From the biggest format-war losers to infirm IT, T3 rounds up ten pieces of dead tech we can't forget
They came, they saw, they… whimpered and promptly went away. That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t shed a tear for these much-derided tech losers; the ones who limped off over the gadget horizon and then down into gadgetry’s beckoning dumper.
Some of them were ahead of their time; others were victims of rapid tech advancements elsewhere or a perceived lack of beauty. A few were rubbish, but in an endearing sort of way. They should all hold a place in your hearts and a quiet, dusty spot in the corner of your attic. We’ll never see their like again.
Betamax was another notch on Sony's proprietary bedpost. As we all know, it was knocked out of the water by VHS thanks to inventor JVC's willingness to license the tech to other manufacturers. Yet the Betamax format still draws admiring nods from video professionals thanks to its technical superiority; the tape quality was better, the image noticeably sharper and the machinery more reliable. Some Betamax players from 1975 are still functioning today and elements of the tech are still used in most tape-based, broadcast-quality digital cameras.
Creative Digital Audio Player
It was bigger than an 11-year-old's head and skipped tracks at random - or perhaps had excellent taste which allowed it to carefully sidestep most of our student record collection - but the Nomad had us enraptured. A massive 6GB of storage, which in 2001 could probably have housed the entire BBC archive, meant it stored all your music. It was the gadget for a year, until the iPod appeared. But could Apple's music-playing device run on AA batteries? No it could not!
Nokia Comes With Music
Hard to know what to say about Comes With Music. Do you admire the fact it offered unlimited tunes from a massive selection for a pifflingly small cost? Or do you laugh grimly at the fact Nokia somehow never managed to convince anyone this was a good thing and never got the software to be anything other than bug-ridden crap? Actually, given that it's just shut down for good, we think we know the answer to that question.
Was it a phone? Was it a credit card? Was it one of those fiddly plastic Oyster passes you use to get on or off the London Underground? Back in 2007 the O2 Wallet was all of these things... for a full six months. Wrapped up in a near field-communication-enabled Nokia 6131 handset, its trial was supposed to herald the onset of "one device to rule them all". It didn't happen, but with NFC now set to start appearing as standard on Android phones and, supposedly, the iPhone 5, it now stands revealed as a true pioneer.
Red-and-green-eyed 3D glasses
James Cameron may have hit Oscar-reaping pay-dirt with his more sophisticated take on 3D, but we still yearn for a more innocent time where cardboard and two squares of coloured acetate were all we needed to add an extra dimension to "classics" such as Jaws 3D and the last 15 minutes of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare.
Do you remember this being rubbish? You're mistaken: that was the Sega Saturn. The Dreamcast was a magic box of fresh ideas, from the 56k modem manfully "powering" the online gaming, to the removable controller memory modules that doubled as mini consoles themselves. The ideas that stuck are now in your PS3 and Xbox and games such as Soul Calibur and Crazy Taxi remain classics.
Sega Game Gear
Released eight years before the Dreamcast, the Game Gear had a major flaw that Uniross and the like must have been eternally grateful for: its battery life was pathetic. You had to fill your pockets with spare batteries just to get through the opening sequence of Wonder Boy III. However, Sega's bulky and short-of-stamina mutant did boast Game Boy-pumelling colour, eight-bit graphics, and was powerful enough to play games released for Sega's full-size Master System console, albeit via an adaptor that made it even more insanely oversized.
Turning school kids into Coca-Cola CEOs with nowt but a quick squirt of CO2, this legendary device made it possible to create any fizzy beverage you desired. This could be either through the wonders of toxic-looking, sugarheavy syrups or, if you were more enterprising, ingredients of your own choice - fizzy Bovril, anyone? A shame, then, that the results were invariably sub-Cresta, "it's frothy man", rubbish. Every year SodaStream attempts to make a comeback, but as with Mike Yarwood or Keith Harris and Orville, it just ain't gonna happen.
There's many a hack of a certain age who still won't hear a bad word said against Sony's neat little digital disc format. MiniDisc recording devices offered rock-solid reliability, excellent fidelity and easy editing, while playback was also notably crisp and engaging, thanks to Sony's proprietary ATRAC compression. Alas, the arrival of MP3 and hard-disk recording/playback meant its days were strictly numbered, but for sound quality and recording versatility MDs still reign supreme. That the multicoloured plastic diskettes have an air of indescribable future-retro cool doesn't hurt either.
Before fibre-optic broadband, before HSDPA and even 28k dial-up, there was Teletext, arguably the world's first on demand information service. It told you everything you wanted to know, so long as you were willing to wait for it and then able to speed-read pages that automatically turned over with no regard for the distracted. Modern demands for more instant access and graphics more sophisticated than a lunatic's crayon drawings have seen it wound down, yet we still have our mental bookmarks (670: Digitiser - you'd have messed up if you'd looked anywhere else, guy - 302: football, 390: Bamber Boozler) memorised.