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Ten Tech Companies That Blew It in the Past Two Decades


David Louis Edelman--author of the highly successful IT-oriented sci-fi novel Infoquake--lists Ten Tech Companies That Blew It in the Past Two Decades. Nobody you wouldn't expect, but it's a nice trip down memory lane for those of us who remember when running a Netscape browser on a Compaq laptop wasn't a punchline. It's actually scary just how many of these companies don't exist as independent entities anymore. The list...

  1. Atari
  2. Netscape
  3. Palm
  4. AOL
  5. Apple
  6. Sony
  7. Gateway
  8. Compaq
  9. Intuit
  10. RealNetworks

So, did he miss anybody? And who do you think will show up on (or disappaear from) this same list in another five or ten years time? Vote away, and tell me why.

 

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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

26 comments
Kim SJ
Kim SJ

Developer of the BBC Microcomputer, they went on to design the original ARM, and launch the Archemedes computer using that RISC cpu, before imploding totally. For the Archimedes, they developed a ground-breaking operating system; they score ten out of ten for not only studiously avoding both Microsoft and Unix develpments, but simultaneously failing to capitalise on their credible alternative! At least ARM emerged from the wreckage.

junkmail
junkmail

How on earth did you miss BOO ?

bratwizard
bratwizard

Microsoft. They're already irrelevant. They're already dead and just don't know it. Like a dinosaur, it takes a little time for the info to reach the brain.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Microsoft is the new AT&T, maybe? Like the Titanic when a company is too big they have problems changing directions. I left AT&T in 1989 and it was obvious that they were doomed and either just didn't see it or refused to see it. There was actually an expression ?As goes AT&T, so goes the country?. The old-timers actually believed that the fate of the nation was tied to the fortunes of AT&T.

Chilly Willy the First
Chilly Willy the First

I was working for them when they invented the VHS machine. Yes, they invented it. Then they thought they could do better and came out with the Betamax. A much superior machine but the price tag of $1000. was a little steep for most consumers. The Japanese didn't want it that high, but the suits in NY, namely Sony Corp. of America won out and that was the begining of their demise. At the time the movie industry wanted an afordable "standard" to put their movies on (because they could sell more) so they went to Panasonic who leased the right to manufacture the VHS from Sony. "And that's the way it was".......... This is more significant than any company mentioned just in sheer numbers.

sboverie
sboverie

Hayes was a huge deal ten to fifteen years ago. They set the standards for modems that are still in place for the most part. It is ironic that other modem brands are advertised to be "Hayes compatible" when Hayes no longer exists as such. With the much faster speeds of DSL or cable, most modems have stopped being used except as a backup for DSL or cable.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

and sets the standards for baud rate and throughput that other Korean and Japanese modem manufacturers try to compete with. With broadband costing what dialup used to cost a few years back, I don't see analogue modems being used for anything useful these days, except as a backup for internet access or as a component to a fax server or client equipment for some legacy banking application that still uses dialup to the server.

cgaylord
cgaylord

You might remember them. They used to be an innovative networking technology company.

rap3
rap3

Wellfleet, 3Com, Proteon. Proteon's router code even ran on PCs (BSD based OS). Does getting bought out by another company and then vanishing into the corporate black hole count? Synoptics got bought out by...Nortel? and Cisco has consumed a great many others. Sometimes their technology lived on in the product line, and sometimes...

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

Now under the well known name of Nortel Networks as Nortel acquired them a while back.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

Very good reading; In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters by Merrill R. Chapman Apress ? 2003 (268 pages) ISBN:1590591046 This incisive, witty book looks at some of the most influential marketing and business philosophies in technology and, through hindsight, provides an educational and vastly entertaining examination of why they didn't work covers: IBM and PC Jr MicroPro and M$ Ashton-tate and dbase OS/2 Borland Intel and Motorola Novell M$ and netscape ASP busts

DaveSlash
DaveSlash

"In Search of Stupidity" I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Dij. I read that book a year or so ago, and it's hilarious, depressing, amusing, enlightening and shocking (all at the same time). Unfortunately, I've been around in the tech industry long enough to have seen most of these blunders, but it's REALLY interesting to see them "from the insider's point of view". -- Dave

steven
steven

Digital Equipment Corporation.In the mid and late 80's they were number two computer company and they were the technology leader .

davashy
davashy

I worked for DEC in the late 80's- mid 90's and they were huge. The list seems very PC / home micro orientated and misses out the fact that it was the mainframe/mini manufacturers who blew it. Honeywell, Data General etc

tservice
tservice

Another company that blew it big time was MAI (Basic Four).They were across Canada, USA and Europe and stayed too long in the proprietary market. By the time they moved into the PC world, too many bad management decisions cost the company big.

stress junkie
stress junkie

Remember Centronics? Remember the Centronics interface? They created a standard plug for printers to connect to personal computers. They were certainly in a leadership position in their field. Some years later they became HoweTech in Derry, New Hampshire. HoweTech make Post Script printers. I haven't seen any HoweTech printers in CompUSA, so I'm guessing that they are not a significant player if they still exist at all. Novell. Yes they still exist but they really dropped the ball in the late 1980s. They had the personal computer networking market cornered before Microsoft even thought of networking personal computers. Novell dropped the ball. Now they are struggling to become something else, something like Red Hat but with a lot of expensive add ons for their distribution of Linux. As far as I'm concerned they're mucking up their SuSE Linux distribution in a variety of ways. I've stopped using SuSE. I started using SuSE with v9.0. I stopped using SuSE with v10.2. So I was a long time user of that distribution. If more people like me jump ship to use other distributions then I don't think that they will be able to gain enough new customers to succeed.

jduffy
jduffy

The biggest thud if all came from Wang Labs. Another thud came from DEC. In the beginning of time, Wang had (1) a working LAN, with client/server technology (Wang called it the OIS140, which was a server with 32 clients in a dirt-simple, secretaries-can-manage-it configuration), (2) email software that in the late 1980s was better than the mail software we have today; (3) broadband capability that married TV, telephone, security, and data traffic on on industry-standard cable, (4) voicemail, both standalone and integrated with email, AND (5) at the time, the world's best word processing software (can you imagine not using Microsoft Word today?). Hubris, infighting, lack of vision, and a bad attitude tanked the company. DEC had a similar story, with some tech details different. John Duffy

Alchemist-Joat
Alchemist-Joat

DEC was looted by Palmer. Gordon Bell was not that good for DEC in his later years there.

Justin James
Justin James

Wang is a great choice, and so is DEC. The Alpha processor, how they blew that is beyond me... Here are a few more: * Novell (they have Fido's touch, everything they touch turns to dog excrement) * SGI * Borland * IBM (OS/2 should have beat Windows) * Sun (becoming increasingly irrelevent) * Cyrix (AMD accomplished what they tried to do) * Banyan (Vines could have been a contender) Just to name a few... J.Ja

JamesRL
JamesRL

I've worked with many of those technologies.... Nortel had a world wide Banyan Vines network and it was great -I could find and attach to a printer half way around the world in seconds. Server admin was easy. SGI was overpriced - the maintenance costs were outrageous. We ended up using loaded Macs to do the same tasks and it cost a lot less. Ashton Tate and Wordperfect both had great products then didn't continue to develop them so their markets evaporated by more talented innovators. Corel blew its focus by trying to tackle Microsoft before it was ready. James

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

they dropped the ball and have nearly cost me my career as a CNE because their flagship Netware 6.x O/S was being ripped out and replaced with Windows 2003 Server evertywhere I looked. I now have no choice but to train for my MCSE 2003 simply to stay marketable and employable in today's IT market. I've setup hundreds of Netware servers over the past 10 or so years, but in the past year or so, I haven't touched one Netware server simply because everyone who was running Netware and GroupWise has ripped it out and is now a pure Windows Server 2003/Active Directory/Exchange 2003 shop.

gordon.couger
gordon.couger

WordPerfect blew it when they didn't play nice in the networked work world and put all thier apples in Novell's basket and made it difficut to share printers and didn't work well on Unix & Linux networks. Gordon Couger

JamesRL
JamesRL

with the transition to Windows. Novell or Corel couldnt save them by then. James

Justin James
Justin James

I *almost* included WordPerfect, but they were doing pretty well until Novell bought them. ;) J.Ja

JamesRL
JamesRL

In the mid 80s I worked for a firm that wrote development tools for cobol development, and their internal development was done on Wang minis. The WANG OS was pretty easy to work with, and the word processor was every bit as good as Wordperfect. I left them before the Wang desktop came out but it was pretty far ahead of its time. Xerox pioneered many new technologies but failed to exploit any of them - Ethernet, mouse navigational GUI (Xerox STAR) and others. James

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