Tag Archives | Hardware

The Curse of Beta Hardware

[NOTE: Here’s the lead story from last week’s Technologizer’s T-Week newsletter–go here to sign up to receive it each Friday. You’ll get original stuff that won’t show up on the site until later, if at all.]

Once upon a time, everybody agreed that the fact a product was in beta testing meant that it wasn’t yet ready for prime time. When I started writing about technology back in the early 1990s, pre-release versions of applications never got anything approaching mass distribution; I remember acquiring a beta copy of Windows 95, as a member of the press, and feeling extraordinarily privileged.

But times changed–and so did the role of betas. The Internet made distributing prerelease software cheap and easy, so many companies began releasing applications widely. Today, if you’re curious about an upcoming version of a program, there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to download a beta and try it for free. (With stuff like Web browsers, life without widespread betas is nearly unimaginable.)

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"Whatever Happened to…?"

Whatever Happened To?

Old computer products, like old soldiers, never die. They stay on the market–even though they haven’t been updated in eons. Or their names get slapped on new products–available only outside the U.S. Or obsessive fans refuse to accept that they’re obsolete–long after the rest of the world has moved on.

For this story–which I hereby dedicate to Richard Lamparski, whose “Whatever Became of…?” books I loved as a kid–I checked in on the whereabouts of 25 famous technology products, dating back to the 1970s. Some are specific hardware and software classics; some are services that once had millions of subscribers; some are entire categories of stuff that were once omnipresent. I focused on items that remain extant–if “extant” means that they remain for sale, in one way or another–and didn’t address products that, while no longer blockbusters, retain a reasonably robust U.S. presence (such as AOL and WordPerfect).

If you’re like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that some products are still with us at all–and will be saddened by the fates of others. Hey, they may all be inanimate objects, but they meant a lot to some of us back in the day.

Click on to continue–or, if you’re in a hurry, use the links below to skip ahead to a particular section.

Hardware Holdouts
More Hardware Holdouts
Software Survivors
Sites, Services, and Stores

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