Well, At Least You Tried (examples of public failures)
October 30, 2020 12:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering a wintertime quarantine project where I'll recount various things that just kind of didn't work out. Not big, evil schemes, like Theranos, and not disasters like the Titanic, but well-meaning, or well-intentioned, or different takes on things that were sent out with much fanfare but then fizzled away because they were the wrong things at the wrong time. (examples inside)

Examples of things that resonate with me:
Hands Across America
American Psycho: The Musical

Things like that. Anything that would be fairly light (so it didn't result in mass injuries or deaths) and fun to research would work. I'm sure the podcast (should I wind up actually recording it) will be super-small, but any great suggestions will get (if you want) a mention in the episode!
posted by xingcat to Society & Culture (73 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Micropayments (paying for things with your phone). It has been supported in the US since like 2000, but nobody wants to do it. It's much more popular in other countries. Pre-paid wireless too, there are serious class markers in the US but it's insanely common around the rest of the world.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:18 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Banvard's Folly by Paul Collins covers many such topics from history. Overall, an empathetically written and entertaining book.
posted by ellerhodes at 12:19 PM on October 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

All the other football leagues: USFL, WFL, WLAF/NFL Europe, AAF, arena football multiple times
the Federal League (early 1900's baseball)
Newton (Apple handheld computer)
New Coke
Crystal Pepsi!
Arch Deluxe
Edsel, Mustang II, maybe like the Fiero or something, Aztek
All the semi-fat-free chips that used Olestra
that DivX movie rental thing with disposable DVD-type disks?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:27 PM on October 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

Lots of products released with big fanfare that never took off. The McDLT, New Coke, etc.

The Atari Swordquest video game contest. It was going to be the biggest thing ever but it fizzled out. Wikipedia has some good info on it.

Polavision. Polaroid's "groundbreaking" instant movie system that was going to be HUGE but was expensive, cumbersome, very limited, and released like a week before home video cameras became a thing. My dad worked for Polaroid at the time and that's all we heard about for about a year and even as a dumb seven year old when I finally saw the final product even I knew it was terrible.

I would check The Omnibus Project Podcast (With Ken Jennings and John Roderick) because they've covered a few of these topics.
posted by bondcliff at 12:30 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Microsoft Zune
The musical of “Carrie”
posted by holborne at 12:33 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

The majority of TV show spinoffs (e.g. The Brady Bunch Hour)
Pizza at McDonalds
posted by bassomatic at 12:33 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

The idea of having ATMs automatically call the police if the PIN was typed in reverse.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:35 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Table service at Burger King
Coca-Cola's MagiCan contest

I'll inevitably remember more after my Friday night cocktail later.
posted by kimberussell at 12:37 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Automatic seat belts!
posted by kimberussell at 12:38 PM on October 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

posted by are-coral-made at 12:40 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

posted by The corpse in the library at 12:41 PM on October 30, 2020 [16 favorites]

The history of video game consoles are littered with also-rans and failures:

Vectrex, 3DO, Virtual Boy, Apple Pippin, WiiU, Sega 32XX/Nomad/Saturn/Dreamcast, CD-I, Atari Lynx/Jaguar, Commodore CDTV/CD32, Nintendo 64DD, Ouya, Laseractive, N-Gage, among others I can't remember off the top of my head.
posted by General Malaise at 12:43 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, another: Google+
posted by geegollygosh at 12:45 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Speaking of Google... Orkut. Does anyone even remember that?
posted by Tamanna at 12:49 PM on October 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Disney's America!
posted by toastedcheese at 12:52 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Automatic seat belts!

And talking cars ("You left your keys in the car!").

Various types of storage media, e.g. Jaz drives.

The Beatles movies "Sgt. Pepper" and "Magical Mystery Tour"


NBC's Olympics TripleCast
posted by Melismata at 12:54 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Midwestern restaurant chain Bill Knapp's was destroyed with the best of intentions.
It was a place with a loyal customer base of primarily elderly people. Like if you went there, it was just a sea of gray hair. They decided they wanted to appeal to the youth with a campaign called "That Was Then. This is Wow!" They started playing loud rock music, completely changed the color scheme, and added TVs and video games. They also changed the food. The youth were not impressed, and the people who used to go there started staying away. They tried to switch back with a campaign called "The Tradition is Back," but it was too late, and all the restaurants closed.

You can read more on the Bill Knapp's Wikipedia page.
posted by FencingGal at 1:09 PM on October 30, 2020 [9 favorites]

Previously on Ask.Me
posted by adamrice at 1:10 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Al Capone's Vault


I think Mulaney is an interesting example: it was supposed to be John Mulaney's star vehicle. It totally bombed, both commercially and critically, but then he became a big star anyway, by returning to standup comedy.
posted by lunasol at 1:10 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

The novel Mr. Dalloway, based on Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, came out right after Michael Cunningham's The Hours, which won a Pulitzer for its retelling of the same novel. The New York Times review opens with a reference to the bad timing.

Also I read swimmer Diana Nyad's excellent autobiography Find a Way, and she wrote about how her exercise book Basic Training for Women (which I bought and thought excellent) was coming out at about the same time as Jane Fonda's exercise book, and she thought that would be no problem because who was going to prefer an exercise book by a movie star?
posted by FencingGal at 1:18 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

A bit like game consoles and the Newton... The Amiga in the mid 80's was basically an arcade machine with a OS/keyboard/mouse, it totally crushed the Mac and PC of the era. Commodore US dropped the ball and lost. It did better in Europe and in certain niche applications, but failed as a home-computer.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:28 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Various types of storage media, e.g. Jaz drives.

I wouldn't rate most of those as 'the wrong idea at the wrong time'. As with a lot of computer-related developments they were overtaken by better/cheaper/smaller tech after a couple of years, but especially Zip drives had enough traction that at the time they were comparatively common in environments where one would need to transfer a bunch of multi-megabyte files on a regular basis, like with graphic design and magazine copywriting. Now the IoMega Clic, a scaled-down Zipdrive that was used in some of the early digital cameras, when solid-state storage (CompactFlash and others) was there already in the same size bracket (both physical and storage-wise) although somewhat more expensive still? That was an utter failure of the type xingcat appears to be looking for.
posted by Stoneshop at 1:32 PM on October 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

The ET video game was so bad they buried them all in a landfill

Looking through the previous responses is fun. I remember Olestra/Olean...the known side effect was, and I quote, "anal leakage."

Was Crystal Pepsi actually a flop? I remember liking it, but I was a kid and kids eat and drink all sorts of weird shit.

I don't think Segways were a flop. I mean they didn't revolutionize transportation but in tourist cities you'll see plenty of Segway tours, they're used by mall cops across America, and I've seen people use them in San Francisco to commute.
posted by radioamy at 1:41 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Maybe it's been done to death, but Biosphere II comes to mind. Also, I feel like a lot of communes/intentional communities/colonies might fall into this category.
posted by phooky at 1:46 PM on October 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is the most expensive Broadway production in history. Having run on Broadway for over three years, the production failed to make back its $75 million cost, the largest in Broadway history, with investors reportedly losing $60 million.
posted by true at 1:51 PM on October 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Orbitz Soda, the one with the little floating gelatinous balls
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:01 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nthing holborne's suggestion of Carrie (the Musical).

See also: Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:33 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Quadrophonic sound. FOUR competing, incompatible standards: CD-4, SQ, QS and another one which I can't recall the name of. All of them requiring you to get two more speakers, a new amp/receiver and at least a new record player cartridge if not an entirely new record player. People were ... less than enthusiastic regarding the cost of that vis-a-vis the resulting soundscape. There appear to have been a few quadrophonic open-reel tape decks and even 8-track players.

LaserVision, a semi-digital video playback system using a 12" optical disc. Moderately popular in Japan for video rentals, and used in early computer-based instruction as it allowed pausing an image without munching the tape as well as comparatively quick skipping between segments. Otherwise not much of a success, I gather.

Telefunken briefly offered a mechanical disc-based video player, with a stylus tracking a groove like on audio records. It was not a success, but they must have sold at least one because I have one (second-hand, and only the player, no discs).
posted by Stoneshop at 2:34 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Twitter Peek, the $200 Twitter gadget.
posted by box at 2:35 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

For an industry as slow to move as aviation, there sure are a lot examples there. Off the top of my head, in no particular order:

-The Beech Starship, which was a pretty innovative looking plane but was expensive to operate and came out at the worst possible time (mid-80s during the general aviation downturn). It sold so poorly that Beechcraft ended up buying back most of the hulls and scrapped them.
-The Very Light Jet. The FAA created this category of airplane to ease certification and allow for single pilot operations for small business jets that would seat around six people. Eclipse was the big name in the VLJ scene in the early 2000s; the company (such as it currently is) was recently sold for just a couple million bucks, mostly for the spare parts inventory. Only one VLJ (CirrusJet) is currently in production.
-On the other end of things, the sport pilot and recreational pilot licenses. Again, FAA tried to create a class of license that was easier and cheaper to obtain. The restrictions on what you can do with them, though, are so tight that in practice nowadays the only people that get those licenses are ones who are otherwise ineligible for a medical certificate required for a full private pilot license.
-And, likewise, light sport aircraft. A category of airplane created by FAA to go hand-in-hand with the sport pilot license. Small, low power, designed to be simple and "cheap." There are actually quite a few of these out there, but they tend to be kitplanes. Most of the certificated designs have either been discontinued (Cessna 162 "Skycatcher") or waivered to allow for higher gross weights than the regs allow, or otherwise "weird" (Icon A5, Terrefugia flying car).

There are also quite a lot of... eccentric ideas from aviation in defense. Nuclear powered airplanes! Blimp-based aircraft carrier! Ekranoplan!
posted by backseatpilot at 2:39 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Micropayments (paying for things with your phone). It has been supported in the US since like 2000, but nobody wants to do it.

Just ApplePay alone is a multi billion dollar a year business.
posted by sideshow at 2:42 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Not sure if it'd rate as a failure, or a success as it was more or less expected to fail, but: the Honeywell Kitchen Computer.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:56 PM on October 30, 2020

The brake on my brother's cardboard sled. Before going outside to the hill behind out house, we tested it on the stairs. It went darn fast on the stairs, but the brake did not work and we hit that wall that was 3 feet from the bottom of the stairs at breakneck, eh, break nose, speed. As the younger brother, I "got to ride in front just in case". It was the first of about 4 times I broke my nose.

So, I would say there are many homemade ideas that just did not work as intended.

Howard Hughes had a few planes that did not quite make it.
posted by AugustWest at 3:08 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Google Glass?
posted by Ahmad Khani at 3:15 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

The movie Waterworld is considered the biggest flop.
posted by hydra77 at 3:18 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

The One Laptop Per Child project; (there's probably a whole slew of photogenic, not-fit-for-rollout charity development projects)
Google Buzz (Wave?) which was basically Slack
Broadband over power lines
posted by pykrete jungle at 3:38 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

The time Garth Brooks decided he was going to have a WHOLE OTHER PERSONALITY that sung emo alternative rock, named Chris Gaines.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:41 PM on October 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

The reintroduction of Atlantic Salmon into the Connecticut River is one I've been reading about lately thanks to a mention in a class I'm taking. It was a huge federally-funded project spanning decades. They were once a staple food of the region. Now, people see one in the river every now and then and it's surprising enough to merit a news story.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:47 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Massachusetts Route 695 was never actually built but I'd really love to know more about it and how it would have drastically altered the landscape in the city.
posted by bondcliff at 4:10 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nicolas Pike and other directors of the Brooklyn Institute imported 8 pairs of House Sparrow in Brooklyn, NY in 1850 (and more in 1853) and Eugene Schieffelin
released 60 starlings in NYC's Central Park in 1890, introducing two of the world's most successfully invasive species to North America.

Shieiffelin, a member of the American Acclimatization Society, reportedly wanted to introduce all the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare to North America.
posted by faineant at 4:30 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Have you ever read Stephen Pile’s Book of Heroic Failures? An oldie but goodie, with cock-ups galore.

And talking of heroic failures - Colin Pillinger, we salute you!
posted by HandfulOfDust at 4:38 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

This wasn't a project that was a wrong thing at a wrong time, but the Berlin Brandenburg Airport springs to mind.
posted by saturdaymornings at 5:05 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Web TV.
posted by lobstah at 5:15 PM on October 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Oh, also, Seeso, but because Peacock is now actually successful, it may not count as much.
posted by General Malaise at 5:21 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Hey, construction might have been a 14-year farce, but BER airport is only opening tomorrow (YES on Hallowe'en), give it a chance!
posted by runincircles at 5:34 PM on October 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

The London Garden Bridge.
posted by Lotto at 5:40 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Media formats:

Betamax is the canonical example. It came out (in the USA, anyhow) slight before VHS, and had higher quality, but VHS tapes could record more initially, which gave VHS a decisive early advantage. As I understand it, it was Betamax' market failure that prompted Sony to start buying studios, so that it could guarantee content on its formats.

But there are so many more. Some people may remember MiniDisc, which came out in the early 90s, but a competing standard that came out at the same time was Digital Compact Cassette (DCC). This was about the same size a regular cassette tape, but was, well, digital. MiniDisc was never a huge market success (hobbled as it was by Sony, which used its proprietary ATRAC encoding rather than the pirate-friendly and more compact MP3), but DCC was an immediate flop, being bulkier than MiniDisc and not being random-access.

A similar story played out with high-def video. Blu-Ray (again, a Sony format) had a modicum of success, but was really eclipsed pretty quickly by streaming. It competed with HD DVD (a public format mostly promoted by Toshiba), which had a lot of the same underlying technologies. HD DVD failed almost immediately, despite some advantages (like longer play time, ironically enough). I believe this was mostly down to the ability of the set makers to ensure the availability of content on their platform. Sony had its own studios; Toshiba had to court studios, and the studios played Sony and Toshiba against each other.
posted by adamrice at 5:47 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Sprung Greenhouse
posted by yqxnflld at 6:00 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Betsy Ross Bridge between Philadelphia and South Jersey is a study in "but I thought we were supposed to do it this way?"

For years (I mean like 1977 to just a few years ago) there were these enormous concrete pylons in the sky with ("Ghost Ramps") built on them going nowhere, but alas we never got flying cars. Eventually they knocked down the pylons.

I drive over the bridge often, and there's never much traffic, but that's about all you can say for it.
posted by forthright at 7:09 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fanny Trollope’s attempt at opening a v early department store failed while she was working on it, but iirc the guy who bought it cheap in her desperation sale ran it profitably. She was in the US partly to join one of the more doomed utopian communities.

But the very sarcastic book she wrote about this, once she got back to the US, was a hit.
posted by clew at 8:14 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Kia Borrego, a gas-guzzling SUV that launched in the midst of the 2008 recession and gas price spike. It wasn’t a bad SUV in itself, but launched at exactly the wrong time and lasted one model year in the US.
posted by Seeking Direction at 8:23 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Laser discs (see also the recent thread about things that used to be useful and now don’t even really exist anymore...)
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:27 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oops I was thinking of Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) but on googling, same difference even though they’re different technologies...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:29 PM on October 30, 2020

(Trollope returned from the US to the U.K. and wrote Domestic Manners of the Americans. At least I tried.)
posted by clew at 8:51 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Great question. You're not looking for merely failed products, but projects with a this-is-the-future air to them which just ... came to nothing. Not superseded by something better but vanished with that vision of the future.

I would point to Super Audio CDs. Over the whole history of recorded audio, media kept getting better -- higher fidelity, higher signal-to-noise ratio, larger, louder, finer. Shellac 78s → Vinyl LPs → cassettes (with normal → chrome → metal, and Dolby → B → C), → CDs -- plus the constant improvements in stereos themselves, as music fans dreamed of owning bigger speakers with more perfect sound reproduction. The Super Audio CD, and its competition the DVD-Audio, were the obvious next steps -- offering 24-bit bandwidth (vs. CD's 16-bit) and huge disc space for hours of outtakes and alternate mixes.

And then none of that happened. It wasn't just a product failure, although it turns out people didn't want to have to re-buy all their albums in a more expensive format. It was a complete retreat from the whole idea of escalating "hi-fi" gear & media required to listen to music enjoyably. Everyone settled on MP3s and streaming, single songs rather than albums, music you don't even own permanently, all played through shitty laptop speakers and iPhone earbuds. And the only physical media young people (the prime music-fan demographic) want to buy are Vinyl LPs.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:53 PM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

(see also the recent thread about things that used to be useful and now don’t even really exist anymore...)

Sounds interesting — can you please post a link?
posted by panama joe at 9:48 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

UPN and WB were two television networks that launched at approximately the same time. Each lasted about ten years with some shows that targeted niche audiences and then merged in 2006 to form CW.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 10:02 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here is the link

In response to:
>> see also the recent thread about things that used to be useful and now don’t even really exist anymore...)

Sounds interesting — can you please post a link?

posted by Tandem Affinity at 10:24 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

(thanks, Tandem Affinity! )

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned MoviePass yet. It (very briefly) changed the entire way we thought about going to the movies.
posted by panama joe at 5:40 AM on October 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

The history of the Shakers is interesting and probably relevant, they didn’t collapse because of evil doings, and their work towards gender equality was way ahead of its time. They just lost members due to their stance on celibacy, mostly.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:35 AM on October 31, 2020 [6 favorites]

Various types of storage media, e.g. Jaz drives.

Backing up your computer data on a VHS tape was a failure that I'd say fits the description.

It used an interface card in your PC that converted the data into a signal that a standard VHS recorder could accept and play back. VHS tapes were cheap, and a lot of people would have a video recorder, right? However, it had two drawbacks. First was that people who were serious about backups were already using real tape streamers and such, and second was that that video recorder would be underneath the telly in the living room, and the computer in the spare bedroom or study,so you'd have to run cables between them (there usually was an IR module in the kit to mimic the recorder's remote control). Never mind that few home computer users were sufficiently serious about backups, and even fewer regularly making them.

Also, it was dead slow, You could put 1GB on a two-hour tape, where the first CD writers did 600MB in about 20 to 30 minutes. CD writers WERE expensive, true, but CD readers were getting quite common already, and they were useful in writing discs with a bunch of (pirated) software that friends could use.
posted by Stoneshop at 6:44 AM on October 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

These are not as light-hearted in my opinion because I think they illustrate some deeply flawed aspects to 21st century "innovation" and capitalism, but as far as I know, have not been disastrous in the way that other manifestations of technosolutionism have been.

Ocean CleanUp: it still is a project, but it seems very very doomed to fizzle out. There's really a lot in the category of good intentions aren't good ideas.

Elon Musk and associated projects like that hyper loop thingie.

Bird, Lime and all the companies that left electric scooters scattered across city streets.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as educational disruptor that will transform higher education. Audrey Watters has written lots on this. Obviously Coursera, EdX and other are around, but I haven't noticed much breathless excitement about MOOCs in a long time, not even in this virtual teaching season. Online education, at least in the pedagogy discussions I have read, is trying to figure out social presence and how to create the classroom intimacy and camraderie, and infinite enrollment in a class with some comment boards isn't that.

There could be a small section on consumer things that may soon fizzle out... K-cup and similar coffee pod machines apparently are no longer the hot thing.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:21 AM on October 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Remember all they hype about Ford’s inflatable seat belts about a decade ago? They are going away and being replaced with other technologies. They were not a hit with consumers due to their price and awkward buckle design.
posted by Seeking Direction at 7:41 AM on October 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Someone above mentioned Cuecat, but do you remember the “CRQ” audio cable it came with? You plugged one end into your TV and the other into your computer, and TV channels for a brief time had a “chime” sound that would automatically send you to the website for a TV show when a commercial for that show came on, for instance. Pretty intrusive, in my opinion; I wonder how many people actually used it. I sure didn’t.
posted by Seeking Direction at 7:52 AM on October 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

The CueCat had a kinda interesting second life as a very cheap (like, my local Radio Shack gave me a box of them for free) barcode scanner--people used them to do things like catalog their media collections.
posted by box at 8:12 AM on October 31, 2020 [5 favorites]

PointCast (dotcom). Maybe? I'm having a brain fart because of the push-notification thing. Who would really want their computer to keep notifying them of events instead of looking for what you wanted yourself.

There's some similar failure in the early 00's that I can't for the life of me remember that was trying to do the same thing with a Java app (an ex-coworker's wife was involved) that also failed.

Now we're all RSS wanting and notification and alert desiring and these early attempts were probably decent ideas that failed.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

The 16 Worst Failed Computers of All Time

"Probably the 16 Worst Mainstream Manufacturers' Failed Computers of All Time" would be a better title; I can dig up several examples that would put the ones listed to shame. One in particular was indeed the prototypical wrong idea at the wrong time: the Holborn 6100.

Its predecessor, the 9100, was a system with up to 4 of the screens pictured (the 9120 terminal), and a system box. It ran an inventory and invoicing system for jewellers and similar businesses, such as those engraving medals and trophies. The program ran out of ROM (so could not be changed except by the vendor supplying a new set of chips) with four floppies holding the data. As you can imagine, its (Dutch) market was limited and quickly saturated, with about 200 sold. To keep the business going they then fitted those 9120 terminals with a CP/M system board, also adding an external 8" floppy drive so that people could at least run programs available for that OS. However, this was about the time when the IBM PC came on the market, and while CP/M was still widely used it was getting a bit long in the tooth. So you would want to have a good reason to still buy a CP/M system instead of the more modern, faster IBM PC.

Turns out that costing twice as much as an IBM PC is not a good reason. Holborn managed to sell some 100 of them, then folded.
posted by Stoneshop at 1:03 PM on October 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

> The 16 Worst Failed Computers of All Time

Aww, my first computer made the list: the IBM PC Jr. We were choosing between that and a Mac, and went with the Peanut because my dad said that IBM could put Apple out of business overnight if they wanted.

I remember that at some point it started typing backwards.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:21 PM on October 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Cleveland's light rail Waterfront Line.

The pandemic (plus, supposedly, track work) has put the entire line on suspension til at least spring. Which is not such a big deal, since as that article points out, "In 2016, the Waterfront Line was attracting only 400 riders per day, 80 percent of whom bunched onto a few trains during the morning and evening rush hours." and "These days, the Waterfront Line departs only twice per hour from about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, with reduced hours on weekends and holidays"
posted by soundguy99 at 5:12 AM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

In the audio space, don't forget Neil Young's PonoPlayer and PonoMusic.
posted by Consult The Oracle at 5:56 AM on November 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Surely the Amazon Fire Phone deserves mention here. It had three distinct innovations:

1. A faux-3D display that worked by using front facing cameras to locate the user’s eyes, and then render a 3D view on the screen accordingly. This feature was a very cool party trick, but totally useless.

2. Using said face positioning technology, the phone could tell if you tilted it forwards or backwards and would use this tilt signal to scroll the web browser. Want to scroll down? Tilt the phone back a bit. This was a really cool feature that made reading web pages while holding the phone with one hand much easier. As an ex Fire phone owner, I miss this feature.

3. A physical button dedicated to shopping. You pushed the button, and it would open a camera app that used machine vision to take you to the Amazon product page of the thing the camera was looking at. This was an incredibly stupid feature that nobody ever used or wanted and a huge waste of a button.

But it turned out that for the same price l most people preferred an iPhone, which had a hundred times more apps in its store.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:27 PM on December 4, 2020

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