Epic Fail: World Changing Technology


Posted June 19, 2008 - By Stephen Johnson

Every few years, someone comes along with a product or idea that is touted as so fantastic, so wide-ranging, so innovative, it will change everything--the very fabric of society will be rent by this product/idea! Luckily for us, most of these ideas and technologies fizzle and go nowhere. For every Gasoline Engine there are 500 Cold Fusion Generators. So with this in mind we bring you G4’s Epic Fail: World-Changing Technologies:

The Segway - Some of you may not be old enough to remember when the Segway was released, but if you can you recall the largest over-hype campaign in the history of the world. Let me paint a picture for you. Unveiled at the end of 2001, the hype machine started sometime in the previous summer. I was 21 years old, in college, things like cell phones are expanding exponentially, and technology is amazing us almost every day.

Before its release, the Segway was just called "It", and they wouldn't release any information about it. At all. All they told the world is that it would revolutionize the way human beings travel for the rest of time, or something equally as grandiose. Of course, our minds were reeling. We were thinking personal mag-lev technology that can use the Earth's magnetic poles, cars that ran on perpetual energy systems, portal technology; the tension built for months! And guess what?!?!?! We got an electric scooter. Seriously, it made me want to firebomb New Hampshire. 
--Patrick Roche-Sowa


CB Radio: CB or Citizen's Band radio was supposed to revolutionize the way we communicate as a nation, particularly in our cars. The Citizen's Band, a series of tunable two-way frequencies set aside for non-official use, originally was only known among truck drivers, who had a legitimate reason to need a two-way, in-cab radio. Eventually, the drivers' colorful jargon began showing up in the TV, movies and novelty songs of the day. Citizens of the 70s glamorized the lives of people who drove trucks, and the the radios they enjoyed began to be sold to non-truck-drivers trying to be trucker-hip. The radios made it easy to communicate right away and somewhat anonymously with any other CB radio owner. Imagine the freedom and safety provided by a device that allowed you to communicate with virtually anyone at any time.

The CB's popularity eventually became its downfall: As the frequencies became crowded with noise, interference  and wannabes from nearby channels yelling "10-4 Good Buddy," exasperated truckers no doubt resented the noobs encroaching on their turf and stop listening/talking. People eventually stopped tuning in, realizing that the only other folks using the radios were wannabes too, and the craze died out in the early 80s, only to be remembered as a handheld fail.

But CBs led to the development of the carphone, which of course led to cell phones, which led to braintalkies, which led to the Collective Consciousness Neuralnet. Unfortunately, spawning cell phones does not an epic win make, but the tech is still around, it's just usually reserved for old men who use pie tins as hats (see above.)
--Ty Colfax

CD-i: While television shopping with my dad in 1991, we were stopped by a salesman in the SEARS electronic department who wanted to show us a new form of entertainment technology that was going to "change everything." He informed us how, thanks to this innovative and revolutionary technology, entertainment would never be the same. The great technological revolution was called: CD-i.

CD-i (Compact Disc Interactive) was going to allow movies to be different every time you watched them, because you'd be able to make different decisions for the characters. You'd never have to buy a video game system ever again, because this little dark grey box from Philips was everything you would ever need.

I don't see how this didn't catch on. I, for one, would have loved to have Interactive movies starring the mother from Twin Peaks and some guy I've only ever seen on Cinemax between 1 and 4 in the morning. That would beat the  hell out of Iron Man or The Dark Knight any day of the week. Oh wait... 
--Jonathan Hunt


Beenz: Back in the early days of the Web, before people realized porn is the only profitable venture on the internet, the entire world was concocting dumb ideas to make-E-money, E-Fast! At the time, the world was besotted with the myth that upstart, clever young-people-with-a-dream could change everything! While you could spend all day essaying idiotic web 1.0 schemes, the most epic of all involved a company trying to provide the currency that would allow every other dumb idea to make people rich. In other words, Beenz! The company behind Beenz was trying to create the first ever global, digital currency. "You won't spend dollars on the web in the world of the Future!" the company said, "You'll spend Beenz! Beenz are a magical fruit!"

Here how it worked: Somehow you would earn beenz through visiting certain websites and trade with others users for their beenz, or you could get beenz through exchanging money for them, and then trade them for goods and services, but only if... you know what? We can't explain it to you because it doesn't make sense. But back in the halcyon web-bubble days of the late 90s, it was a good enough idea to raise a lot of money:  Beenz raised over $100 million in capital!

Dumbness wasn't the main problem Beenz had, though. The main problem with the scheme was it’s not legal to launch a new currency, and international bankers take that kind of thing incredibly seriously. Beenz offices in London were raided by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the police on suspicion of counterfeiting. Class action lawsuits were filed, etc.

Along with International banking regulations, the people behind Beenz also ignored the fact that you’d have to be effing crazy to invest any money in a completely unsecured fake currency created by a fly-by-night internet startup that couldn't even use the letter “Z” correctly. Instead of using, say, your credit cards to buy porn. In the end, traditional currencies weren't shaken by the been, The dollar and Euro are doing fine, and you can’t pay your light bill in beenz. On the plus side, beenz are good for your heart.
--Stephen Johnson

Graham, Kellogg, and Curing Libido Through Food:  Once upon a time, separate groups of people thought that we masturbated because we ate poorly, and that masturbation was the source of all of society's problems. That's where Graham Crackers and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes come from. Seriously. Both products were invented as ways of encouraging you to keep your hands to yourself and live a healthy, non-polluted life.

Although Graham Crackers and Corn Flakes are now staples of the American diet, self-pleasure has yet to stop, no matter how many cheesecakes you bake or  cereal bowls you pour. 
--Michael D'Alonzo

LaserDisc: The father of the DVD and CD. The grandaddy of Blu-Ray (and corpse of HD-DVD). The first optical media ever created. While its children went on to completely change the way we intake our media, this impractical and expensive progenitor had some major hang-ups. To begin with, the size of the disc itself was nearly 1 ft. in diameter making an already vulnerable medium even more susceptible to damage. Imagine loaning these babies out to your friends or even worse seeing the condition they would get to you in your Netflix envelope.

To function, spinning these "dinner plates" required bulky machines that generated much greater noise than other media formats. Then, to kick you while you're down, the size didn't even equate to greater storage space. Due to the analog video signal, the ceiling for Laserdisc playback was capped at only a mere 60 minutes per side. How many of you like the idea of getting up 2 - 3 times during your film to flip a digital pancake? The final insult would have to be the possibility of "LaserRot". Due to shoddy craftsmanship in manufacturing certain discs would begin to oxidize due to low quality adhesives. Think optical media "petrie dish" where the molds spots are in actuality the destruction of the mine cart scene from Temple of Doom.

LaserDisc = the epitome of a medium being out of touch with the times. Digital Elitism. I'm just glad in this day and age of DVRs and high-speed downloadable content, that we don't have overpriced new mediums expecting us to sell our souls for something that's at best... meh. Oops. Sorry, Blu-Ray I didn't see you there.
--Jeffrey Kanjanapangka

Honorable Mention: Epic Win: Refrigeration. It's impossible to underestimate the importance of refrigeration in our society. The ability to keep things cold allows food to be transported long distances and stored for long periods of time. We get to eat better. We work harder. We make better things, etc. Yay, refrigeration!

Epic Fail: World Changing Technology


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