Technology. Over the course of human history, it’s brought us some pretty wonderful things, hasn’t it? Whether keeping bulbs lit and illuminating our lives or building the blocks of the basic medicines that keep us from dying at age 30, we’ll always be in debt of this ever-evolving beast…
…well, ALMOST always. While technology’s definitely chalked up a few runs on the scoreboard thanks to homerun hitters like Da Vinci, Edison and the like, it’s also seen a host of errors and bunt foul strikeouts too. From toys and video games to social networks, storage devices and “As Seen on TV” inventions, every new piece of technology to enter the public fray isn’t always a hit; in fact some of these “new ideas” have been nothing short of a steroid scandal before slipping away into forgotten obscurity.
For better or for worse, the following are some of the tops dogs when it comes to forgotten technologies:
Most Forgotten Toy: Teddy Ruxpin
Somewhere along the timeline of toy manufacturing history, some mad-minded executive at the now-extinct World of Wonder toy company thought to himself, “You know what would be great and not at all creepy? A robot teddy bear that can read stories, thus giving us adults more time to drink!” Little did he know that this fancy piece of techno-fur would revolutionize childhood nightmares, frightening us all into thinking that Teddy Ruxpin would come alive in the middle of the night and read us our last rites. Needless to say, it’s no wonder (pun intended) that World of Wonder went under soon after Ruxpin’s release.
Runner-up: The Talkboy
Once Home Alone 2: Lost in New York hit theaters, every kid in America had to have a Talkboy. Unfortunately, this was also the era in our lives when we collectively realized that Macaulay Culkin was nothing more than studio-born sales device, whose purpose was to turn movie props into toys. Too bad for the Talkboy; it was no hoverboard.
Most Forgotten Video Game: Nintendo Virtual Boy
For some odd reason, in the midst of the 1990s, society became obsessed with the idea of wearing incredibly bulky headsets to experience virtual reality. As Sega was seemingly on the cusp of all video game tech development thanks in part to the Sega CD (a Genesis add-on, which in itself is worth an entire column), Nintendo looked to jump into the future-fray with its “groundbreaking” Virtual Boy. Though the desired bulky headset was certainly present, the illusion of 3D virtual reality was not; on the contrary, it was a 2D, infrared mess. Ever seen the Seinfeld episode “The Chicken Roaster”? The Virtual Boy was basically Kramer’s apartment.
Runner-up: Tiger Electronics
Before the Game Boy took over gaming as we know it, there was Tiger Electronics. Pumping out cheap, poorly crafted LCD games en masse, Tiger sat at the top of every kid’s wish list. Of course, once we finally got our hands on Nintendo’s handheld variation of Tetris, thousands of Tiger carcasses immediately made their way to the landfill.
Most Forgotten Social Network: Friendster
It’s hard at this point to remember a time when there was no Facebook, or Twitter for that matter. But alas, such a time did exist. Long before we wrote on each other’s walls and Tweeted 20 times a day, there was Friendster. Make no mistake, without Friendster, social media would be a different landscape. After all, Friendster was of the first sites online to let users create profiles, post pictures, share videos, etc. Unfortunately, after declining a lofty buy-out by Google in 2003, Friendster immediately slipped into obscurity. It still exists today, though no longer as a social network, instead focusing on Southeast Asian gaming culture. Take that, Facebook.
Ah, MySpace. You were king of the world once, an insurmountable peak at a time when online society really began to explode, and social networking ingrained itself as a part of our lives. Unfortunately for Tom, you were no match for Mark. And now? You’re just a poor musician’s tool with an updated logo that makes absolutely no sense at all.
Most Forgotten Data Storage Device: MiniDiscs
Regardless of how small and easy-to-store standards CDs already were, Sony and other companies thought they could take the compact disc and make it even more compact-er. Enter the MiniDisc, a data storage device almost immediately made obsolete the second technology industries realized how cheaply they could produce CD-R blanks. True story: while sitting in a high school buddy’s Subaru circa late 2000, we were talking about Weezer’s upcoming album as he played Pinkerton from his MiniDisc player. And even then, I recall thinking to myself “MiniDiscs seem unnecessary and kind of stupid.” 11 years later, my opinion hasn’t changed.
Runner-up: Zip Drives
You know what can store even more information than a standard floppy disc? An incredibly bulky, not-so-floppy disc! The ability to save 100 MB in the late 90s was pretty unheard of, as was the reason Zip took off so quickly. Unfortunately, Zip took an immediate nosedive once multi-gigabyte hard drives entered the scene.
Most Forgotten “As Seen on TV” Product: The Clapper
With the advent of DVR, infomercials and late night commercials are largely only taken in by those of us who still fall asleep watching re-runs of Cheers and Wings on a nightly basis. As a result, this brand of advertisement faces extinction, forgotten by those of us lucky enough to remember and never even known by a generation growing up with TiVo-style playback as the norm. And thus, the majesty of The Clapper goes the way of the dinosaur. Such a tragedy too, that a theme song as creative and easy to remember as “Clap on! Clap off! The Clapper!” is never even known, even though it’s 110 characters less than a Twitter post.
Runner-up: Showtime Rotisserie
God bless Ron Popeil. Without him, the term “As Seen on TV” wouldn’t carry nearly as much weight as it does. He’s like the Vince McMahon of infomercials, for God’s sake. But that said, even McMahon is stuck in a dwindling industry. Fortunately for Popeil, so long as he can say “Just set it and…”, anyone who remembers will reply “FORGET IT!”
Elijah Bates is a contributing writer for CBS Local
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