We've rounded up the 25 best tech products that may be long gone, but we'll never forget them. How have they managed to hang on for so long?
What it was
A US-based grocery-delivery dot-com service that was famous, at first, for the ambition of its plans, the enormity of their expense, and the impressive CVs of its management team.
Spending more than a billion dollars to build cutting-edge warehouses turned out to be an investment that couldn't possibly pay off quickly enough. After a string of other questionable business decisions (when its CEO was ousted, he got a $375,000 payment - annually, for life), Webvan declared bankruptcy in 2001.
Webvan.com still sells groceries - but only non-perishable ones - as an outpost of the Amazon empire. Strangely, Amazon has another site in the US, Amazon Fresh, which specialises in delivering stuff that is perishable.
What it was
Starting in 1979, it offered message boards, news and information, e-commerce, and other web-like features - long before there was a web, and even before there was an AOL.
The rise of AOL in the early 1990s left CompuServe as the second-largest online service, which was probably a lot less fun than being the biggest. Shortly thereafter, CompuServe had to deal with the internet. Like other proprietary services, it became a not-very-satisfying not-quite-an-ISP.
And as consumers flooded the web, CompuServe's once-bustling message boards started to feel deserted. In 1997, AOL bought CompuServe, and while CompuServe's robust international network helped bolster AOL's infrastructure, the CompuServe community dwindled away.
Like Netscape, CompuServe became a nameplate that AOL attaches to slightly embarrassing projects. It's now a half-hearted portal site. For those of us who were CompuServe users back when its user IDs consisted of lots of digits and a mysterious comma, it's a depressing fate.
What it was
A joint venture of Sears Roebuck and IBM that launched an extremely consumery US-based online service in 1990- - more mainstream alternative to CompuServe before AOL became a phenomenon. Geeks sneered at it (some called it ‘Stodigy'), but it managed to sign up a sizable number of users in an era when most had never laid eyes on a modem.
Within a few years of Prodigy's debut, the internet made proprietary services like it (and CompuServe and, eventually, AOL) look like antiques. Prodigy started adding internet features, and in 1997 it re-launched itself as a full-blown ISP. It did okay but in 2001, SBC (now AT&T) bought Prodigy and retired the brand name.
Telmex, the dominant telecommunications company in Mexico, owns the Prodigy name and still uses it. However, I suspect that there are still some US SBC customers who retain Prodigy.net email addresses.
NEXT PAGE: VCR Plus+ and Circuit City
- These classics will be forever in our memories
- Hayes modems and the Mini Disc
- Monochrome displays and Hercules graphics cards
- PDA's and Packard Bell
- Amiga and Floppy disks
- Zip disks and the Z80 microprocessor
- dBASE and Netscape
- MS-Dos and Lotus 1-2-3
- PageMaker and After Dark
- Havard Graphics and AltaVista
- Webvan and CompuServe
- VCR Plus+ and Circuit City