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The 15 biggest technology failures

Gadgets that didn't revolutionise the world

For every tech invention that has revolutionised the world we live in, there are just as many products that have failed to take off. Whether because they were all hype and no substance, or they just didn’t capture the public's imagination, they have now been resigned to the dustbin.

We've rounded up our 15 favourite examples of products that, beyond a few prototypes, never actually saw the light of day. We've also added some honourable mentions that we think deserved to be remembered.

Ovation

The early 1980s was an interesting time in office-software development for IBM's still-new IBM PC and the MS-DOS operating system. WordStar, WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, and Lotus 1-2-3 were just some of the must-have word processing and spreadsheet titles released in the three years after the platform made its debut.

In 1983, Ovation Technologies, a startup founded the year before, announced an integrated package that promised to include word processing, spreadsheet, database management, and communications software. By 1984, though, the company declared bankruptcy, having burned through about $7m (£3.5m) in investor money without releasing a single product.

The problem was one that might be familiar to survivors of the dotcom bust: Ovation spent far more time, money, and energy promoting and selling its product than actually creating it. The software's only lasting effect on the market is that it's supposedly the reason the phrase 'vaporware' was coined.

Duke Nukem Forever

It's hard to come up with something new to say about Duke Nukem Forever, largely because people have had so much time to make fun of it. Last week marked the eleventh anniversary of 3D Realms' first official announcement of Duke Nukem Forever's release, which was supposed to be in mid-1998. That optimistic announcement came before the developer's decision to switch game engines - something the company would go on to do repeatedly in the ensuing years, while occasionally rewriting most of the existing game design from scratch.

Over the past 10 years, the developer has released a few trailers (including one last December), screenshots, and demos to show the game's progress. Though 3D Realms wisely stopped providing hard release dates (it'll be released "when it's done"), president Scott Miller did confirm a 2008 release date in an email sent to the Dallas Business Journal back in February.

Still, as the years have gone by, each new tidbit has prompted increasing amounts of snide commentary rather than anticipation. The best of the bunch has to be The Duke Nukem Forever List, which documents how the gaming and technology industries - as well as the world at large- have changed since that first announcement in 1997.

If Duke Nukem Forever does actually see the light of day, which may surprise its creators as much as anyone else, its role of whipping boy in the world of tech snarkiness might be filled by Darkfall, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) in development for almost seven years... so far.

  1. The gadgets that didn't revolutionise the world
  2. The Amiga Walker PC and Sega VR
  3. Glaze3D Graphics cards
  4. The Atari 2700 and the Secure Digital Music Initiative
  5. Whatever happened to the Action GameMaster
  6. The Apple Interactive Television Box
  7. Taligent and Microsoft Cairo
  8. The saga of Silicon Film EFS-1
  9. What happened to Project Xanadu?
  10. Honourable mentions

NEXT PAGE: The Amiga Walker PC and Sega VR


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