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Your Votes Tallied: The Biggest Tech Flop of All Time

Our readers have spoken. Additional comments ranged from 'Where's Y2k?' to 'I can't believe you nominated Dreamcast!' to 'What constitutes a flop, anyway?'

By Valerie Potter
April 24, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Computerworld.com recently presented a feature called Don't Believe the Hype: The 21 Biggest Technology Flops by David Haskin. In the story, we took a stroll down memory lane, fondly remembering 21 overpromoted products and technologies that just plain failed to live up to their hype. At the end, we asked our readers to vote to choose one of them as the biggest flop of all, or to write in their own candidates. We also invited readers to agree or disagree with our picks in the article's comments area.

The reader response was overwhelming. We received more than 30,000 votes in our admittedly unscientific poll, plus nearly 300 reader comments ranging from kudos for a fun read to reminders of flops we overlooked to scathing remarks questioning our intelligence. Several heated discussions emerged around which products, technologies and events should or shouldn't have been included in our list, whether the judging criteria were fair, and what exactly constitutes a flop.

Here we present the winners of our poll, along with the comments that best sum up the extremely interesting back and forth among our readers. Responses have been edited for grammar, spelling and length.

And the winner is...

It's official: For Computerworld readers, no other product or technology comes close to Microsoft Bob for sheer floppiness. The second place pick, dot-bombs, received 1,000 fewer votes than Bob.

As of this writing, here's how the top five results stack up (note that these results will likely have changed by the time you read this):

  • 1st place: Microsoft Bob, with 4,924 votes (16% of the total)
  • 2nd place: Dot-bombs, 3,870 votes (12%)
  • 3rd place: The paperless office, 2,828 votes (9%)
  • 4th place: DIVX, 2,704 votes (8%)
  • 5th place: Iridium, 2,615 votes (8%)

For complete, up-to-the-minute results, see the voting page.

As for our reader comments, they tended to fall into four major categories:


Hey, you forgot these!

Several readers suggested products, technologies and events that should have been included in our initial list. We've outlined the most popular here.

Other suggestions included Sony Betamax, MicroChannel Architecture (MCA), Digital Compact Cassette (DCC), Nintendo Virtual Boy, Windows ME (some people nominated every version of Windows), bubble memory, Token Ring, Cue Cat, Philips CD-i, RCA SelectaVision, the virtual office, Web 2.0, General Magic, MSN, IBM PS/2, ISDN, e-voting machines, NGage, artificial intelligence and many more.

Y2k

Perhaps the most vitriolic debate swirled around whether the Year 2000 (Y2k) bug should have been included in our list. This was the very first reader comment to the story:

What about the Y2k bug? [Weren't] there supposed to be banks losing all the money they had in their vaults, [airplanes] dropping from the sky and general global unrest as the clock ticked over to midnight? Must be THE most overhyped event of the 21st century... -- JamesS

The responses came fast and furiously.

Y2k was a non-event because thousands of IT professionals worked many thousands of hours, often late into the night, to ensure that it was a non-event. True, to the general public it seemed overhyped and much ado about nothing. Generally speaking, I believe the readers of Computerworld know the real story and understand the effort involved in the Y2k fixes. -- CaptKirk

Indeed, that's exactly why we didn't include Y2k in our list of flops. If not for the Herculean efforts of IT pros around the world, Y2k would have been devastating. Yet the debate goes on.

Can anyone with even a basic understanding of human nature say that nothing happened on Y2k because hardworking IT professionals across the globe got their collective butts together and fixed every computer and every piece of software in existence that was deemed "Y2k incompatible"? Nothing happened because Y2k was quite possibly the biggest *scam* in human history. Some people got very, very rich off it, though, and that's par for the course for humanity. -- Anonymous

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I was probably treated like every other IT professional on January 2nd. I was blamed for wasting money because nothing happened on January 1st. When I explained that nothing happened because management spent the money to make sure we wouldn't be affected by the Y2k bug, my argument seemed to fall on deaf ears. I guess it's just human nature to expect to get something for your money. When the goal is to not get something, the concept is too novel for most people. -- Anonymous

Some of our readers, while conceding that Y2k would have been disastrous if not properly attended to, argued for its inclusion in the tech flops list anyway.

It is true the efforts of many people within the IT industry, earning inflated pay packets in the rush to "Y2k-proof" every date-based system in the world, thwarted the potentially catastrophic event. Yet in spite of this, the hype and expectation surrounding the demise of the electronic world as the calendar rolled over to '00' was enormous. Which is why I personally agree the Y2k bug should have been included in this list. After all, it was the biggest flop in technological history as the people watching were, for the most part, nontechnical. -- Clinton

Clinton has a point. Still, we stand by our decision to leave Y2k off the list. For more of Computerworld's take on Y2k, see IT's Finest Hour by Editor in Chief Don Tennant.



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