The 15 Worst Tech Products Ever Imagined

For every great gizmo that is created, there are dozens of flops that surround it. However, we rarely hear about the failures. Instead, we hear about all the great gadgets of the year, the decade, the millennium, and so on. But what about the flops? What about those truly remarkable failures that will stand the test of time in technological history?

That’s why Techi is here to the rescue. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane and recall some of the best of the worst, in no particular order:

 

Furby

Furby is, by far, the most annoyingly cute gadget that has ever been created. From the fact that you had to touch its tongue on a regular basis to the disturbing realization that you were supposed to teach the thing how to talk, Furby was something of a ridiculous phenomenon. Even worse was that every one wanted to own this thing. But the worst part was when you would wake up in the middle of the night and hear your Furby making a ruckus under your bed, to which you were forced to find it and throw it at the wall across the room, only to have it keep on making annoying sounds until you dragged yourself out of bed to take a sledgehammer to its mechanical talking head (a personal experience, without the sledgehammer, on several occasions). Seriously, what were we thinking?

 

Nintendo Virtual Boy

Everyone loves Nintendo. And everyone agrees that the Virtual Boy was a complete and total failure (sadly, I owned one of these as well). I don’t recall what the worst part about this device was exactly: was it having to rearrange the living room just to play the thing, was it that you had to stare into a freakish contraption at an uncomfortable angle to see the action, or was it that it was such a pain to get it up and running? Either way, I think Nintendo learned a valuable lesson from this device, and perhaps the Wii is better for it.

 

BonziBUDDY

Does anyone remember BonziBUDDY? At first, I didn’t. That was until I came up with this article and faintly recalled this annoying purple gorilla thing that served little purpose other than to annoy. Sure, it was supposed to help you be productive, but it had the opposite effect — all it did was interrupt your workflow. It would regularly walk, jump, dance, or swing onto the screen and bug you for no apparent reason. Also, it’s purple! It’s a purple gorilla! (Disturbingly, BonziBUDDY was previously a green talking parrot… Yeah, the purple gorilla was much better.)

 

Internet Explorer 6

Dear Internet Explorer 6: How much the Internet (particularly today’s Web developers) truly hates you. You were a mess. You were a catastrophe and a half to develop for. You were a security hazard to corporations, governments, and consumers across the globe. You were also way behind the time. You also made an appearance on Mac computers, and the experience was just as bad. Internet Explorer, you are a disaster, so would you please just go away. Let us live our lives without you and your difficult ways.

 

IE Toolbars

As bad as Internet Explorer 6 was, the fact that every company seemingly created toolbars for the browser was just as bad. Even worse, however, was the fact that people would install these toolbars, resulting in a browser that looked less like a browser and more like a gigantic box with useless buttons on it. These browser toolbars might have been useful to some, but they were abused by most — if you look around on people’s computers who still manage to use Internet Explorer, it should not shock you to see several toolbars installed, and they are just as ugly and useless now as they were back then.

 

America Online

Most of us should remember America Online (now Aol) — for many, it was their introduction to the Internet on a blazingly fast 56k modem. The problem? It wasn’t the fact that their discs were everywhere (and we received them in the mail box all the time). It wasn’t the fact that it took them around five months to cancel my account. It wasn’t that they tried to keep people contained in their own ecosystem of products and services. It wasn’t that the software was absolutely atrocious and the e-mail system flat-out sucked. It wasn’t the fact that it was overly expensive. It wasn’t the fact that I was disconnected far to frequently. Oh. Wait. It was all of those things. And then some.

 

America Online Proggies

As bad as America Online was, it was even worse when you added in the fact that there were applications developed specifically to annoy others. From AoHell to Fate-X, these applications were a hit by people who simply wanted to annoy people on America Online’s chat rooms. Sadly, I might have tinkered around with these applications back in the day, so I shouldn’t criticize. However, looking back, I can understand that these applications made an already abysmal experience that much worse. Sadly, it was all likely a precursor to the poor attitudes and behaviors we have in online communities today.

 

RealNetworks RealPlayer

RealPlayer was a real pain in the butt. It was something that people had to have (if they wanted video content) but never wanted in the late ’90s. It was a platform that promoted online video and media streaming. So what’s so bad about it? For starters, it was an annoying application that was always bugging you: constant pop ups and advertisements were just the beginning. There were also reliability and compatibility issues with video formats. But the worst part was that it invaded people’s privacy by tracking user’s media viewing habits without disclosure. That’s like bad, you know?

 

Digital Rights Management

What’s worse than a product that is broken? How about a product that is designed to break other potentially great products for legitimate users? That product would be digital rights management (DRM). It is designed to keep piracy at bay, but, instead, it does little more than annoy legitimate users who have spent their hard-earned cash on that company’s products. It also gives pirates further motivation to circumvent the DRM tactics being implemented. However, it has reached new all-time lows when companies began requiring users to be connected to the Internet at all times when using their software. How stupid can this get?

 

Windows ME

The version of Windows that Microsoft should have never released but did anyways is Windows ME. Plagued with stability issues and minute improvements, the “Mistake Edition” (credit to PCWorld) of Windows was quickly replaced by Windows XP (a far superior experience in every way) a year later. But it could not cover up the fact that Windows ME was a disaster for Microsoft. The least Microsoft could have done was offer XP upgrades to ME customers.

 

ZIP Drive

The Iomega Zip drive was something of a waste (yeah, I owned one of these as well). Sure, it was pretty economical for the time. It held 100MB of data, and it was a much better format than the tried and true floppy disk. Unfortunately for Iomega, the Zip media format was quickly eclipsed by compact disc media. After that, there was no point in ever plugging in that outdated Zip drive ever again. But it also didn’t help that there was a class action lawsuit that highlighted the format’s reliability issues (dubbed the “click of death”).

 

Nintendo Power Glove

The Nintendo Power Glove is a simple case of too many buttons and not enough extremities. If you give a person a glove that is supposed to interact with a game by using your hands, placing a bunch of buttons and requiring the user to use his other hand to play the game doesn’t sound much better. Also, none of us at Techi are claiming to be fashionistas, but we are pretty sure that if you wore this thing in public, you would be scarred for life. There is no doubt about it. Also, I have never seen The Wizard, but the mere fact that a movie featured this product is both sad and hilarious.

 

Sega 32x & Sega CD

I remember owning the Sega CD, quickly followed with the Sega 32x. These two contraptions connected to my Sega Genesis game system and I have no clue as to what they actually did. I never purchased a Sega CD game (I did, however, have Sonic CD arrive in my mail box one day) and I might have purchased two Sega 32x games. but why? It was a huge waste of money. It wasn’t worth it. The Sega Saturn made these improvements pointless, but the Sega Saturn was a marketing disaster. As a result, the Sega CD and Sega 32x add-ons for the Genisis didn’t sell. It was only the beginning of Sega’s future blunders with gaming hardware.

 

N-Gage

The N-Gage suffered from the age-old problem of trying to do too many things at once. While Nokia had a noble concept (having a combined mobile and gaming platform), the execution of the concept was horrible. The phone service is more important (and more expensive), so it makes sense that a phone should be a good phone before it can be anything else. The N-Gage wasn’t. It wasn’t even an average phone, and it was a mediocre gaming system at best (that said, it did have a few decent games for it). The interesting part is that the N-Gage is still selling today, but the online component of N-Gage will be shut down this year, placing the dagger in the heart of the N-Gage. Overall, it was a disaster. Although, they could have done worse.

 

Apple USB Mouse

Apple is praised as a company that can’t do no wrong in the design department, but trust us, it can — the company can give you carpel tunnel syndrome as well. Apple’s USB Mouse (commonly referred to as the “hockey puck” mouse) was an odd design that I was forced to experience throughout my school years. It made little sense, and it was especially a pain for those with larger hands (like me). But it got worse. This mouse also had an extremely short cord that was difficult to manage. You’d think that one of the most important components for computer input would be well-designed and ergonomic, right? Unfortunately, Apple still hasn’t figured out how to design an amazing mouse: the USB Mouse was, however, the worst.

Written by James Mowery

James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist and entrepreneur who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.
SEE MORE ARTICLES BY "James Mowery"

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13 Comments »

 
#1
Jaycob Cratchley
April 14th, 2010 at 10:26 am

When Windows XP was first launched, Internet Explorer 6 was tolerable, because web standards still hadn’t been so greatly recognised as they have been today. The worst aspect regarding Internet Explorer 6 wasn’t the lack of standards support at launch; it was the lack of standards support as time continued, and an absence of upgrades.

Eventually it got to a point where, even today, it is still a predominant browser which many people stubbornly refuse to give up. Technology evolves at a fantastic speed, and that’s what I believe is the cause for the hatred and intolerance of Internet Explorer 6; it wasn’t capable of catching up.

Thanks for the editorial, James :)

 
 
#2
jamesmowery
April 14th, 2010 at 10:59 am

Hi Jaycob,

Yeah, I hear what you saying. It is also true that corporations refuse to upgrade from IE 6 (for who knows what reason, especially with those attacks on Google and several other companies recently).

I really just wish that Microsoft would start from scratch. They started over with Bing, and it is a decent product now. Why not start from scratch with Internet Explorer? Maybe give it a new name as well. Start fresh with Webkit.

I know they don’t want to push away all those who are currently using Internet Explorer… but it is obvious that Internet Explorer has a grim future. It is only a matter of time.

Thanks for the insightful comment, Jaycob. :D

 
 
#4
Dan Bekas
April 14th, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Zip drives don’t deserve to be on this list.

When I was in college this was the only way to carry large files around from university PCs. Flash drives were expensive in comparison to a zip disk.

 
 
#5
Matt Petty
April 28th, 2010 at 12:07 pm

@Dan Bekas – Agreed. How was the Zip drive one of the “worst” products? It was superceded, after a long and useful career.
Exercise for author: Define “worst” for each item on this list.

 
 
#6
Stephen Baugh
April 14th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Interesting list, although I think it misses the perspective of time or interest with the audience.

Kids used to love the furby for example.

The Zip drive at the time was awesome. The alternative only really floppy drives if you wanted removable media.

I’m an Apple fan boy so of course i hate the dos prompt, but geek love it and the command line. That used to be one of the main arguments windows people had over Apple … with windows “you could get under the hood”

Fun list though … thanks and yes I that USB mouse definitely deserves to be here, what a pain it was to use.

 
 
#7
Play Lead Guitar
April 14th, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Furby, though really lame, was a really important step for robotics. (Read Flesh and Machines by Rodney Brooks)

 
 
#8
Toby
April 14th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Self confessed Apple fanboy as I am, the Apple hockey puck mouse is the worst mouse ever designed. I’ve never really been a fan of Apple’s mice, Microsoft ironically always made better mice in my opinion, but my current mouse is the Apple Magic Mouse, and it’s pretty good.

 
 
#9
jamesmowery
April 14th, 2010 at 4:33 pm

@Dan Bekas

Fair enough. However, from my personal experience, the Zip drive got replaced far too fast by CD-ROM drives, and once the CD format took off, there was no turning back. I can, however, acknowledge that Zip drives were far more impressive than floppies, but there was a floppy drive everywhere — not true for Zip.

@Stephen

I completely hated the Furby. I could not stand it.

The USB Mouse… total failure. ;)

@Guitar

I owned a Furby. I actually begged my father for one. I hated it. It was fun for about a week, but after that, I had wondered what the big deal was. I am plenty sure it helped with robotics, but from a pure consumer standpoint, it was an annoying thing that just would not shut up. I can’t even begin to recall the amount of times that the thing woke up on its own while it was under my bed. It drove me nuts.

@Toby

Agree completely about the USB Mouse.

I’ve tried the Mighty Mouse, and while it isn’t no where near as bad as the USB Mouse, I simply hate having to drag my fingers on top of it to get it to scroll. It just does not feel right at all. Also, it could sacrifice some sexiness for more a more ergonomical design.

 
 
#10
valeri klitsko
April 15th, 2010 at 9:09 am

Windows ME = More Errors ;) I believe that was also very popular joke during that time.. I loved BonziBUDDY, until i became more tech-savvy.

 
 
#11
jamesmowery
April 15th, 2010 at 11:57 am

@Valeri

BonziBUDDY drove me nuts. It was, like Furby, fun to play with for a day or two, but it quickly got annoying.

 
 
#12
Chris
April 23rd, 2010 at 10:53 pm

For a while, if you had ME, Windows would upgrade you to XP for free if you phoned in, went through their infinite phone meny and paid the shipping for the discs. I had two laptops and eventually did get two separate copies of XP for free doing this.

I don’t know if it was ever publicly advertised however. I originally heard about it via an M$ rep in college.

 
 
#13
azul
April 24th, 2010 at 12:51 am

I absolutely aggree that IE is worst products on web browser category…

 

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