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From Betamax to the Zune: The Biggest Tech Fails of Our Time


By Dustin Seibert

Nerd waves were made last week when it was announced that Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion. Oculus, of course, has been making waves for its upcoming Oculus VR virtual reality headset, which will allow you to not get laid in a fully immersive virtual environment instead of by just staring at your flat screen.

Of course, those of us who have been around for a few moons remember virtual reality glasses from the 1990s and the garbage-ass Pierce Brosnan movie they inspired. As cool as Oculus VR seems, it has to actually make a mark on the public before anyone can say they care.

Here’s hoping it’s not another epic fail like these seven devices below, which came in on their own waves of hype and left like farts in the wind…

Nintendo Virtual Boy – From the original era of bulky, stupid-looking virtual reality glasses. No one born after the mid-1980s remembers this monstrosity, and for good reason: Nintendo asked people to fork out nearly $200 for a device that required them to stand uncomfortably and get neck cricks to play really shitty games marketed as 3D but were basically glorified Game Boy-quality titles — only 11 games released worldwide! — that made people feel nauseated when playing. The machine only lasted about a year, and likely served as a early portent of Nintendo’s impending doom.

Microsoft Zune – Microsoft has historically allowed its ego and dominant place in the market to allow Apple and other tech companies to fuck it in the ass when it comes to innovation. So, when the iPod was released and literally created a market for portable digital music players, Microsoft jumped on the boat five years later with the Zune. Meanwhile, the iPod was already on its fifth generation, playing crisp video and with the backing of Bono, thanks to the metric tons of cash Apple paid him. The Zune was always like Wee Man swimming the Mediterranean Sea to catch up with a cigarette boat at full speed — it never had a chance, and you could probably count the number of idiots you knew who owned one trying to be “unique.”

Segway PT – Quite literally the stupidest way to get around anywhere ever. Some egghead said, “Hey! I’m gonna build a two-wheeled motorized device that moves at a top speed barely faster than a 3-year-old runs and makes everyone look like a total avocadohead while on it!” It’s karmic justice that this thing completely wonked on its high expectations. As it stands, I seriously wanna give an atomic wedgie to anyone I see still on these things. Powered transports are either supposed to be practical or give you an adrenaline rush — the Segway does neither. Nobody gives a damn about riding one, yet you still see tourists in my city of Chicago rolling on the lakefront with helmets and reflective jackets. Because god forbid you fall from a device while going three miles an hour.

Betamax – Us early-’80s babies remember fondly the VHS/Betamax “wars”; in the mid-1980s, you could go to the video store and choose between the two formats if you had the jones to watch Footloose for some dumb reason. Unfortunately, it couldn’t hang as the main medium by which to watch Swedish Erotica movies and tape your soap operas. But the players could certainly double as a solid, blunt murder weapon.

Windows Surface RT – Another example of Microsoft showing up to the party after everyone’s drunk and folks have already soiled the bathroom sink with their lovemaking/barf, the Windows Surface RT was the would-be “iPad killer”: the ultimate manifestation of the tablet computer Microsoft planned to make far before Steve Jobs ate their lunch and licked his chops. The surface ran Windows RT, an inferior version of an (arguably) inferior operating system (when compared to Mac OS or Linux), it had a scarce number of apps in comparison to Apple and the battery life was asswater. Microsoft eventually made a better version called the Surface Pro, but even that’ll never hit the monster sales of the iPad.

Laserdisc – Back in the day, we all had that friend whose dad made a lot of money and had that mystical unicorn of a movie player that was a LaserDisc. But you never actually saw one up close; if you were lucky enough, you watched a LaserDisc movie but the machine was tucked away deep in an entertainment center somewhere, never to be seen by mortal eyes. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, people still frequented the movie theater before it became a crappy, overpriced experience and unless you also had a big-screen projection television, the higher-definition LDs didn’t matter as much. LaserDisc players were for rich people. Though they’re the father of the more economically sensible, much more successful DVD, LaserDiscs didn’t have much of a market in the states. Still, it was kinda cool to see a vinyl record-sized CD.

Pontiac Aztek – This is worth mentioning because there’s no way that literally the worst car ever made shouldn’t. This fucking monstrosity looks like a cross between a Ford Focus and a herpes outbreak. I would like to know what Mensa member over at Pontiac sketched this bitch out and said, “Oh yeah, people are gonna wanna drive this. They’ll love it.” Anyone with any objective good taste knew it was a disaster, and it’s often cited as the car that killed Pontiac. Fans of the Survivor television show probably remember when the Aztek was a top prize on the first season. Shit, I’d rather starve to death slowly on the island.

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