After Hours

What's the biggest tech turkey of all time?

This time of year, we're supposed to give thanks for our blessings. Sometimes one of the things we're thankful for is the technology nightmares we no longer have to deal with. What's the biggest Tech Turkey of all time? Place your vote.

This time of year we're supposed to give thanks for our blessings. Sometimes one of the things we're thankful for is the technology nightmares we no longer have to deal with.  What's the biggest tech turkey of all time? Place your vote.

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In the United States, this week is Thanksgiving. It's the time of year when we eat even more than we normally do and are supposed to be thankful for the blessings of the previous year. There are plenty of things to be thankful for, even in a down economy.

From a technology standpoint, there are also things to be thankful for. New technologies appear that make our jobs easier. Hardware becomes faster. Software becomes more useful. Users slowly become more intelligent and need less hand-holding. Of course, I could be confusing the list of things we should be thankful for with a Christmas wish list.

When you look back at the way computers used to work, there's certainly plenty to be thankful for. We don't have to deal with DIP switches when we're installing new components. We don't have to deal with running out of lower 640K RAM. We don't have to explain to users that they can't use magnets to clip floppy disks to filing cabinets.

We should also be thankful about the bad technology that has thankfully wound up on the ash heap of history. There's lots of loser technology that we've been forced to support, deal with, and fix. Think ArcNet, or ThinNet Ethernet, or AppleTalk, or NetBEUI. Track-fed printer paper with the detachable borders that invariably wound up getting wrapped around the tractor feed are no longer an issue either.

Turkeys with all the dressing

What do you think is the biggest tech turkey of all time? There have been so many losers that it's sometimes hard to pick. I've narrowed it down to a select few. As always though, feel free to name your own in Comments.

75 comments
ThreeLittleBirds
ThreeLittleBirds

In no particular order, I'd say that MS Jazz for the MAC was promising on the ads but a huge bust; likewise with the Jr! Bob speaks for itself. Any product named "bob" (which is what kids do for apples at Halloween parties) doesn't deserve to be a hit!

island120
island120

Windows ME. CE and Vista were/are technically sound and seminal works for advancement. ME was neither.

pattersonmartineau
pattersonmartineau

"OH Mo--ja--ve!" You know things are bad when the best advertising campaign you can come up with is based in an attempt to obliterate the product's name and replace it with something more . . . musical. And then there's the fact that the User Testimonials in those commercials don't ever say anything about how easy or stable or fast Vista - Mojave is. Instead they keep talking about the ability to create panoramic photos!

jchayg1
jchayg1

MS Windows XP Home Edition

chris
chris

No keyboard present.... And any time my win98 box crashed the message made it seem like it was my fault for not shutting down properly!

kdavis
kdavis

I never could figure out why anyone would want one.

info
info

IBM PC-Jr.

daniel.weinberger
daniel.weinberger

I have to say the biggest turkey or turkeys if you will is the linux operating system and the zelotous users who flame anybody who dares to speak positive of mainstream software. I admit the freedom of linux is attractive, but in a business environment a halfbaked unsupported os will not work unless your IT department is willing to spend long hours figuring out how to standardize document and support the environment. I know that being sallaried as much of IT is I would rather be able to be home with my family than compiling a kernel at 10pm.

m@rcel
m@rcel

The Sony rootkit, which you get a free copy of by copying a music cd to your harddisk, or by buying one of their fingerprint-scanning USB drives.

richard.elliott
richard.elliott

Head and shoulders above all other contenders: TRSDOS 1.0, which never booted successfully on any Radio Shack TRS-80 anywhere, ever. Tandy shipped this unfinished product to customers with the newly-introduced floppy drives in order to buy time for the DOS to be completed. Customers had to wait months for version 1.1, which, finally, at last, actually... booted.

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

Two come to mind... The clear winner (for me) is VHS. It is arguably the worst commercially successful consumer-electronics product of all time. I have foul spot in my heart for Colecovision. It was grossly inferior to the contemporaneous Atari 5200, primarily because it used an obsolete TI graphics chip that, in many ways, was a worse performer than the graphics engine in the Atari 2600.

matt
matt

Microsoft changing requirements for vista drivers so Vista all flavors 64

Tig2
Tig2

I'm kidding about the NT but couldn't resist the joke. I think that the downward spiral began with ME and has continued by infecting Vista. Microsoft needs to learn that people are waking up to their computer choices and need things that work good. If it looks good, that's nice but not the first requirement. More and more, upgrades need to have a valid business driver that consists of more than "Microsoft wants you to use this."

jck
jck

It would be either: Microsoft Windows NT 3.5 - Anyone remember the custom TCP/IP stack fiasco? or: Windows ME - Buy two identical machines, get two totally different OS installations and working hardware lol

rbackus
rbackus

Yes, they're all turkeys, but some of them led to a line of successes: . DOS4 was part of all following DOS versions . OS/2 still lives, and is supported . Windows CE still lives, and is supported . Packard Bell got computers in a lot of hands

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

The mere mention of both of these puts me in a fowl (I know, bad pun) mood.

mhbowman
mhbowman

They were meant to make PC's more affordable, but what they really were was a cheap, non-upgradable, PC. Micro-Channel was a great idea but everyone in the computer idustry was still attempting to be the big proprietary standard. What led to it's demise was IBM charging for the technology. The cards were considerably more expensive, and the other 9 of the big 10 turned out Plug and Pray which was a nightmare for the first few years. OS/2 wasn't bad either. I worked in a couple of OS/2 shops at the time. OS/2 was 32 bit long before Windows, so when Microsoft was advertising with: "Where do you want to go today?" I was thinking: OS/2 is already there. IBM's biggest problem was that they never saw the value of an advertising campaign such as the Rolling Stones doing "Start Me Up".

Thuleman
Thuleman

Micro channel. It killed IBM PC dominance in market and allowed clones to overtake them.

pardeek
pardeek

We've still got a ton of tractor feed printers in our shipping depts. The new ones are ten years old, and I have to make sure they keep running, because there's nothing new out there that will do the job they can. (Multiple copies - NCR, and multiple tracks for different forms).

TBBrick
TBBrick

Even though I voted for CE/ME/Vista, 4.0 should have been included in the Windows group. Merciful heavens, what a nightmare. MS put out a boocoo of incompatible versions of DOS 4.0. Only way you knew which version was what, was by the command.com date.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I've got an organization full of AMD athlon x2's. I have't noticed any issues with sp3 installs. Tell me in case I missed anything! :)

john3347
john3347

Also the "illegal operations"! If I had broken some law every time I performed an "illegal operation" in Windows 95 and Windows 98 1st ed., I would be in jail for 7 lifetimes. Still, Vista is a hugely bigger "Tech Turkey" than Windows 95.

Raymond Danner
Raymond Danner

I somewhat disagree that the CueCat is a tech-turkey. With the right software, one can streamline the maintenance of one's book and media libraries with it, and I know of several places one can get the things for free or nearly so. Admittedly, the original purpose of the thing was a bit laughable, but the CueCat is, at its heart, a UPC-code scanner. For that matter, if you're a Homescan panelist (like I am) then you're using a somewhat more robust variant of the CueCat in your efforts. There have been times I wished the bloomin' thing was a bit more friendly, though. Like the time I was interrupted in scanning in a 26-item list, someone tossed the receipt and I was not only unable to complete the scan-in of that store run, I was unable to delete the run! Have suggested that edit capabilities be added to the unit (or downloading to the computer, allowing deletion of entire runs, then reuploading to the device) to the Homescan techs, but so far, no joy.

turgon
turgon

"I would rather be able to be home with my family than compiling a kernel at 10pm. " Anyone who speaks of compiling a kernel with the vast majority of modern Linux versions obviously has no current experience with Linux. I haven't *had* to compile a kernel in years; you just use the distro's package manager, update, and reboot. It's as easy as using Windows Update. And yes, I've used Linux in a production environment for a mail server, and also as a database server (for a short while; we decided to switch to a different product, that only ran on Windows. But those shortcomings were design flaws with the app, not the OS).

eclypse
eclypse

Sorry you have to bash Linux because you're too stupid to learn how to use it. My Linux and UNIX boxes work just fine and don't keep me up late at all. In fact, the reason we use as much Linux and UNIX as we do is because Windows couldn't do the job. And I have seen several expensive top-of-the-line x86-based boxes with bad components out of the box and have never seen that on even the cheapest of RISC-based servers. My Windows counterparts _were_ spending late nights trying to keep their servers up and running. Now it's not such a big deal, but there is no considerable benefit to moving things that are running fine where they are.

darrin
darrin

I have to say as a Windows server fan and an infrequent Linux user that you can just burn time trying to do things with Linux. But it depends on the task, as others have commented. Not until Windows 2008 have MS actually produced a "modular" OS which allows the unwanted bits (especially the GUI and all those hacker-vulnerable services) to be missed out. Previously uninstallation or disabling was the only way. Now some versions of *nix are cutting edge, but these tend to be at the desktop end of the market. Despite my need to be at home at 10pm, I'd hardly call Red Hat Enterprise for example, "unsupported". And finally, I'd like to add that although I love Windows server, I've also spent the odd sleepness night wrestling with a Wintel box that wouldn't play ball.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Gotta ask. [i]...in a business environment a halfbaked unsupported os will not work unless your IT department is willing to spend long hours figuring out how to standardize document and support the environment.[/i] Do you then prefer a half-baked supported OS that requires you to spend long hours figuring out how to standardize documents and support the environment? I support both Windows and *nix. I use the Windows command line so much I rarely have to look up a command. Every time I hit a *nix box, I have to dig out my command reference. Not because I won't learn the commands, but because I so seldom use them. My observation: Windows is perfectly suited to some tasks, *nix is perfectly suited to others. Match the tool to the task. Would you try to drive a nail with a screwdriver? . . . Okay, I've done it. Now I'm gone. Y'all have fun now, y'heah?

seanferd
seanferd

It really isn't Peter Norton's fault.

john.a.wills
john.a.wills

made reasonably good PCs. I used one without a great deal of trouble for 7 years or so. The support was not frightfully good, I admit. I cannot remember what eventually went so wrong that I decided to replace it with an Asus. I continued using the monitor and loudspeakers until they were 11 years old, when the monitor started fizzing. The loudspeakers were still fine, but I think I broke a wire in detaching them from the monitor, so I am going to have to buy a new pair of them as well.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

Cut my teeth installing stock quote data systems for traders and such. The two options were OS/2 based or NT based. OS/2 was far superior in terms of performance and stability. Only thing to come out of the NT installs were the support nightmare stories! ;)

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Actually, yeah... Tractor Feed does live on for specific purposes such as multipart forms and stuff like that. I had mentioned them living on once before in Classics Rock: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=184 I should have been more careful on the phrasing. I meant as general printer sitting on users' desks, not the special uses for which they live on. Office environments have quieted down immensely since you don't walk through a building hearing the never-ending buzz and hammering of dot matrix (and daisy wheel) printers. Not to mention having to dig jammed tractor fed paper out of a users printer with a penknife. So... a partial mea culpa on that one. Good catch though!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Five (5) C. Itoh CI-5000 wide-carriage tractor-fed printers. Tractors can be configured for push or pull. Up to four part forms. Epson / IBM compatible. You pay the shipping. Peer mail me if interested. Yes, I'm quite serious.

sczerno
sczerno

OS/2 is still widely used in the banking industry. I would say it was not a Turkey but an overlooked Caserole. Now Norton AntiVirus (Symantec Endpoint Protection) started out well, but as of late are definitely Turkeys.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

I was going to say that they ship a new version of it once a month and it makes Unix admins cranky about 2 weeks before doing so... But then I thought better of it...

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

I got my first computer with the Norton AntiVirus installed as a gift from the company. It worked well. Then I got the note that I needed to upgrade. The G-D D-D thing never worked right after that. I finally ended up pulling the whole mess out and starting over without Norton. What a mess that thing was. And even after I had paid for the upgrade I was still getting notices that I needed to pay for the upgrade. That was when I pulled it. I figured that if they couldn't even keep their own s*t straight, why should I think they could keep my s*t straight.

jetkins
jetkins

OS/2 was a wonderful operating system doomed by lame marketing and lack of support from the executive level of IBM - *there* are your turkeys. As for NAV, I agree that it has become a bloated POS over the past few years, but those who continue to dismiss it out of hand would do well to take at least a furtive glance at the new NIS 2009 - they've re-engineered it back to a lean mean fighting machine just like it used to be. I abandoned Norton several years ago, but NIS 2009 has lured me back to the fold.

aandruli
aandruli

Back in the days before Symantec bought it, it was a must-have program. Now they have put so much anti-piracy junk in it that phones home constantly that it can turn your blazingly fast desktop into a clunker

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Ouch! Shame on me! I should never have left Bob off the list especially after doing several posts about it in Classics Rock already. Bad Editor! Bad! BAD!

pdesrivieres
pdesrivieres

I can't believe Microsoft's biggest failure was not included in the list!

seanferd
seanferd

You know, the world of computing would have been much better off if things like Unix (or C) had never been created. I'm just starting to get over those fiascoes, but they still give me hot flashes.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I've needed a good belly laugh all day and that was it! Edit: emoticon typo

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