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The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time 497

Posted by Zonk
from the i've-used-1-2-4-7-8-15-and-20 dept.
Khammurabi writes "PC World compiled a list of the 25 worst tech products of all time. From the article: 'At PC World, we spend most of our time talking about products that make your life easier or your work more productive. But it's the lousy ones that linger in our memory long after their shrinkwrap has shriveled, and that make tech editors cry out, "What have I done to deserve this?"' Number one on the list? AOL."
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The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time

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  • Bad tech? Nah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alaren (682568) on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:31PM (#15412297)

    AOL was (is) bad, but they really missed the boat on a lot of these. These aren't the worst, these are just some of the bigger failures...

    Let's start with "popup ads..."

    Or maybe we should talk about "DRM..."

    Or for those of us who appreciate irony, how about "breaking your article up into many pages in order to increase page impressions and ad revenue?"

    Now that's bad tech.

  • by creimer (824291) on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:33PM (#15412320) Homepage
    But the "chiclet" keyboard should've been listed separately. When I saw the new MacBook laptops having a similiar design, I freaked out until I tried it out at the Apple store. You can count on Steve Jobs to re-invent an old technology dog.
  • Packard Bell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CPIMatt (206195) * on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:34PM (#15412329)
    I am surprised that Packard Bell didn't make the list. They made some pretty crappy computers in the late 80s.

    -Matt
  • by Otter (3800) on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:36PM (#15412346) Journal
    Lotus Notes has got to have a place on that list -- hell, it should be on the list of The 1 Worst Tech Product Of All Time. And if you weight items by the number of people forced to use them, it'd be even more dominant.

    Microsoft Bob continues to take a beating that I think is unfair. (I wonder how many of the people who talk about it have ever seen it.) It was pretty useless, true, but it was also an attempt to be genuinely innovative, and deserves credit for failing while trying to do something really new.

  • of ALL TIME? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ch-chuck (9622) on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:43PM (#15412390) Homepage
    pretty myopic and self flattering of this age - I could pick up a 1950's copy of Popular Mechanics and find lots of stupendous techno-flops. One that comes to mind is a TV set with a built in 35mm slide viewer. You guys have no idea.

  • Apple puck mouse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tsa (15680) on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:44PM (#15412403) Homepage
    Ahh, the Apple puck mouse. What a pity it didn't make the top 25. I used one for a day. Instant RSI that thing will give you. Kudos to the person who designed that; you have to be really good to design a mouse that is SO bad.
  • by kcbrown (7426) <slashdot@sysexperts.com> on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:45PM (#15412406)
    Windows.

    The reason? It has trained at least one, and probably two, generations of computer users to expect the computer to be fragile. It has made those people afraid to simply experiment with the computer because they might do something to "break" it.

    This is a big reason there are so many people who don't want to learn how the computer works. By training at least one generation of people that computers are fragile, Microsoft has in a single stroke managed to limit people's willingness to learn about the computer they use every day, and thus limited their effectiveness with it.

    That Microsoft also tends to (or has tended to) write their software in such a way as to hide the details of errors that occur only exacerbates the problem. And the constant stream of critical security flaws only serves to hammer in the final nail in the coffin.

    Hence, I have to nominate Windows as the worst tech product of all time.

  • by TheDarkener (198348) on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:45PM (#15412412)
    Seriously, AOL shouldn't be #1... They just got in really good with the 90% of non-tech savy Internet users from the beginning, and gave them a nice little interface to the Internet, making it easier for them to move around.

    Doesn't matter if it costs 2x as much as any other ISP, or that the interface is so kludgy that you need to upgrade your video card, or that they censor the Internet to conform to it's mass majority of users' tastes, or that the "You've got mail" sound that hasn't changed...(ever?) makes most people want to wretch all over their keyboards, or that their spyware/virus "protection" is a miserable failure and should be uninstalled, or that their "Here's your 20th CD-ROM this month" ad campaign is probably the worst landfill culprit since the pet rock, or.....

    Yeah, I guess they deserve it. =p
  • by Ekarderif (941116) <benjamin@feng.gmail@com> on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:48PM (#15412432)
    Nintendo Visual Boy was also trying something new. It also sucked big time. About as much fun as sticking lasers in your eyeballs.
  • by Kamiza Ikioi (893310) on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:51PM (#15412462) Homepage
    I couldn't agree more. Already reading many comments on this article in other locations that are crying foul over AOL. Not that AOL was the best thing since sliced bread. But before other dial up ISPs, they were the only bread in town, unless you logged in to text services or one-at-a-time BBSs. Looking at AOL then, you see where the leap was made from online computing before 1989 and after. Color, pictures, multiuser chat, news, message boards, and email.

    Strange, that's pretty similar to what we have now. If you read what they complain about, it is painfully obvious that the writer is either some 16 year old AOL basher without a clue or worse, an old elitist that wonders, "Didn't we all have private (D)Arpanet connections?"

    Here's their complaints about AOL:

    "How do we loathe AOL? Let us count the ways. Since America Online emerged from the belly of a BBS called Quantum "PC-Link" in 1989, users have suffered through..."

    1. awful software
    2. inaccessible dial-up numbers
    3. rapacious marketing
    4. in-your-face advertising
    5. questionable billing practices
    6. inexcusably poor customer service
    7. enough spam to last a lifetime
    8. more expensive than its major competitors

    "This lethal combination earned the world's biggest ISP the top spot on our list of bottom feeders."

    It goes on to say:

    "AOL succeeded initially by targeting newbies, using brute-force marketing techniques. In the 90s you couldn't open a magazine (PC World included) or your mailbox without an AOL disk falling out of it. This carpet-bombing technique yielded big numbers: At its peak, AOL claimed 34 million subscribers worldwide, though it never revealed how many were just using up their free hours.

            Advertisement (This is an actual paste... sorry, PC world gave me IN-YOUR-FACE advertising.)

    Now, there are some valid arguments. For instance, they are notorious for screwing up your billing and not cancelling accounts properly. On the other hand, this article is targeting the original AOL. In your face advertising? Nobody but geeks knew what the net was in the early 90s. In the 90s, you couldn't exactly download the AOL client (more evidence this guy is 16). But let's go back.

    Awful software: What did you expect, it ran on Windows 3.1. It was probably the only useful thing a home user ever ran on Windows 3.1

    Inaccessible dial-up numbers: I had about 4 numbers locally, and most problems were because I screwed with my modem baud trying to squeeze out top speed.

    Marketing: Back then, you had to convince people that they had a reason to even buy a computer, let alone get online with it.

    Spam: We're placing the blame on AOL for this now?

    Expensive: That's certainly true. I remember a point when they charged over $6 an hour or there abouts. Let's just say that you used your AOL time wisely (downloading all the porn you could within an hour), hehe. Yes, it would be considered highway robbery these days. Then again, so many out there are willing to pay $2 for a tv show (free to watch on your very large TV) to play on a itsy bitsy iPod screen. I'd rather pay $6 an hour for my Internet connection.

    PCWorld probably made hundreds of thousands of dollars from AOL to carry their CDs for them. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
  • by Chris Bradshaw (933608) * on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:57PM (#15412510)
    Where's ADA?
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday May 26, 2006 @03:58PM (#15412512) Journal
    Popup ads, the worst tech ever? Hardly, they are very succesfull, in fact this article had one. Well a DHTML popup but that is the same thing right?

    As for DRM, well that is still around and doing a brisk trade. Expect to see a lot more of it in the future.

    I think you and the article author mean two different things. He means tech that was a failure. Not tech that is hated.

    Big difference.

    Yes on a list of most hated tech DRM and popups would be serious contenders but that is a list for another time. Granted, IE would again be high on the list. Bill Gates must be so proud.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:02PM (#15412545) Journal
    It was just to expensive and never really adopted as a standard. Meaning you had to bring your drive with you. Handy for downloading at work and then take it home where you were on pay by the minute dialup. Far superior to anything else at the time.

    The advance of cd burners (and later usb drives) coupled with the click of death and the high cost of zip disks and their small capacity just made them obsolete.

    It wasn't bad tech. Just had a very limited lifespan.

  • Re:Zip Drive? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ergo98 (9391) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:03PM (#15412551) Homepage Journal
    I had a zip drive and at the time it filled a large gap between the floppy and CD rewriteable (which was very costly).

    Yeah, the list in question is hugely suspect, and many of the entries are inane. They jump between truly terrible tech, to products and companies that just didn't change with the market. The Zip drive was hugely important and successful (even if the "Clik!" had some technical faults). PointCast was a great solution as well, opening up a lot of people's eyes to the multimedia potential and information sharing of the Internet (and it caused all of the browser makers to focus almost entirely on push for a while).
  • by jemenake (595948) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:04PM (#15412561)
    Some of the items on the list, although we love to hate them, are things that really did help the tech world make strides forward. For example, say what you want about AOL but, if it weren't for them, I still probably wouldn't be able to send email to my mom. Zip disks? Yes, they had click-of-death but, at the time, a portable 100MB for $10? That was unreal. PointCast? PointCast was the first time where you could have your very own, customized scrolling ticker on your screen... just like the ones on the CNN screen... but it only had the stuff *you* wanted. When it first came out, it was a marvel. All of these items changed the way that people thought about what they could do with computers when they first came out.

    Contrast that with some items on the list that were complete disasters from the moment they were launched: IBM PC Jr., CueCat, Microsoft Bob... THOSE belong on the list. The list probably should have included some other items that had lofty ambitions but just never "took" (like OS/2). But, like I said, some of the ones on the list, I feel, aren't getting their due. We look at them now and see how worthless they are by today's standards (you can probably get any of these items on eBay for $5, now), but that ignores the impact they had when they were first released.
  • by joebooty (967881) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:04PM (#15412563)
    Perhaps the overhyping has forever biased me but the segway has to be the most absurd tech product.

    2k for a bizarre scooter that was supposed to change my life forever? huh?
  • Left out a few. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:11PM (#15412613) Homepage Journal
    1. The IBM PC. It was slower than many CP/M available at the time that cost less. It uses a brain-dead "16" bit cpu called the 8088 that was used a night mare of an addressing system. The default operating system was this bad copy of CP/M from Microsoft. And it didn't even follow the standard for the gender of the printer port or the serial port! What made it a total nightmare was that it sold in HUGE numbers and created a standard that sucked and managed to kill off better machines.

    2. The IBM AT. Just when you thought their couldn't be a CPU worse then the 8088 Intel creates the an addressing system that makes the 8088 look good. Then IBM creates new standard based in this nightmare did I mention that they created an even less standard format for the RS-232 comport? But wait there is more Microsoft creates a now OS that has a bad habit of crashing hard drives and prevent you from creating any hard drive partition bigger than 33 megabytes.

    And the ever popular Disk-doubler! A great program from Microsoft that they included with MS-DOS 6. Not only did it contain code stolen from Stac but it also could lost vast amount of data on your drive!

    There are so many others that should be on that list.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:13PM (#15412624) Homepage Journal
    Sure, the MacOS pre-OS X was pretty unstable, but it was almost always more stable than whatever the current shipping version of Windows was.

    More to the point, in the absence of Windows, we might well have a whole bunch of computer makers still duking it out. It seems people have forgotten what an explosion of PC (in the general sense, I mean) makers there was in the 80's -- more diversity than we've ever seen since. Apple is just the only one that survived the "IBM compatible" onslaught. Imaging what the computing world would be like if DEC, Commodore, Atari, Wang, Tandy, and who knows how many others were still making their own machines. There would be more competition, more pressure for open standards, and better computers at better prices for everyone.
  • My nomination (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rock_climbing_guy (630276) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:16PM (#15412645) Journal
    #1

    Circuit City DiVX

    How could they forget???

  • by Skiron (735617) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:35PM (#15412776) Homepage
    I mean, they are the 'Happy Shopper' company of the PC World (pun intended).
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:43PM (#15412819)
    Different user base. Compuserv was far more targeted toward the geeks, and AOL was more newbie and family oriented. Prodigy and GEnie somewhere in the middle.

    Compuserv with those incomprehensible usernames (12345.987@compuserv.com) was just too weird for most.

    AOL invented nothing.
    Neverwinter Nights in graphical format instead of text.

  • by beaverfever (584714) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:45PM (#15412850) Homepage
    You must understand; times change.

    Micro$oft didn't make it until the second post, but DRM is at #1, right where it belongs.

    Welcome to the new Slashdot, full of readers who (supposedly) make their living by using their heads and coming up with creative ideas (writing software, for example, or coming up with an idea for new software, for another example), yet resent any suggestion that creative ideas are not free for everyone to use and share as they see fit. ...but then also resent the idea of hiring someone in India to write software, because everyone knows that US programmers are better and deserve their higher salaries... but just don't attempt to do anything to stop the piracy which affects software company's bottom line and their ability to pay American programmers...

    It's a beautiful circle, like a serpent eating its tail :)
  • by oni (41625) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:56PM (#15412922) Homepage
    hey want to hear something cool (or maybe pathetic) - I *still* have an active compuserve account. It's only 2.95 a month so I figured, what the hell. They are owned by AOL and I don't even have the software, but I can still send and recieve email through POP and SMTP.

    Yeah, I was on compuserve on a 2400 baud modem attached to an apple IIgs way back in like 1992. I used to hang out in the anime chat room, "the usual restaurant" it was called. Ah, those were the days.
  • IE 6??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by istartedi (132515) on Friday May 26, 2006 @04:59PM (#15412937) Journal

    They should have blasted IE4 -- the first IE that really muckled itself into the OS. Install IE-4 on the user's machine, and run the risk of trashing their whole OS. I saw it happen in tech support, and it led to the whole mishmash of exploits that allowed IE to get into Windows and mess up your box. The integration is better now, but the idea remains suspect.

    The whole list looks whacked. AOL may not be something I would ever use, but "worst tech product???". It's an intro to the web for newbies. That doesn't make it "bad tech".

  • Re:of ALL TIME? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday May 26, 2006 @05:00PM (#15412948)
    One that comes to mind is a TV set with a built in 35mm slide viewer.

    I think the in-car phonograph beats that.

  • Re:Missing entry (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pogson (856666) on Friday May 26, 2006 @05:03PM (#15412979) Homepage Journal
    When you consider how many copies of MSFT OS's are out there and how many billions they cost and how many billions they cost to reboot, reboot, reboot and re-install and de-louse, surely they must be number 1 on this list. Lots of these other products never made their first billion in damages.

    The only good I got from Lose95 was the urge to switch to GNU/Linux. I was spending half an hour each day rebooting. Thank you, Microsoft, wherever you are! I cannot remember the last time I had to reboot Linux for any cause except for loss of power or equipment failure.

  • by jeillah (147690) on Friday May 26, 2006 @05:37PM (#15413153)
    Anyone else notice that at one time or another PC Weak ran articles that gave good reviews to almost all of the things in the top 25???
  • by Serapth (643581) on Friday May 26, 2006 @05:43PM (#15413185)
    The fact this was modded insightful proves that Slashdot is still driven by pack mentality. Sadly I actually thought things were improving around here recently, but I may have set my hopes a bit too high. Oh well, nobody to blame but myself.

    The reason? It has trained at least one, and probably two, generations of computer users to expect the computer to be fragile. It has made those people afraid to simply experiment with the computer because they might do something to "break" it.

    Havent used too many other operating systems, have you? Im sorry, but compared to the DOS days, even Windows 95 was a godsend. I will say Windows 3 and 3.1 were nothing special, but frankly it was still easier to nuke a DOS install in those days. Plus, they actually moved away from having to have a stack of floppies lying around to boot in order to make your system actually run your software. Worse still, my first computer ( An Atari 800 XL ) had a button that was pretty much the equivalent of format my machine down the left hand side. If anything 95 improved "fragility" and every version since ( minus ME, ME was trash ) has improved this greatly. Hell, ive accidently blown away more Linux installs then Windows over the years... you know, doing shit like recompiling the kernal to get my friggin hardware to work!

    This is a big reason there are so many people who don't want to learn how the computer works. By training at least one generation of people that computers are fragile, Microsoft has in a single stroke managed to limit people's willingness to learn about the computer they use every day, and thus limited their effectiveness with it.

    Yeah, im sure thats the reason. Not because most people look at a computer as a tool. I mean, everyone that drives a car knows how to fix their transmission... right? Right? You know what, with a manual transmission, its extremely easy to blow a clutch, but strangely many people are still happy to drive them without knowing how to make that fix.

    That Microsoft also tends to (or has tended to) write their software in such a way as to hide the details of errors that occur only exacerbates the problem. And the constant stream of critical security flaws only serves to hammer in the final nail in the coffin.

    Yes... because every user wants to see stack dumps and memory traces when something goes wrong. I mean like when linux crashes and I get the error message - Seg Fault. I mean, thanks to that unhidden error, phew... I know exactly whats going on! As to "constant stream of security flaws"... do you remember any in the pre-Internet days of Windows? Oddly I cant. The holes come from security having not been a huge focus when the core OS was designed, and frankly at the time for a consumer OS, that made alot of sense. 12 years ago could you have imagined spyware, malware, trojans and internet worms?
  • Re:Missing entry (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kz45 (175825) <kz45@blob.com> on Friday May 26, 2006 @10:58PM (#15414361)
    The only good I got from Lose95 was the urge to switch to GNU/Linux. I was spending half an hour each day rebooting. Thank you, Microsoft, wherever you are! I cannot remember the last time I had to reboot Linux for any cause except for loss of power or equipment failure

    and when was this...in 1995?

    windows sucked from 3.1-98 (incuding ME), but XP,2000, and 2003 are great operating systems. It's the dumb users, spyware companies, virus writers, and horrible programs that give it a bad rap. Linux, for the most part, does not have dumb users (it takes some nohow to stray from the norm), spyware (not enough critical mass to be profitable), or viruses (not enough critical mass to spread), which takes many headaches out of the equation.

    I use both linux and microsoft operating systems and each have their strong points. But, Microsft did bring the world into the computer age as we know it. They deserve a little more credit.

    Every few months I will try out the latest and greatest linux distro for my desktop (madrake,xandros,redhat,ubantu)..and for the most part, I am disappointed and eventually un-install it and put XP or 2003 back on my system.

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