Gaze with us, back on the tumultuous year that was 2008. Although it started hopefully, as all new years do, it slowly turned into a time when old ways died, gadgets that barely got off the ground ceased to exist, and whole tech categories breathed their last. Alas, for all of them, it was the worst of times.
To some of the occupants of the following list we bid a fond farewell, and others we kick out the door as if we were barroom bouncers, accompany their exit with a stern "good riddance." A few may not be quite dead yet, but 2008 was their last full year, and in our opinion, are as good as dead — definitely not "pining for the fjords."
Join us in saying goodbye to the dearly departed:
The format war between HD disc formats is over, with Blu-ray emerging victorious over HD DVD. Sony laid down some major coin to get Warner Brothers in the Blu-ray camp, and meanwhile Netflix, Best Buy and then Wal-Mart abandoned HD DVD. Finally Toshiba, one of the originators of HD DVD, bowed out, effectively killing the format. And we thought HD DVD had a shot at a win, especially since its manufacturing processes were similar to DVDs. The jury is still out on Blu-ray, with a lackluster performance for the rest of '08.
First seen on the streets in mid-2007, this cute, tiny touchscreen cellphone burst on the scene with high hopes. That burst turned to fizzle as the phone's operating system needed revamping, its hardware needed tweaking, and its Swedish company's bank account needed replenishing. Now Neonode AB has filed for bankruptcy, the first victim of what's being called the "touch bubble."
Five years in the making, Phantom Entertainment still vows to release its first lap-friendly keyboard/laser mouse/mousing surface next February. But we've heard that promise of impending release many times before. The company is apparently running short of funds, not surprising considering the astonishing $62.7 million spent developing this $130 keyboard. The soap opera of its development limps along, but we're ready to call the company's illness terminal. Somebody pull the plug already.
The warhorse of home video just died this year, although many of us thought it had croaked a decade ago. At a ripe old age of 30, the last shipment of the tired old tapes emerged from a Palm Harbor, Florida warehouse run by the format's last major supplier, Ron Kugler. Though Ron sold 4 million VHS tapes to truck stops and Dollar Stores over the past two years, even he's calling VHS a dead technology, comparing it to 8-track tapes. Along with those moldy old 8-tracks, this is one piece of tired tech we won't miss at all.
It's not quite dead yet, but 2008 was the last full year of that analog TV tech that brought our parents and grandparents Howdy Doody, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. We're sure there aren't many DVICE readers still stuck in the analog TV era, but for those who haven't made the jump to digital yet, hurry up and get your $40 vouchers (each household is allowed two) for set-top digital converter boxes, because they're running out and you only have until February 17, 2009 until analog is gone forever.
Unless you're using a disposable camera (and even some of those are digital now) chances are you've gone digital. Almost all the pro shooters at the Olympics last summer were shooting digital SLRs, too. A lot of high-end studio camera photography is still done on film, but when it comes to snapshots, digital is king, film is dead.
Remember all the hype about Microsoft's "Origami," a code word for an "Ultra Mobile PC?" Electronics companies hoped you'd buy one of their underpowered 7-inch-screened tablet PCs, even if you already had a laptop. Now, with smartphones getting smarter, the battery-hungry and expensive UMPCs have been squeezed out of the lower end of that market, and have given way to netbooks. The UMPC's awkward keyboard and frustrating performance kept it from quite finding its own market niche. Sure, there are still a few UMPC stragglers kicking around, but we're hearing their death rattle.
The $100 laptop
It started out with noble ambition, and then as its price went up, way beyond the $100 target of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, those idealistic, Utopian hopes of a $100 laptop that could be placed into the hands of every child in the world vaporized. Sure, you can still give one/get one of these cheap Linux-running PCs — you send one machine to a child in a developing country and also get one yourself — but that'll cost closer to $200 per laptop. It's still a low price, but the $100 laptop idea? Deceased.