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
The dominant PC database software from almost the moment it first appeared in 1980, and one of the best-known pieces of productivity software, period; the flagship product of Ashton-Tate back when that company was arguably a better-known name in software than Microsoft.
dBASE IV, mostly. That 1988 upgrade was late and buggy, and Ashton-Tate didn't move fast enough to fix it, hacking off the loyal developers who had made dBASE a standard. The company also spent a lot of time suing competitors, which is never as productive an investment of time and money as improving one's own products.
In 1991, Borland bought Ashton-Tate for $439 million, and acquired dBASE IV's bad luck along with it - neither Borland nor dBASE fared well in subsequent years. And in 1992, Microsoft launched Access, a database that might have slaughtered dBASE no matter what. But dBASE was on the mat before Access ever entered the ring.
In 1999, dBASE was sold again, and its new owner, DataBased Intelligence, continues to sell it to this day. (It's now called dBASE Plus, as if dBASE IV had never existed.) The company's newsgroups are surprisingly active, showing that real people are still using dBASE to do real work. Not bad for a product that most of us wrote off as a goner early in the first Clinton administration.
What it was
The browser (formally known as Netscape Navigator for most of its life) and company which, beginning in 1994, jump-started both the web and the internet economy.
Microsoft, after not even bundling a browser with Windows 95 at first, decided to crush Netscape - which it did by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, giving it away for free, and, eventually, making it pretty good.
Netscape, meanwhile, went off on tangents such as developing a communications suite that didn't amount to much and enterprise software that it eventually sold to Sun. The company sold out to AOL in 1998; AOL had so little interest in the browser it bought that it continued to distribute IE as its primary one.
An ever-shrinking user base did continue to get new versions of Netscape, but in December 2007, AOL announced it was pulling the plug.
If you're an optimist, you'll focus on one wonderful fact: Firefox, which is based on Mozilla code that originated as an open-source version of Netscape, is a huge success. The Netscape name, however, is profoundly shopworn.
In recent years, AOL has slapped it on a budget ISP (which still exists but doesn't seem to be signing up new customers) and an imitation of Digg (now known as Propeller). Today. it's mostly just a slight variant on the AOL.com home page with the Netscape logo repeated endlessly in the background. But did I mention that Firefox is doing great?
NEXT PAGE: MS-Dos and Lotus 1-2-3
- 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