This Dumb Decade: The 87 Lamest Moments in Tech, 2000-2009

After ten years like these, the remaining 990 in this millennium have gotta be at least a little less goofy, right?

By  |  Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 9:22 pm

If ever a decade began dumb, it was this one.* When clocks struck midnight on January 1st and the dreaded Y2K bug turned out to be nothing but a mild irritant, it proved once again that the experts often don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.

Which was a relief–and a fitting way to kick off the technological era we’ve lived in ever since. Yes, it’s been an amazing time. But it’s also seen more than its share of misbegotten decisions, bizarre dramas, pointless hype, and lackluster products and technologies–often involving the same people and companies responsible for all the amazing stuff.

So–with a respectful tip of the Technologizer hat to Business 2.0 and Fortune’s 101 Dumbest Moments in Business and, of course, to Esquire’s Dubious Achievement Awards–let’s recap, shall we?

*Yes, we’re aware that the decade didn’t really start until January 1st, 2001, and doesn’t end until December 31st, 2010. Shhhhh.


2000

1. Well, at least I wasn’t killed and eaten by the roving hordes of homeless yuppies. Were you?
Whouda thunk it? It turns out that the world has addressed the Y2K problem remarkably well. Those who predicted widespread starvation, utility failures, medical emergencies, and financial catastrophy probably feel a tad sheepish. And/or disappointed.

2. And it only took them a decade to undo it.
AOL announces that it’s agreed to buy Time Warner on January 10th, a media megamerger that creates an Internet content juggernaut that never quite gels. $260 billion of the combined companies’ $300 billion market cap dwindles away over the next decade before Time Warner rids itself of a vastly less important AOL.


3. Hey, Robinson Crusoe was lonely, too.
On January 19th, top-secret startup Transmeta says it’s shaking up the chip world with its power-efficient Crusoe processor. The CPU’s performance disappoints, Intel cooks up low-power technology of its own, and Transmeta faces delisting from Nasdaq before selling out to a company which then goes out of business.

4. Not the first press release full of fiction, and not the last.
Press-release service Internet Wire is hoaxed by a former employee/community college student who uses it to distribute a fake release saying electronics firm Emulex is restating its earnings. The company loses $2.5 billion of value and the student pockets $250,000 by shorting its stock before being arrested.

5. The “Me” is short for Mediocre. Or maybe Meh.
On September 14th, Microsoft releases Windows Millennium Edition (aka Windows Me). A follow-up to the popular Windows 98 SE and the last gasp of the rickety Windows 9.x platform, the slow and buggy Me goes on to earn the distinction of having the ugliest reputation of any pre-Vista version of Windows.

6. Insert your own Shatner joke here.
An affiliate of name-your-own-price travel site Priceline shutters the dreadful Priceline WebHouse Club. The shopping service let you bid on groceries, and was a swell idea except for the part about prices sometimes being higher than if you’d just strolled into the supermarket, and the no-refunds-even-if-they-don’t-even-have-the-product-you-won policy.

7. Audrey heartburn.
On October 17th, networking kingpin 3Com unveils Audrey, a $500 touchscreen “computing appliance” that does battle with rivals such as the I-Opener and Virgin WebPlayer for a market that–inexplicably–doesn’t exist: People who want to pay about the price of a low-end PC for a machine with a tenth the capabilities.

8. Let’s see Steve Jobs match that throaty yawp.
At an event celebrating Microsoft’s 25th anniversary, Steve Ballmer exhibits his Redmondian passion, earns the nickname Monkey Boy, and inspires an infinite number of YouTube remixes by running around and screaming.

9. Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers.
A few days after “Monkey Boy,” an even more maniacal, preternaturally sweaty Ballmer expresses enthusiasm for developers. Repeatedly. To the point of excess, really.

10. Nice work, Egghead.
Failed computer retailer Egghead, which has reinvented itself as an online merchant, suffers a hacker attack, possibly putting the credit-card information of 3.6 million consumers at risk. Four days pass before it alerts customers, and an investigation into what happened drags on; the company eventually says there’s “no evidence” that any data was stolen, but banks end up spending millions to replace credit cards. The mess doesn’t do anything to help Egghead’s reputation and it files for bankruptcy in August 2001.

2001

11. Because there’s nothing more beloved than hail.
Microsoft announces an array of consumer services code-named HailStorm, including the ability to store personal information on Microsoft servers for use by companies all around the Web. Neither consumers nor companies are thrilled with the prospect, and HailStorm quietly fizzles out in 2002.

12. What a freckin’ lousy idea.
Paraplegic Paul Morgan, also known as “Freck,” announces that he’s going to chop off his feet with a homemade guillotine on Halloween, and Webcast the deed on the Internet before paying customers at CutOffMyFeet.com. He doesn’t.

13.  A hell of a grocery bill.
After spending more than a billion dollars on high-tech warehouses, grocery delivery services WebVan declares bankruptcy, lays off two thousand employees, and ceases operations.

14. Pricey mistake, but a pittance compared to WebVan.
In August, once-promising operating system BeOS–the runner-up to Steve Jobs’ NeXT as foundation for Apple’s next-generation OS–is sold to Palm for $11 million. Palm uses BeOS technology in Cobalt, an OS that never actually appears on a shipping device.

15. Tasteless and annoying. Moving and patriotic, but still tasteless and annoying.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Webcam purveyor X10 doesn’t stop its blizzard of pop-up ads featuring pictures of girls in bikinis–it just adds a solemn commemorative message to them.

16. Proof that reincarnation exists. At least for talking paperclips.
In October, Microsoft releases Windows XP, a pretty good operating system tarnished by a mediocre search feature starring a canine “companion.” Yes, he was in XP Pro as well as XP Home. No, Microsoft hadn’t learned a thing from the universal contempt for Office 97’s Assistants. Even a column on Microsoft.com says that some people “loathe” the mutt.

17. I’m still planning to buy one. Once the price hits, say, $74.99.
A mysterious invention known as Ginger is said to be so transformative that cities will be built around it. New Hampshire inventor Dean Kamen’s creation turns out to be a $3000 high-tech scooter; however cool it may be, it can’t possibly live up to the hype, and some cities move to ban it as a hazard to pedestrians.

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99 Comments For This Post

  1. yashjv Says:

    Great article. :)

  2. SouthBay_Mike Says:

    Harry, great work as always. The blog is really turning out well! :)

  3. Amber Thompson Says:

    Y2K, most of it was hysteria, in the media.

  4. Zot Says:

    I’m already disappointed with #1. Saying that Y2K was overhyped resonates with the current H1N1 crisis we are facing. If you prepare for it correctly, there will not be a huge impact. But the reaction that it was a letdown is pure foolishness. Would you prefer if we had prepared less and real trouble befallen the world?

  5. Benj Edwards Says:

    Man, I remember all of this stuff. Great work, Harry.

  6. Ed Says:

    I don’t know if it qualifies for this decade; it has its roots in the late 1990s, but most of its public activity was in 2000:

    The late, unlamented CueCat!

  7. Backlin Says:

    The company I used to work for bought a pallet jack from Circuit City; it was the most high-tech purchase that company ever made.

    And I remember being very confused when I bought the Apple iPod by HP. And if I remember right, there was HP branding all over iTunes, before Apple built their PC version.

  8. SDS Says:

    Harry – a few items to point out just reading the summary
    1) A decade is a period of 10 years. It doesn’t matter what period that is. However, term usually refers to a period of ten calendar years whose digits are equal up to the tens digit. In that case, 1/1/2000-12/31/2009 would be the standard decade. There are only a select few who refer to the decade as years 1-10.

    2) I agree with ZOT… the Y2K Bug was hyped early, properly prepared for, and therefore crisis mostly adverted. I am a programmer and I still come across code today that is infused with the Y2K bug (or something similar, which was used to patch Y2K). It was a patch that was used across many systems, and I am going to call it the Y2.5K bug, as it’s programming will become a catastrophic issue in 40 years. if we prepare for it now, we can survive the world meltdown that is to come from this bug.
    Synopsis of this bug: If we enter a two digit year, assume the First two digits to be 19 if it is greater than or equal to 50 and 20 if it is less than 50. Just go into excel and type 12/31/50…. you’ll get 1950’s (however, excel uses the logic of 30, not 50, we we have half the time to solve that issue.

  9. Lazlo St. Pierre Says:

    I would have thought the Xbox 360’s Red Ring of Death would have earned a place on a list like this.

  10. MArgy Says:

    Awsome, simply awsome. =) I remember Y2K so well…sitting up with my family, waiting for that fatal moment when…nothing happened.

    Keep up the good work!

  11. Backlin Says:

    The company I used to work for bought a pallet jack from Circuit City; it was the most high-tech purchase that company ever made.And I remember being very confused when I bought the Apple iPod by HP. And if I remember right, there was HP branding all over iTunes, before Apple built their PC version.

  12. azizmoummou Says:

    kinda nice blogging…keep going
    mine is simple: http;//hellochichaoua.wordpress.com

    Go on,
    Aziz

  13. John P Says:

    @SDS
    “There are only a select few who refer to the decade as years 1-10.”

    Actually, all official record keeping agencies and historians consider a decade to run from 1-10, a century 1-100, and a millennium 1-1,000. This makes sense because, outside of computer science, when was the last time you started counting at 0?

    To illustrate why this is the case, let’s assume that we want to begin a new year system to use instead of our current one with January 1 marking the start of the first year. All dates prior will be referred to as Ancient History (AH) and all after will be the Shining Future (SF).

    Once January 1st rolls around, we will have begun our first year – the date will be January 1, 1 SF; but logically the first year does not end until the new one begins. Thus until it is January 1, 2 SF we are still in the first year – not the second. It then follows that when we begin the first year, that we also begin the first decade and the first decade does not end until the 10th year comes to a close on December 31, 10 SF – remember this is when the 10th year ends. Thus the 2nd decade does not begin until January 1, 11 SF. This then also applies to centuries and millenniums.

    Why did I start with Year One instead of Year Zero in my example? The answer is because there is and can be no Year Zero. In my example, we arbitrarily start numbering the years from a point in time that we define; once that is established then by definition we are living in Year One SF. What then of the previous year – it becomes Year One AH. Year One AH ends on December 31, 1 AH at 23:59:59 and Year One SF starts on January 1, 1 SF at 00:00:00. There is no point in time where you can point and call it Year Zero, so all numbering begins at Year One – the first year.

    So while a decade can be numbered from any year (1995-2004 for example), it is most logical and consistent to start from the first year (1st decade 1-10, 2nd decade 11-20, 3rd decade 21-30, etc). The same holds true for millenniums as well and the 3rd millennium, the 21st century, and the first decade of the century/millennium all started on January 1, 2001. (The fact that people celebrated the “New Millennium” in 2000 just proves that the average person is more interested in big, flashy, round numbers rather than in being logical or consistent.) Thus, the second decade of the 21st century will begin on January 1, 2011.

  14. shad Says:

    #88 RieserFS. while working on reiserfs 4, Hans Rieser kills his wife and transports the body in his car. the removes the interior of the car and tells cops he doenst know how it happend. after being conviceted he tell the police where the body is located to avoid the death penalty.

    not as cool as y2k.. but still it should have been on the list. much better that stores going bankrupt.

  15. Brian Prince Says:

    #73 should read 30 GB not 3 GB.

    I was lucky to avoid that bug, and my 1st-generation Zune is still going strong.

  16. Car Says:

    Love the Article my favorite blunder was the sony rootkit of 2005 Sony looked like a bunch of d*mb*sses

  17. John Says:

    The Samsung Walkman? Did they ever try for that? And the Commodore TRS-80? Why would Commodore ever build a TRS-80 clone when their own machines of the time ruled the market? They didn’t touch the TRS-80 platform once. Or is the joke that both of these would be crazy examples of stuff that would never happen? Very sharp… not far-fetched at all.

  18. Ernst Mulder Says:

    “When clocks struck midnight on January 1st and the dreaded Y2K bug turned out to be nothing but a mild irritant, it proved once again that the experts often don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.”

    Well, that kinda hurts.

    I was responsible for a newspaper ordering system that definitely would have stopped processing orders in 2000. Cost quite a number of man hours. The majority of the Y2K my team had to solve weren’t for the year 2000 but for passing into the year 1999 because many ordering systems had stupid (year+1) counters internally. It was a very stressful period and I very happy it went the way it did without major disasters.

    The experts that didn’t (and don’t) know what they are talking about are the ones thinking you can upper-limit a year counter at 1999 (or 2039).

  19. somebody Says:

    The Steorn Orbo should be cited for breaking the laws of theormodynamics, failing in a public demonstration, failing before a jury of their own selection, and then being relaunched with more gusto and blarney.

  20. Slamdunk Says:

    Ahhh yes, you got to love WebVan.

  21. SJW Says:

    Hmmm. What about th awful Vista? that was a corker and far more of a flop than say…cutmyfeetoff.

  22. Ruel Says:

    ad news on sports and movies for 2010 http://pinoyadcaster.wordpress.com/

  23. Dave Says:

    The decade isn’t finished till Dec 1st 2010

  24. Dave Says:

    The dumbest comment in Harry’s article:

    “If ever a decade began dumb, it was this one.* When clocks struck midnight on January 1st and the dreaded Y2K bug turned out to be nothing but a mild irritant, it proved once again that the experts often don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.”

    It’s precisely because the experts sounded the alarm, and countless programmers and other computer professionals worked for years to fix non-y2k-compliant systems, that the rollover turned out to be a mild irritant.

    Your comments are unfairly dismissive of their efforts.

  25. KC Says:

    “Gypped” is a racial epithet that’s absolutely as bad as any other slur. This column would never have gone to print with a line like “Consumers felt jewed”, but somehow accusing gypsies of having a thieving nature is just fine.

  26. JussiP Says:

    What about Bill Gates’ promise that Microsoft would “totally eliminate” spam in a year or so?

  27. Sean Says:

    Clearly you didn’t work in IT before Y2K. Had you, you would know that it was a real and serious issue that took an awful lot of work to fix before Dec 31, 1999.

    I didn’t bother reading past the second sentence where you clearly show that you have no business writing about technology at all.

  28. loki_racer Says:

    The decade’s dumbest moments have to include every website that still splits up articles on to multiple pages.

  29. Owen Glendower Says:

    “(The fact that people celebrated the “New Millennium” in 2000 just proves that the average person is more interested in big, flashy, round numbers rather than in being logical or consistent.)”

    That’s the “odometer effect,” as Arthur C. Clarke put it.

  30. kenbo Says:

    Not a bad list. I agree that Vista needed more attention: Its the reason Windows 7 got ‘developed’ so quickly.

    On another note: The poor sods who are complaining about all the hard work that went into the Y2K changeover… Well show me a system that would have stopped the world as we knew it and I might stop and ponder for a microsecond.

    Gypped: KC, are you really into just finding ‘racial’ references?? I suppose you also feel entitled to some compensation as well.

    My guess for the coming decade: The e-reader, an underglorified netbook with even less purpose and use with a price tag that’s ridiculous.

  31. AndyB Says:

    “Well show me a system that would have stopped the world as we knew it and I might stop and ponder for a microsecond.”

    I used to work on credit card systems, particularly those that sent the list of card payments to the acquirers (ie. the banks). The transfer mechanism used by most banks (in the UK at least) was not Y2k compliant, so I had the task of changing it for our company.

    So, yes to stopping the world as we know it: imagine paying for things and not having the card company be able to bill you. If we hadn’t fixed that bug, they’d have stopped you paying by CC until it was.

  32. Casey Says:

    What about Dell’s exploding laptops?

  33. Mark Says:

    Microsoft rushing out the crap Xbox360 just to beat Sony, and ending up with a unreliable mess that needs replacing in 5 years, rather than the PS3s 10yr lifespan.

  34. Spencerg Says:

    Not sure if this has been mentioned, but I recall it being a terrible PR blunder by Sony–

    “[PS3 is] for consumers to think to themselves ‘I will work more hours to buy one’. We want people to feel that they want it, irrespective of anything else.” — Ken Kutaragi when launching the Sony PS3.

    http://www.gamesradar.com/f/the-top-30-craziest-industry-quotes/a-20080710101425956052/p-2

  35. Jeff Says:

    How about “Plays For Sure” – killing that to make way for the Zune has to be on a failure list.

  36. Elvirus Says:

    87 eh? Obviously Harry must be an ARFCOM’er.

    OK Harry, what’s you screen name there?

  37. Carina Says:

    The biggest tech fail in this decade was KDE 4.0.

  38. johnnie Says:

    apparently I found number 88
    http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=%2220090309891%22.PGNR.&OS=DN/20090309891&RS=DN/20090309891

    Microsoft has applied for a patent to make avatars look more like a persons actual physical appearence. This alone is good. They also want to limit a persons game play if they are considered unhealthy (fat). As a late thirties 280 pound man, I am going to be very pissed and canceling my live 360 if my game system tells me to take a run around the block.

  39. Brian Jones Says:

    I was well aware of the potential for the Y2K bug, and how much effort was put into abatement prior to the end of 1999 – I worked for a large communications equipment supplier at the time.

    Another memory is when I was sitting with my younger son having dinner and we were talking about the Y2K bug. A young lady was sitting near us, and I could see her antennas were up. I started talking about how much ammunition I had purchased, as well as all of the food stores I had laid aside. About the time she started to wonder if I was certifiable, I turned to her and admitted that all I had done was to grab an extra $200.00 from an ATM.

  40. erewhon Says:

    What about the Satyam outsourcing scandal – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7818220.stm

    Or the failure of the entire malware, anti-virus and operating system industry to remove Spam or malware from the internets, pipes and home PCs?

  41. Al Says:

    Regarding the demise of Polaroid…

    http://www.wired.co.uk/wired-magazine/archive/2009/12/features/the-impossible-project-reviving-instant-photography.aspx?page=all

  42. krygny Says:

    I see you found many stupid things said about technology by Republicans. Not one by a Democrat.

    HACK!!

  43. Francesco Says:

    What about Microsoft BOB? Or how a whole OS could be based on the Office assistant. The “canine companion” of XP is just a spinoff of BOB, a wonderful idea: having all the OS replaced by an intelligent guy, as intelligent as Word’s Clippy and the XP “retriever”.
    The fact that Bill Gates wife designed it is just a part of the reason..

  44. Rich Says:

    Windows 7 launch parties

  45. Taco Lover Says:

    Well about 83…
    In fact Taco Bell does not produce tacos. At least not as we know them in the country of Mexico.
    I have absolutely no idea what is their food called, I guess they had to call it something anyhow.

  46. Zeno Says:

    I haven’t the least problem with the Zero Decade. After all, 2000 to 2009 is definitely a ten-year period. I’m fussier about designations for centuries, however. The 19th century really should include 1900 and the 20th century should include 2000. I don’t even care that much about the “no Year Zero” argument because our Common Era reckoning didn’t come into use until centuries later. It’s pretty arbitrary how we choose to mark time. For me, however, it’s a matter of cheating a designated century of its capstone year.

  47. labrats5 Says:

    I nominate the N-gage platform by Nokia and the sixAxis controller from Sony

  48. v.dog Says:

    I know you’ve got to be selective with these lists but there’s two more you should have had:

    EA’s Spore (and Mass Effect) DRM debacle and 3D Realms shutting down after working on Duke Nukem (is taking) Forever for 12 years.

  49. Rifter Says:

    Great article, but I have to take exception with #1 as many others have. I was a developer at that time, and also helped fix Y2K bugs. I also remember all of the Y2K compliance testing we had to do on new items. It wasn’t a big problem, because of the astronomical man-hours that were used to keep it from being a big problem. I know I stocked up on several cases of water, JUST in case.

    Along with the Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death, I think I would toss in the NES blowing on the pins fix, the PS1 flipping it over on its top trick, and the PS2’s problem where many, MANY first gen units just ceased to read DVDs.

    Though, I think the 360 and PS2 are probably the 2 biggest of that list.

  50. Stitch Says:

    Overall, a fairly mediocre listing.

  51. mulaz Says:

    Win7 launch party!! (dont forget too look at the clock on the stove) :)

  52. Chad Says:

    Great read! My favorite is, by far, the windows/family guy joke! Seth probably didn’t negotiate it, but MS HAD to know what they were getting into! It’s so choice!

  53. M Says:

    Wow, this is a seriously good piece of literature. It really goes to show that even though the big corporations hide behind their fancy logos, catchy phrases, and expensive ad campaigns all designed to create a perception of wisdom and innovation, behind the scenes they struggle to understand consumers and where technology is taking us.

    ‘Wired’ only wishes it were savvy enough to write something this good, but it’s not. This article has severely affected my productivity for the day. Good thing I’m paid by the hour….

  54. HamNCheese Says:

    > On September 14th, Microsoft releases Windows Millennium Edition (aka Windows Me).

    IN THE YEAR 2000…

  55. cshapiro Says:

    Gametap.com launches with great fanfare in October 2005.
    After burning through perhaps as much as $60 * 10^6 in development and promotion costs, Time Warner (TBS)’s gametap.com is sold to a French video gaming company for $6 * 10^6 in Sep 2008. After the sale, subscribers using Apple computers find that they can no longer use the service. Gamers everywhere yawn.

  56. John Doe Says:

    And hot from the press, Verizon’s latest dick move to shove Microsoft’s Bing into their BlackBerry users’ faces: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/12/19/verizon_snuffs_google_for_bing/

  57. Peter da Silva Says:

    The y2k problem was a snoozer because a LOT of geeks worked a LOT of hours in 1998 and 1999 to fix the problem before it happened. I was in a y2k war room and when midnight passed our first customer without the lights going out in Canberra (our product was controlling the Snowy Mountains Project electrical grid) we all cheered.

    Outside the y2k war rooms of thousands of companies whose software was supporting the world’s industrial base, nobody heard that cheer, but we damn well won that war before the first (potential) shot was fired.

  58. Harry McCracken Says:

    I agree that Y2K was a snoozer not because there wasn’t a problem, but because we (and by we, I mean the geeks charged with solving things) fixed it in time. The item’s not on the list because people worried, it’s there because of the people who were positive that apocalypse was imminent…

    –Harry

  59. Arby Says:

    I dont get the people arguing that there’s no year zero. Yes there is. When you’re born, you’re not instantly 1! You start from nothing and count up to 1 year completed, and so forth. 10 marks a 10 years completed. Make sense?

  60. Sean Says:

    Come on Harry, now you’re just trying to save face.

    “When clocks struck midnight on January 1st and the dreaded Y2K bug turned out to be nothing but a mild irritant, it proved once again that the experts often don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.”
    (2nd sentence in this article)

    ..”people who were positive that apocalypse was imminent” has nothing to do with what you’ve written here. This was an embarrassing attempt to undermine “experts” using your lack of knowledge about the events surrounding the Y2K bug and its repair.

    Shenanigans!

  61. Nameless Wonder Says:

    Guys and gals, about the Y2K issue: Harry is NOT saying that is was not much of a problem to fix, he’s talking about predictions of “widespread starvation, utility failures, medical emergencies, and financial catastroph”, which obviously did not happen.

    Because the problem was addressed, indeed.

    Personally, I remember being a bit frustrated by the irrational talk of various kinds of mayhem and things that might happen, invariably by people that had no meaningful understanding of the inner workings of computer systems, which includes pretty much all “normal” non-IT folk. I mean no offense, this is just how it is (most of the Hollywood movies and TV shows that have anything to do with computers are certainly not helping here). I think this category also includes some newscasters, journalists and editors and such, hence the news predictions of disaster…

    The professionals in the meantime did what needed to be done – mission accomplished, job well done. In Harry’s words “the world has addressed the Y2K problem remarkably well”. So consider yourselves acknowledged. :)

  62. Henry Wood Says:

    Great Blog. Keep up the great work.

  63. IT Professional Says:

    “When clocks struck midnight on January 1st and the dreaded Y2K bug turned out to be nothing but a mild irritant, it proved once again that the experts often don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.”

    I worked for a major airline, and we spent two years running up to 2000 checking every single system we owned for Y2K compliance. Where they had been provided by third parties, if they were unable to certify that their system was Y2K compliant, we looked for a replacement system, or planned for workaround processes that could be put in place

    We found and fixed date-related bugs in flight booking, passenger tracking, baggage handling, ground operations, crew rostering, maintenance scheduling, procurement and warehouse systems.

    We set up an operations room that ramped up as the end of 1999 approached, until it had 24-hour coverage by the end of the year. Every team had staff on call over the change-over.

    It was this level of effort and attention to detail by IT professionals in every industry that allowed us to manage the effect of many years of non-Y2K compliant code. Your comments show you have no understanding of the work done by real IT professionals.

  64. Harry McCracken Says:

    Sorry, IT Professional, but I understand the problem and am well aware of all the work that went into fixing Y2K.

    That’s why I said that it turned out the world’s response turned out to be good (not that there was nothing worth worrying about).

    That’s why I said that the problems turned out to be largely minor when January 1st came around (not that there weren’t serious issues beforehand).

    You seem to be upset about an item I didn’t write, in which I maintain that the Y2K bug didn’t need to be fixed. Or that those responsible for for fixing it did a crummy job. Or something.

    Once again, my point was this: A lot of “experts” got attention and money by confidently predicting epic disaster starting on January 1st, 2000. Their predictions were lame–because you and your colleagues and everyone else responsible for solving things had the issue in hand. Is it just possible that my item is a compliment to the people who addressed Y2K rather than an insult?

    –Harry

  65. Francesco Says:

    >> Is it just possible that my item is a compliment to the people who addressed Y2K rather than an insult?

    Mmmm… No. Really not.

    I mean, the “predictions were lame” because “someone confidently predicting epic disaster” convinced all the others to fix it. The disater was avoided not only by the techical guys that fixed it, but also by the panicking non technicals that scared everyone until eventually all got tested hundred times.

  66. Duggeek Says:

    So… to round it up to 90, we just need to add:

    1. Xbox 360 “Red Ring of Death” affects around 40% of the devices sold.
    (Really… what’s NOT lame about that!?)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xbox_360_technical_problems

    2. Microsoft wildly inflates Vista sales figures in an attempt to save face.
    (Post-rationalization meets impatience meets out-and-out lies)
    http://www.microsoft-watch.com/content/vista/stacking_vista_licenses_too_high.html

    3. Dell laptops begin to ignite, explode because of shoddy batteries.
    (Dude, get down! You got a Dell!)
    http://explodinglaptop.com/
    …that’s right, someone made a dedicated site for this phenomenon. That alone should be reason to include it on this almighty list.

    Switching gears to address the list as-is:

    Oh the blessed fail that is #17 (Microsoft “companions”) to properly portray it, you should have a separate listing for each Microsoft product that used these unholy creations. (XP, Office, DevStudio, even Server)

    So you have #36, but it’s about Google and not Video Professor? I agree that the Web Accelerator deserves a spot, but Video Professor does too! How about the class-action suit about deceptive sales practices, particularly in the “virtual currency” offers within certain Facebook apps?
    Here’s the scoop…
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/11/28/video-professor-washington-post-scamville/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29

    What’s not mentioned in #67 (Windows Mojave) is what makes that such a lame effort on the part of Microsoft. Of course people are impressed by watching a demonstration! Of course people are going to go “ooh” and “aah” for the shiny new Aero interface! What they don’t show are how these people are regularly disappointed about UAC confusion, buggy device support and more-than-typical crashes during regular use. All that the “Mojave experiment” could prove was that Microsoft is fully capable of polishing the fail-turd to a spectacular shine.

    I like that #87 (Misfit Toys commercial) mentions the failure of AT&T to act upon a competitor’s advertising. Verizon issued a brilliant ad-campaign with “the map”. If you want to add more on this, just keep counting the number of “backlash” AT&T commercials featuring a past-prime Luke Wilson touting- well… nothing. Analyze the claims from the Luke Wilson commercials and you’ll get nothing more than the sales propaganda AT&T has been spouting all along. (I don’t care how fast their 3G is; but does it work where I’m standing right now?) Moreover, none of the ads refute Verizon’s claims in the slightest; they’re all smoke-and-mirrors hogwash.

    Still, it’s a great list. Well done. I’d nearly forgotten about some of those—like the Foleo—and like many, just kept rolling forward with “what works.”

  67. Randall Says:

    RE Webvan; AmazonFresh is running strong here in Seattle and it’s a fantastic service! I just had some Christmas presents and groceries delivered last night.

    Also the HP/iPod hybrid was back when Apple was only making Mac versions of the iPod. That was their first attempt at a PC version of the iPod. I guess they assumed that some PC users wouldn’t realize that they could use an Apple product with their PC.

  68. Paul Says:

    What about Steve, the Dell Dude, hawking Dell PC’s with the line, ‘Dude, you’re getting a Dell!’. It worked at first, lifting Dell to #1. Then disaster struck, poor customer service, class-action lawsuits for ‘bait-and-switch’ tactics, and finally, exploding laptops. Dell dropped to #3, easily the biggest technology flame-out of the decade. To top it all off, Steve was charged in NY with possession, never appearing in a Dell ad again.

  69. Paul Says:

    What about Steve, the Dell Dude? He hawked Dell PC’s with the line, ‘Dude, you’re getting a Dell!’ It helped raise Dell to #1. Then, disaster struck, with customer service complaints, class action lawsuits for ‘bait-and-switch’ sales tactics, and exploding laptops. Dell dropped to #3 — easily the biggest technology flame-out of the decade! To top it off, Steve was more of a Dude than we knew, arrested in NY for possession, never to do another Dell ad again.

  70. steve Says:

    Zot is an idiot

  71. John Smith Says:

    Missed Snow Leopard letting guest accounts delete everything on the hard drive.
    Oh wait. It is Apple so that is not a bug it is part of “The world’s most advanced OS” which has just been certified as UNIX.

  72. Karey Says:

    No Windows 7 house party ads?

  73. Backlight Says:

    The company I used to work for bought a pallet jack from Circuit City; it was the most high-tech purchase that company ever made.And I remember being very confused when I bought the Apple iPod by HP. And if I remember right, there was HP branding all over iTunes, before Apple built their PC version.

  74. Bill Says:

    E-Machine … That is all .

  75. mdr410 Says:

    awesome! thanks for putting this together!

  76. Y2K was real Says:

    Y2K remediation efforts in the years leading up to the year 2000 are the reason why widespread Y2K-related problems were avoided.

    Companies that did not do Y2K remediation were impacted by the problem, and their Y2K problems became the problems of their business partners. For example, a PTT in the Pacific Basin that our company and scores of other international IXCs had reverse charge billing arrangements with did not make its systems Y2K-compliant by 1/1/2000. When it produced its January bills, it discovered they were screwed up specifically as a consequence of its systems’ non-Y2K compliance. Furthermore, the PTT was unable to provide correct reverse charge billing data to our company and to other international carriers for the same reason. Typically we billed approximately 4,000 collect calls a month that originated from that PTT’s customers. Worldwide, there were tens of thousands of international collect and calling card calls originating from this PTT — all unbillable owing to its screwed up CDRs and billing records. It wasn’t until August 2000 that the PTT fixed its systems and was able to bill customers again and provide international carriers with correct reverse charge billing data.

  77. chunky Says:

    How ’bout the blue screen of death that was projected onto the ceiling of the Chinese Olympic stadium?

  78. Bill Walsh Says:

    The TRS-80 wasn’t a Commodore. It was from Tandy/Radio Shack. You’re thinking of the VIC-20.

  79. Anthony Nonymous Says:

    THE number ONE Lame Moment in Tech, with the greatest consequences, was the hacking of voting machines, resulting in the thefts of the 2000 US Presidential Election (particularly in Florida), and again in 2004 (particularly in Ohio)

  80. Ray Says:

    Yeah…the Y2K bug…funny how its so much like what the man made global warming issue is today. Soon the truth will be realized that is it a big hoax.

  81. Max Says:

    Here are 2 dumb tech moments by #1 and #2 Democrats:

    1. Gordon Brown presents Obama a pen holder carved from the timbers of HMS Gannett, a sister ship of HMS Resolute; the commissioning certificate of HMS Resolute; and a seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill. In return, the Prime minister gets 25 DVDS, which don’t work in Britain.

    2. Joe Biden forgets the “website number” for the White House internet site designed to show how TARP money is being spent.

  82. simpletechguru Says:

    Wow! This must have taken forever to write! Great list and lots of fun. Hindsight IS 20-20…but let us look at our history lest we repeat it again and again and again.

    Thanks!

  83. Phil Ant Says:

    @Anthony Nonymous:

    Tell me, how do you hack MANUAL voting machines? Y’know, those that were used in FL in the ’00 election? The ones where you make a selection beforehand then PULL A FREAKIN’ LEVER?

  84. Reduziert Says:

    The “Monkey Boy” video is always awesome, no matter how often you watch it :)

  85. Moran Says:

    Nice Post, I would like to add one more dumbest thing OR you can say its the champion of the Dumbest thing contest.. The ugly red ring of death.. Last month I came across this problem with my xbox 360 and its the nightmare for me. Though I had repaired my xbox red ring of death problem by following guide but its not the permanent solution.

    Do you guys have any permanent solution for this deadly red ring of death?

  86. najati Says:

    I think so too !

  87. PC Boxen Says:

    i laughed hard :D amazing moments

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    For me Windows ME really was an all time low, completely useless piece of code and software.

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    And I remember being very confused when I bought the Apple iPod by HP. And if I remember right, there was HP branding all over iTunes, before Apple built their PC version.

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  94. Existenzgründung Says:

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