiled gamers in the 90s and implanted the Mario DNA in them. But where there is light, there is also shadow – a small shadow, but a shadow nonetheless. After long before HTC and Oculus made virtual reality respectable, Nintendo delivered its biggest console flop in the form of VR glasses with the Virtual Boy in 1995. Only released in Japan and the USA, the “diving mask” only has 22 games. The intended 3D effect is not very spectacular and the two-color games with a glaring red cast cause headaches at best, but not gaming fun. Nowadays, the Virtual Boy is in demand, at least among collectors.

Microsoft Zune

With the Zune, manufacturer Microsoft delivered a technically flawless device – but it did not offer any novelties. The Zune is Microsoft’s vain attempt to compete with Apple’s established bestseller, the iPod, in 2006. To the Windows makers’ regret, however, the device has hardly any arguments that justify the purchase. Apple remained king in the Mp3 player business and Microsoft quietly withdrew again.

HD DVD

Das Schicksal des Sony Betamax ereilt gut 30 Jahre später auch die HD DVD. Im zweiten großen Formatkrieg duellieren sich die Disks im Jahr 2006 mit der Blu-ray um die Nachfolge der DVD. Microsofts Spielekonsole Xbox 360 bietet damals ein externes HD DVD-Laufwerk an, Sonys Playstation 3 verfügt über einen eingebauten Blu-ray-Player. Die Japaner behalten die Oberhand und verhelfen der Blu-ray zum Sieg. Spätestens als Warner Bros. der HD DVD im Jahr 2008 den Rücken kehrt, gehört das Format der Vergangenheit an.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestial Video Game

Back in 1982, there was a video game to go with the movie – but in 8-bit graphics and for the Atari 2600. Atari developer Warshaw had big plans for the adaptation of the famous E.T. movie, but licensing talks dragged on so long that in the end there were only five and a half weeks left to get the game on the market by the Christmas sales season. The result was one of the biggest flops the video game industry has ever seen, with one negative review after another. The financial fallout hit Atari hard, and the crash of the video game industry in 1983 can be attributed in no small part to E.T. In 1983, reports surfaced that Atari had buried a thousand copies of the game in the desert in New Mexico due to overproduction and returns, which long persisted as an urban legend. In 2014, commissioned excavators discovered several video game cartridges buried under a layer of concrete in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico – including E.T. James Heller, the Atari executive responsible for the burial, then confirmed that a full 728,000 cartridges had been dumped there – wow.

iSmell

This weird invention has nothing in common with Apple: The iSmell definitely comes from the cabinet of curiosities of technology inventions. Never getting beyond the prototype phase, the iSmell aims to bring smells to computers shortly after the turn of the millennium. The USB gadget has a cartridge with over 200 odorants that are supposed to be released in various combinations to imitate scents. For example, it should be possible to attach a perfume sample to an email. Surprisingly, the system even works! The problem: The iSmell did not solve any real problem and therefore hardly anyone was interested.

Amazon Fire Phone

Mail-order giant Amazon also finds its place on this list: In 2014, Jeff Bezos’ company failed in its attempt to establish itself in the smartphone market. It only took 13 months to sell the smartphone that no one wants. The integrated photo software, which recognizes objects and offers them directly for purchase on Amazon, simply comes too early to really be taken seriously as a feature. Besides, Amazon’s calculation that users should use the smartphone to buy even more from the online giant was too obvious. Since then, Amazon has concentrated on the Fire TV, the Fire HD tablet and Amazon Echo in terms of hardware.

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Disney’s “The Lion King” CD-ROM

The story about the computer game “The Lion King” from 1994 is more than curious. Of all things, at the contemplative time in 1994, the virtual adventure around the young lion Simba lies under the Christmas trees of Americans. Shortly before, computer manufacturer Compaq releases its PC called Presario. The game requires the then new Windows graphics engine WinG – but the Presario’s drivers are not yet designed for it. The result is catastrophic: If you insert the “The Lion King” CD-ROM into the PC and start it, you only see a blue screen and have ruined your computer for the time being.

Windows 10 Mobile

Mit der Smartphone-Version von Windows 10 wollte Microsoft den Markt von hinten aufrollen. 2015 wurde das Betriebssystem als Nachfolger von Windows Phone 8.1 eingeführt und gegen Android und iOS ins Rennen geschickt. Ob die Integration mit dem Windows-OS für den Rechner ihrer Zeit voraus und die Oberfläche flüssig und schnell war, wollte Windows 10 Mobile nicht so richtig in Fahrt kommen. Das lag vor allem an fehlenden Funktionen, die Microsoft nur schleppend nachreichte und einer sehr begrenzten App-Auswahl im Microsoft Store. Das OS hat 2017 sein letztes großes Update bekommen und wird seitdem praktisch nur noch mit Sicherheitspatches versorgt. Viele App-Entwickler wie etwa WhatsApp unterstützen jedoch jetzt schon nicht mehr Windows 10 Mobile . Ende 2019 beendet Microsoft den Support dann endgültig.