The 25 worst tech products of all time

These products are so bad, they belong in the high-tech hall of shame

Numbers 11 to 15

11. Priceline Groceries and Gas (2000)

The name-your-price model worked for airline tickets, rental cars, and hotels--why not groceries and gas? Unfortunately, even Priceline spokescaptain William Shatner couldn't keep these services in orbit. Grocery shoppers could find real discounts bidding for products online, but only if they weren't picky about brands and were willing to follow Byzantine rules on what they could buy and how they paid for them.

Fuel customers had to pay for petrol online, wait for a Priceline gas card to arrive in the mail, and then find a local station that would honor it--a lot of hassle to save a few pennies per gallon. In less than a year, WebHouse Club, the Priceline affiliate that ran both programs, ran out of gas--and cash--and was forced to shut down.

12. PointCast Network (1996)

125772-PointCast_b

Back in the mid-90s, so-called "push" technology was all the rage. In place of surfing the Web for news and information, push apps like the PointCast Network would deliver customized information directly to your desktop--along with a healthy serving of ads. But push quickly turned into a drag, as PointCast's endless appetite for bandwidth overwhelmed dial-up connections and clogged corporate networks.

In addition, PointCast's proprietary screensaver/browser had a nasty habit of commandeering your computer and not giving it back. Companies began to ban the application from offices and cubicles, and push got shoved out the door. Ironically, the idea of push has made a comeback of sorts via low-bandwidth RSS feeds. But too late for PointCast, which sent out its last broadcast in early 2000.

13. IBM PCjr. (1984)

125772-PCjr_chiclet

Talk about your bastard offspring. IBM's attempt to build an inexpensive computer for homes and schools was an orphan almost from the start. The infamous "Chiclet" keyboard on [[xref:http://www.oldskool.org/shrines/pcjr_tandy|the PCjr.| The Oldskool Shrine to The IBM PCjr and Tandy 1000]] was virtually unusable for typing, and the computer couldn't run much of the software written for its hugely successful parent, the IBM PC.

A price tag nearly twice that of competing home systems from Commodore and Atari didn't improve the situation. Two years after Junior's splashy debut, IBM sent him to his room and never let him out again.

(Photo courtesy of the Oldskool Shrine to the IBM PCjr and Tandy 1000.)

14. Gateway 2000 10th Anniversary PC (1995)

After a decade as one of the computer industry's major PC builders, the folks at Gateway 2000 wanted to celebrate--not just by popping a few corks, but by offering a specially configured system to show some customer appreciation.

But instead of Cristal champagne, buyers got Boone's Farm--the so-called 6X CD-ROM spun at 4X or slower (a big performance hit in 1995), the video card was a crippled version of what people thought they were getting, and the surround-sound speakers weren't actually surround-capable. Perhaps Gateway was sticking to the traditional gift for a tenth anniversary: It's tin, not gold.

15. Iomega Zip Drive (1998)

123950-Gadget36-ZipDrive_b

Click-click-click. That was the sound of data dying on thousands of Iomega Zip drives. Though Iomega sold tens of millions of Zip and Jaz drives that worked flawlessly, thousands of the drives died mysteriously, issuing a clicking noise as the drive head became misaligned and clipped the edge of the removable media, rendering any data on that disc permanently inaccessible.

Iomega largely ignored the problem until angry customers filed a class action suit in 1998, which the company settled three years later by offering rebates on future products. And the Zip disk, once the floppy's heir apparent, has largely been eclipsed by thumb drives and cheaper, faster, more capacious rewritable CDs and DVDs.

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Dan Tynan

PC World (US online)
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