The 10 Biggest Technology Flops of the Past 40 Years

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IBM PCjr: Like the Apple Newton, IBM's PCjr was ahead of its time. Unlike Newton, PCjr was poorly designed.

Released to great fanfare in 1984 with at least two magazines devoted to it, IBM hoped that PCjr would catch on as a relatively inexpensive version of its IBM PC for homes and schools. In those days, the Apple II and console devices like the Commodore 64 dominated those still-small markets. The PCjr was both expensive and unpleasant to use. Its infamous chiclet keyboard was wireless, but the raised keys -- kind of like BlackBerry keys that overdosed on growth hormone -- were uncomfortable to use for basic tasks like touch-typing. And in another burst of dubious inspiration, PCjr didn't come with a hard drive. Instead, programs were contained on cartridges that users plugged into the front of the device.


IBM PCjr IBM pulled the PCjr from the market in 1985. The company targeted the home and educational markets again a few years later with the PS/1, which met a fate similar to that of PCjr. Internet currency: Remember Flooz and Beenz? These two Internet bubble vendors arguably deserved to die simply because of their goofy names. They provided online currency, which many dot-com proponents in the late '90s considered the secret sauce that would lead to the wild success of e-commerce.


The idea was to create an "Internet currency' that was not legal tender in any particular country but could be used to purchase items on the Web. Both vendors generated a lot of hype, but Flooz's commercials featuring Whoopi Goldberg received the most attention.

Unfortunately, consumers preferred to use real money and credit cards. And Flooz faced a battery of consumer complaints before its demise in 2001. Before they expired, Beenz and Flooz agreed to work together, proving once again that in the warped universe of techno-hype, one plus one can equal zero.

Iridium: It was an undeniably brilliant idea to launch 66 satellites and link them with mesh technology for routing calls to and from any point in the world. And when it started in 1998, Iridium entranced the technology world. "Iridium's core identity is defined by its transcendence of national borders, a structure that is particularly post-Cold War,' Wired magazine gushed in its October 1998 cover story. "Iridium may well serve as a first model of the 21st-century corporation.'

But Iridium's technology cost an immense amount of money to deploy, and most users were resistant to paying dollars per minute of call time and carrying around a phone larger than a brick. Less than a year later, Wired News backtracked, saying, "After losing nearly US$1 billion in two disastrous quarters, the engineering marvel is in danger of becoming the Ford Edsel of the sky.'

In 2000, the company was taken over by Iridium Satellite LLC, which recently said that it wants to launch new satellites and hopes to attract partners to provide services beyond basic voice calling, such as a next-generation global positioning system. Time will tell if its current incarnation will be more successful than its first.

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