Creating a new piece of technology requires years of research, painstaking development, numerous product designs and a great deal of testing. Vast teams of engineers with boundless experience work tirelessly to produce the latest gadget that aims to revolutionise the way we go about our daily lives. However, not every product is a success, with even the most esteemed tech aficionados getting it wrong. So for your viewing pleasure, here is a run-down of the five most futile and fruitless gadgets ever:
1. Apple Newton MessagePad
A vision of the future? Ahead of its time? Or just a terrible product? Apple’s Newton MessagePad has been heralded by some as the initial inspiration for the iPad, however this early tablet variant ultimately failed to secure any notable success.
The Newton received a great deal of ridicule for its handwriting recognition feature. The technology had to learn the user’s handwriting over a long period of time and struggled to detect common dictionary words. An episode of The Simpsons even made light of this infamous shortcoming.
Too big to be carried around in the user’s pocket but lacking the computing power for serious work, the Newton struggled to find a niche in the market. Apple’s ambitious promises and optimistic marketing campaign couldn’t attract consumers either.
2. Sony MiniDisc
In theory, the MiniDisc player had the potential to be magnificent – a compact data storage device with the ability to play high quality audio. Unfortunately for Sony, its arrival came too late to make an impact on the CD market and then suffered from the emergence of MP3 players towards the end of the nineties.
Despite popularity in Japan, a high price point meant MiniDisc players were out of reach for a vital teenage market. What’s more, the major record labels did not give support to a format introduced by music industry rivals Sony.
3. Nintendo Virtual Boy
Promoted as the first video game console capable of producing 3D graphics, the Nintendo Virtual Boy promised a virtual reality experience. However in the real world, the head-mounted display delivered basic depth-of-field imaging and in some cases, nauseating side effects.
The monochromatic display and awkward ergonomic design left gamers with dizziness and headaches. It’s hefty price tag left consumers feeling sick to the stomach as well.
Some critics praised the consoles novelty, while others felt the Virtual Boy was a gimmick without much substance.
4. Nokia N-Gage
A mobile phone lacking coherent design for day-to-day use combined with a portable games console devoid of any immersive visual stimulation, the Nokia N-Gage was doomed from the start. The phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ seems most appropriate here.
Humorously described as a ‘taco’ by several commentators, Nokia’s poor design also required users to remove the battery to insert a game. The keyboard layout was difficult for entering text and even worse when it came to interacting with a poor selection of content.
5. Sony Betamax
One of the greatest consumer electronics companies of our time, yet Sony manages another product flop with its ill-fated Betamax video cassette player. Once again, Sony was the victim of its own success, as it chose not to license the technology to other manufacturers, believing it could conquer the market alone.
Even though the format was released a year earlier than JVC’s VHS alternative, the longer recording times of its rival saw Beta lose an established film studio and home video market share.