Seven pieces of technology to forget

Sinclair C5 main image
The Sinclair C5: Not a mode of transport for the ages. Main image: Tony Austin
"Planned for UK release this year, the smart fridge will cost a whopping £2,000 and manages food shopping by scanning the barcodes of your yoghurt and Tesco free range chicken"
  • | by Emily Bater

Technology is in every part of our lives in 2014 - whether it's tablets, smartphones or TVs more intelligent than your average dog.

But most of the technology seen at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas will never make it into the average home.

Wearable technology - smartwatches, smartclothes and Google Glass - is a major area that has barely reached us yet, save for fitness trackers. Dan Grabham, deputy editor of, thinks practicality is key.

"If people can't integrate something within their lives practically, then it will fail," says Dan. "A lot of wearable technology is pie in the sky.

"Google Glass does have practical benefits - it could be adopted in medical professions, for example, where you're using your hands for something else. It's questionable, though, whether people are actually comfortable wearing that kind of device.

"But it would be wrong to write off wearable technology. Certain elements of it will be around in five-to-10 years. It's all about integration within everyday life."

So, what about the technology that failed before it could even begin?

As the 30th anniversary of the Apple Mac rolls round, we look back at the pieces of tech that fell flat.

Sinclair C5

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Sir Clive Sinclair's battery-and-pedal-powered invention was voted the biggest tech disaster of all time in a poll of 1,000 people last year, and it's not hard to see why.

Launched almost 30 years ago, the C5 was widely scoffed at, made its users look like idiots and was expensive to boot. You could buy it from Woolworths for £399 plus delivery - only 20,000 were sold.

3D TVs

Family watching TV through 3D glasses

Photo: LGEPR

An undisputable flop, 3D TV was seen as the future of home entertainment in the the late-2000s. Watching football while wearing glasses that made you look like a pillock was (allegedly) going to be the next breakthrough in home entertainment.

"It'll feel like you're actually at the match," chimed misguided high street retailers. It didn't, and still doesn't.

Lots of LCD TVs continue to come with 3D capability, but there's a dearth of content for you to use it with. There are hardly any 3D channels, and if you want to buy a 3D-compatible Blu-ray player you'll need to splash out even more of your hard-earned money.

And those glasses really do look stupid.


Minidisc player

Photo: Tom Pagenet

Amazingly, MiniDisc was only pulled off the market last year, despite most people thinking it had disappeared aeons ago.

Something like a cross between a CD and a cassette, the MiniDisc offered the running time and quality of a CD in a smaller package.

It fell foul to the digital revolution and the arrival of MP3. It was the iPod, however, which signalled the beginning of the end for Sony's baby, which was born in the same year as Miley Cyrus (1992, if you want to feel ancient).

QR codes

QR code on business card

Photo: Chandra Marsono

QR codes have finally died a death after years of pointless use. These little black and white squares were plastered everywhere for a couple of years - from cereal boxes to magazines, on business cards and bottles of beer.

Companies became obsessed with taking you on a journey from their product to the web, whether it be for additional content like a movie trailer or - more likely - an ad or competition.

Apparently QR codes are still alive and well in China, but anything that makes you download an app to your smartphone was never going to last.

Betamax video

Betamax player

Photo: Robert Wade

It's the received wisdom that Betamax video was technically superior to its rival VHS, but a poor show in marketing meant that it went the way of the dodo in the mid-1980s.

VHS offered a wider range in hardware at a lower cost and its tapes were more easily available, but that stemmed from Betamax's inability to record a whole movie on one tape.

After once owning 100% of the market share, Betamax lost out to convenience.


HD DVD player

Photo: Jesus V

The modern-day equivalent of its Betamax ancestor, HD DVD slugged it out with Blu-ray in the early 2000s over which would become the dominant format of high definition DVD - it doesn't take a genius to guess who won.

You might not even remember HD DVD - its flame burned bright(ish) for just two years before it was gone.

There were early negotiations among consumer electronics companies to push one format, but these failed and Blu-ray was left to gain the backing of major movie studios who agreed to release their films exclusively on the product.

Toshiba lost almost $1bn supporting HD DVD before the format was dropped in 2008.

Smart fridges

Samsung Smart Home exhibition

Photo: Samsungtomorrow

This is the silly tech accessory that never seems to die - shown at tech fairs for years, LG launched an offering at CES in the hope of keeping their vision of the "smarthome".

Planned for UK release this year, it'll cost a whopping £2,000 and manages food shopping by scanning the barcodes of your yoghurt and Tesco free-range chicken.

The fridge then monitors its contents and automatically adds items to your online shopping list via its internet connection.

But what if you forget to scan something when you put it in the fridge? You'll have to take it out and scan it again, and scan everything in your fridge out and in again when you want to use something. £2,000 well spent, eh?

Have youever invested in a piece of failed technology? Do you think any of these 'innovations' should have been roaring successes? Tell us onTwitterorFacebook.