Don’t Believe the Hype: The 21 Biggest Technology Flops

Don’t Believe the Hype: The 21 Biggest Technology Flops by David Haskin

This is a very interesting collection of alleged over-hyped tech flops, put together by Computerworld. Some of these are specific products that clearly bombed (e.g., Microsoft Bob, the Apple Newton), while others are broad areas that may yet materialize into something extremely cool (e.g., virtual reality, smart appliances). In any case the main point is not just that the technologies flopped, but that they failed to live up to the hype. At the very least, it’s thought provoking with respect to design. Always easier to see misguided or over-anxious design in hindsight.

Here is the list:

  • Apple Newton
  • Digital audio tape
  • DIVX
  • Dot-bombs
  • E-books
  • IBM PCjr
  • Internet currency
  • Iridium
  • Microsoft Bob
  • The Net PC
  • The paperless office
  • Push technology
  • Smart appliances
  • Virtual reality


  • Apple Lisa
  • Dreamcast
  • NeXT
  • OS/2
  • Qube
  • Speech recognition
  • WebTV

They then put it to a vote of their readership, and the losers were (drumroll please)…

  1. Microsoft Bob
  2. Dot-bombs
  3. The paperless office
  4. DIVX
  5. Iridium

The follow-up article is actually as interesting as the initial, including rants and raves from their readership about flops that should have been included but weren’t (Windows Vista, Zune), those that were not viewed as flops at all by some significant cross-section of readers (OS/2, virtual reality), and those that were very controversial (Y2K, flop or success?!).

If I had a great deal more time on my hands right now, I’d love to dive into each of these legendary once-hyped technologies and discuss in greater detail. Meanwhile, your comments are welcome.

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