The 20 most annoying tech products

11. Microsoft Office 97 (1997)

When Microsoft Bob went to the great software boneyard in the sky, it left a little gift behind: Clippy, an oh-so-irritating animated paper clip that popped up on screen and offered inane advice for using the different Office applications. Clippy finally got clipped in 2001.

Even more annoying, though, was Office 97's lack of backward compatibility. For example, you couldn't open a Word 97 document in Word 95. After corporate users balked at Microsoft's bald-faced attempt to force them to upgrade, the company released an Office 97 service pack that allowed users to open files in either version of Word.

12. Adobe (Macromedia) Flash (1996 to present)

Adobe's animation tool, introduced by Macromedia in 1996, has arguably done more than any other product to liven up our Web browsers. But it's also the dominant technology behind those running, jumping, spinning, swirling, flashing, dancing, popping, peeling, and just generally irritating rich-media Web ads. We like Flash, but we wish Web designers would use its power for good and not evil.

13. AOL Instant Messenger, Microsoft Windows Messenger, Yahoo Messenger (1997 to present)

So you invite a friend to stay over at your place for a while, and before you know it he has invited his half-wit cousins to camp out in your living room. That's what these chat clients are like. To get a simple program for IM-ing your friends, you also have to put up with their Webby companions (such as AIM Today and Inside Yahoo) that load at startup. They also install browser toolbars, change your home page, and toss ads in your face. With chat buddies like these, who needs enemies?

14. Sony PlayStation 3 (2006)

More eagerly awaited than Vista and almost as disappointing, Sony's PlayStation 3 is full of minor annoyances -- from buggy wireless to slow and cumbersome firmware updates (requiring a USB cable). Owners of HDTVs who expected the PS3 to enhance the look of their DVDs got a rude shock: Unlike many DVD players equipped with HDMI outputs, the PS3 doesn't upscale the disc's native 480p resolution to high-definition. And the PS3 still has the distinction of being the only Blu-ray player that does not output movies at 720p. Instead, movies must be scaled (with varying results) to the fixed-pixel-unfriendly 1080i. Worse, problems with high-definition copy protection (HDCP) caused some PS3 titles to blink on and off on some TV sets. Plus, Australians got routed in the backwards compatibility stakes, losing out on the Emotion Engine chip that allowed PS2 games to run automatically. The most annoying thing about the PS3, though? Its $1000 asking price.

15. eBay (1995 to present)

The world's biggest auction site has many problems, but its seemingly random approach to policy enforcement is what gets our hackles up. Do something wrong when you post an item -- like charge too much for shipping -- and the auction police delete your item without any warning, forcing you to redo the listing from scratch. We wouldn't have an issue with this if eBay were better at policing actual scams, such as bogus listings, rampant phishing schemes, and bidding circles in which scammers artificially pump up each other's ratings. Yet by all measures, auction fraud remains Netizens' single biggest complaint. Irritating? You bet.

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Dan Tynan

PC World
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