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The 15 biggest technology failures

Gadgets that didn't revolutionise the world

We've rounded up the top 15 big ideas that were supposed to revolutionise technology, but beyond a few prototypes, they never actually appeared. In some cases we're glad they didn't.

Amiga Walker PC

No list of technologies that almost made it would be complete without something from the Commodore Amiga's tortured history, one in which remarkable hardware was often tripped up by questionable marketing decisions, bad circumstances, or a mixture of both.

After Commodore went bankrupt in 1994, the Amiga brand and technology were purchased by the German company Escom Technologies and marketed as Amiga Technologies. In early 1996, the company announced a plan to sell an upgraded version of the Amiga 1200 computer with a strikingly designed dark purple case that stood on four tiny feet, hence the Walker name.

Was it genius or madness? Even the company didn't seem sure, as it also intended to offer the motherboard separately, so that people could buy it and put it in a standard PC case. The reaction of the Amiga faithful was mixed, with some saying the case looked like a beetle, or Doctor Who's K-9. We'll never know if the Walker would have swayed the Amiga community or not; only a few prototypes were built before Escom went bankrupt in 1997.

Sega VR

Before the madness of the dotcom boom really got under way, the serious buzz was all about virtual reality. Aside from the movie 'The Lawnmower Man' and VR cafés springing up in tech-friendly cities, a potential battle was shaping up between two giants of the video game industry, both aiming to bring the wonders of virtual reality gaming to the home.

Sega had decided to create the Sega VR as a virtual-reality add-on to its wildly popular Genesis system. Although the twin-LCD headset made the player look like a cross between Battlestar Galactica's Cylons and Knight Rider's KITT, it was one of the sleeker-looking VR headsets of the day. And, by all accounts, that was the best thing about it.

Despite ambitious specs, including 320x200-pixel resolution, head tracking, and a colour display, the few people who tried the system outside of Sega, mostly at tradeshows, were far from impressed. While the Sega VR did meet its specs on paper, in practice the images were a blurry mess. The company scrapped the project in 1994. (But not before making an arrangement to offer the Sega VR as a prize in a breakfast cereal competition. What the winner actually got is a mystery.)

Sega probably breathed a sigh of relief when a year later Nintendo's Virtual Boy also flopped spectacularly.

NEXT PAGE: Glaze3D Graphics cards

  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


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