Great ideas that didn’t make it. And terrible ones.
Techies love the word revolution. Whilst in the real world tends it usually means slaughter, pillage and eventual autocracy, in Silicon Valley it sounds more like fame, glory and piles of cash.
Yet just like real revolutions, there is a tendency for things to go wrong, often with disastrous consequences. For every iPod there is a Newton, for every XP a Vista, and for every Facebook a MySpace.
But what are the worst tech revolutions of the last fifty years? We trawled the archives to seek out the answer, and here is what we found.
1) Quadraphonic sound
Superficially the logic behind four-way sound seems, well, sound. Stereo had successfully been adopted throughout the 1960s by vinyl, contributing to some of the decade’s most original recordings, and it seemed reasonable to assume two more speakers would be another improvement.
But despite the good intentions, the technology floundered, being expensive and hard to implement both from a producer and from a listener’s point of view, arguably resurfacing at the end of the 1980s as surround sound, as home theatres became more common.
The stereotype that America was the land of the fat and home of the lazy reached its apotheosis when a New Hampshire firm launched a solution to the problem of having to walk between places: the Segway.
Unveiled in 2001 with much hype, some of which was undoubtedly ironic, the creator Dean Kamen told Time magazine that Segway "will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy", with venture capitalist John Doerr predicting the firm would be the fastest to ever reach $1bn in sales.
Both predictions would prove unfounded, with several chief executives hastily abandoning the project and the company’s quiet over its finances seen as an indication it was not profitable. Despite its new owner Jimi Heselden being killed in an accident involving the vehicle in 2010, the company limps on, presumably with no delusions about its revolutionary capacity.