Every couple of years a new device, contraption, or gadget comes out and takes the world by storm. Suddenly people everywhere are declaring the new-fangled gizmo something that will change the world. And for a bit, it certainly seems like whatever-it-is is going to be around for quite some time.
There are numerous inventions that started out this way that truly have stood the test of time. Think smartphones, computers, or the automobile as proof of this concept but then other things that create quite buzz when they first come on the scene wind up going the way of the dodo. We’re looking at you fidget spinners!
In this video, we’re going to be looking at the top 10 inventions that saw initial success when they first came out only to fizzle out into obscurity after the hype faded. One minute they’re everywhere and the next they’re in the bargain bin. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.
Up first is a device that changed the way we watched TV but it just couldn’t keep up with the evolution of on-demand media and streaming content.
Back in the day, if you wanted to record live television you’d have to amass a collection of VHS tapes and fumble around with the programming settings of your VCR. You couldn’t just hit the pause button while you microwaved some pizza rolls or took a leisurely trip to the bathroom.
Then came TIVO which revolutionized the way we watched the tube. Digital video recording technology was a major upgrade over cumbersome analog recording technologies.
If you had a TIVO device connected to your TV you could finally record multiple channels at once – meaning you would never have to choose between your two favorite shows ever again. Another feature that lured in customers was the ability to skip commercials on recorded content – who didn’t love that?
TIVO’s marketing was so cunning that the device’s name became a verb synonymous with its function. Consumers would say thing’s like “I’ll TIVO that show and watch it later” or “you won’t believe what I TIVO’d last night.”
Unfortunately, the TIVO was made obsolete by advancing technological trends. Streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have completely replaced any and all need for DVR devices.
In 2012, Google unveiled their flashy augmented-reality device, Google Glass, and admittedly it seemed for a brief moment that this kind of technology was about to become as commonplace as the smartphone.
Initially, the device was beta-tested by an elite group of consumers called “Glass Explorers”. This exclusivity coupled with its novelty drew the attention of the media and public buzz for the headset grew exponentially.
Google Glass came equipped with a small Heads-Up-Display and a 5 megapixels still / 720p video camera. It was the latter feature that ended up being the downfall of the product. Wearing head-mounted cameras that were always on created massive privacy issues. In many places, the device violated existing privacy laws.
Google Glass was also uber expensive. At $1500, its limited feature set was hardly worth the price tag. Almost as soon as it was unveiled it fell out of vogue and was discontinued.
Real talk, who was in your top 8?
Myspace revolutionized the world of social media. It seemed like back in its heyday, everyone with an internet connection had a Myspace account.
At its height, the site boasted more than 100 million unique visitors per month.
In 2005. Myspace sold to News Corporation for $580 million. It was the go-to social media platform as there was nothing else quite like it. Sure, there was LiveJournal and Xanga but those sites were all just glorified blog hosts, Myspace gave users an opportunity to customize their own webpage and connect with millions of other users.
For a minute it seemed like Myspace was unstoppable. In 2008, for example, the website generated $800 million in revenue and was valued at $12 billion. Then something happened.
That something was Facebook, and by 2009 Myspace had fallen into serious decline. Myspace never recovered from it’s Facebook defeat. In 2011, Justin Timberlake purchased Myspace for $35 million, and although it’s technically still a thing, do you actually know anyone that uses it?
Smartwatches are a big deal these days. Apple and Samsung watches have cemented themselves a secure position in the consumer electronic marketplace.
Back in 2012, however, Pebble made its claim to fame by becoming the most funded Kickstarter item of all times. It’s creators managed to raise over $10 million for its production.
Smartwatches were just starting to have some market traction at the time, but because of Pebble’s successful Kickstarter campaign, they were able to amass a sizeable following of eager potential purchasers. Initial investors began receiving their first Pebble smartwatches in the first quarter of 2013.
After that Pebble released several new variations of their watches to the public and launched another successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015 that earned them a hefty $20.3 million.
Everything was looking promising for the company until financial issues required the company to return all of their Kickstarter funds to their investors. By December of 2016 Pebble was officially dead and Fitbit swooped in and bought up all of their intellectual property rights.
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Nintendo Virtual Boy
Nintendo is one of the most iconic and influential video game companies of all time. They single-highhandedly resurrected the video game industry following the infamous market crash of the early 80s. Today, the insanely popular Nintendo Switch has a 52% share in the console market. That’s a whole heck of a lot of people playing Animal Crossing and Legend of Zelda.
But not everything the company has come out with has been commercially successful. The Wii U, for example, was a huge financial failure, but that hiccup hardly stands in comparison to the ginormous nonaccomplishment that was the Virtual Boy.
In 1995, the Virtual Boy hit the market and boy was it one strange piece of tech. It was hyped as a virtual reality headset but in reality, it was an over-glorified Gameboy with bright red headache-inducing graphics only visible through a visor that mimicked the kind of stereoscopic 3D effect that you might see at movie theaters.
The system lacked games as well. Only 22 titles were ever made and after dismal sales, the console was canceled a year after it launched.
What could go wrong when you introduce a digital platform to the world that allows millions of people to pirate copyrighted music? The music industry certainly isn’t going to protest in any kind of way, right? Right….
Sure, Napster was super cool. Admit it, you downloaded NYSNC’s entire discography at some point, but rest assured that every record company was absolutely furious that such a platform ever existed.
Napster launched in 1999 and it quickly became the quintessential peer-to-peer file-sharing network. At its height, Napster enjoyed over 80 million active users.
Following several successful lawsuits by artists like Dr. Dre and Metalica, Napster was hit with sizable fines and was forced to shut down in 2002. The Napster name has since been passed through several names including Best Buy and MelodyVR. As of 2020, Napster.com is host to a subscription-based music streaming platform similar to Spotify.
Yes, long before the smartphone and portable GPS devices, people actually had to rely on paper maps to navigate. When MapQuest came along in 1996, all of that changed. Back then, you would go online, search for your destination, and print out a map with step-by-step directions on how to get there. It was a game-changer. No longer would you have to pull over at a gas station and whip out your atlas or reluctantly ask for directions from the cashier inside.
Aol purchased MapQuest in 2000 for $1.1 billion dollars.
By the mid-2000s, however, Google Maps had become the go-to online map service especially after GPS and smartphone technology had taken over. MapQuest did eventually adapt to the times and implement GPS capabilities and does technically still maintain a small share of the online maps market but it’s a far cry from what it was a couple of decades ago.
When they first came out in 1996, Palm Pilots and other personal digital assistants were all the rage. Back then these handheld computers had black and white displays that weren’t even backlit. They sported only half a megabyte of RAM and connected to your PC using the super-archaic serial communication port.
They certainly were cool for their time because there was nothing else like it. You could use them to take notes, play games, and organize your life with their built-in calendars but once smartphones came on the scene they were rendered completely useless. HP bought the brand in 2010 but ran it into the ground by 2011.
Remember the Bluray versus HD-DVD wars from 15 years ago? Well, back in the late 70’s the same kind of market-dominating battle was going on with tape-based video formats. The two main competitors were VHS from JVC and Betamax from Sony.
Betamax came out first giving consumers their first taste of what it was like to record their favorite TV programs to watch later. It literally blew people’s minds to have that kind of power.
Technically speaking, Betamax boasted higher video recording fidelity but in the end, that really didn’t matter.
Two factors put an end to the video-wars.
- Betamax was more expensive than VHS,
- The porn industry chose to back VHS.
Let’s take a trip back in time to 2001 when Dean Kamen developed and released the Segway – the two-wheeled, gyroscope-enabled self-balancing personal transportation vehicle.
There’s no denying that the Segway was an innovative piece of technology. It provided commuters with a whole new way of navigating an urban environment – even though they looked ridiculous while doing so.
Segways took the world by storm and became a universally recognized pop-culture staple. When it first came out, everyone was talking about it and secretly wanting one. Steve Jobs even called it the greatest thing that’s happened since the PC – although he would later backpedal on that statement by declaring that the Segway sucked.
With a top speed of 10 mph and with a relatively quick charge time of 4 to 6 hours, it certainly looked like the Segway was set to change the way the world maneuvers around cities. So what happened?
The Segway ultimately failed for a few different reasons. For one thing, it was super expensive. At $5,000 it cost as much as a low-end base model car. Instead of becoming a revolutionary personal transport device, the Segway instead became a go-to transport device for mall-cops and security officers. And among the general public, it never managed to become anything more than a novelty item. Sure, people signed up for a bunch of Segway guided city tours, but no one actually bought them for serious use.
The Segway bit the dust in 2020. The company was purchased by Chinese electric vehicle company Ninebot and now the Segway name is used to sell electric scooters.
Well, that wraps up our list. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with us about all of these tech-flops. It really makes you wonder what the next big thing will be to fail. 10 years from now what will we be looking back on scratching our heads wondering why it was ever popular in the first place.
We’d love to hear from you. What do you think are some technology trends of today that are going to be forgotten in the near future? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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