Technology Success or Flop?

Betamax MachinesPhoto of rare Betamax TV/VCR combo
(Source: Franny Wentzel, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Technology and the gadgets it inspires is a finicky business. Thousands of products flood the market each year as inventors and entrepreneurs hope to strike the hearts and wallets of consumers. This is a dance that has dominated our lives for decades. How do you predict what will be a success and what will fail?

Here are a few technology products that have been released over the years. See if you can guess if it was a hit or a flop. Scroll past each photo for the answer!

Tandy Ct-300 Cellular Phone: $1,499.00

Tandy CT-300
(Original ad from Radio Shack)

In 1987, this relatively sleek cell phone was marketed as the perfect accessory for executives and those on the go.


Due to the shocking price tag of $1,499 (which would roughly translate to about $3,437.06 today), this cell phone didn’t quite make the cut and was discontinued.

1964’s Phone Answering Robot

Phone Answering Robot
(Photo by Life Magazine)

The 1960’s were fascinated with robots that could perform household chores. There were countless inventions that focused on alleviating the woes of first world problems. This robot in particular was designed to pick up your ringing phone, and eventually put it back down. Yep. That’s it. It did not record, or playback messages, but it looks really awesome and not creepy at all!


Surprise, surprise. This super helpful robot didn’t catch on. Too many people were willing to do this chore themselves.

1992’s Tiger Electronics Talkboy

(Source Wikipedia)

This handheld cassette player would record and playback your voice with the push of a button.


Due to its use in a major motion picture (Home Alone 2), this fun gadget was a success among kids and even some adults. You could slightly alter your voice during playback which made it fun and great for pranking, like its marketing suggested.

1939’s Radio Newspaper

Radio Fax
(Source Wikipedia)

This innovative device would use radio transmission to send the newspaper straight to your home. It would print the information onto a 9 foot roll of paper which would then be cut and folded into a more traditional sight.


Although each page only took 15 minutes to transmit, which was incredibly fast for its time, this seemingly convenient device never really caught on. While we’re sure the technology was applied elsewhere (maybe the fax machine), this product never went mainstream and was discontinued.

1995’s Nintendo Virtual Boy

Nintendo Virtual Boy
(Source Wikipedia)

This tabletop game console promised its consumers an experience that would fully immerse them in their own private gaming world.


It only took Nintendo about a year to pull the plug on this one. With bold promises of 3 million sales but only managing around 770,000, this console and its strangely red world were rejected by the mainstream market. Maybe it was the high promise, yet deflating delivery that was its demise, or it could have been the off putting warning and automatic game pause that Nintendo included to protect your vision from being damaged permanently. Yikes.

1922’s Fiske Reading Machine

Fiske Reading Machine
(Source Library of Congress)

Invented by the famous Rear Admiral Bradley Fiske, the basic idea of this device was for books to be printed onto small pages in really tiny letters, and readers would hold modified magnifying glasses up to their eyes to read it. Logically, it checked all of the boxes like cheap manufacturing, less paper, cheap and easy to mail, easier storage, and smaller presses could be used to make the ‘books’.


Even with all of its obvious reasons for success, the Fiske Reader was a dud. Most likely, people just couldn’t get over having to hold a device up to their face for so many hours. Which when you think about it, is kind of ironic seeing as how almost 100 years later, we hold our phones up to our faces for countless hours a day.

1959’s Ski-Dog

(Source Wikipedia)

This machine was built to transport those who need to travel in snowy, remote areas.


Invented by Joseph Armand Bombardier, the Ski-dog was actually renamed the Ski-doo after a typographical error in the Bombardier brochure. Also known as a snowmobile, this new form of transportation took off and was later listed in 17th place on the CBC’s The Greatest Canadian Invention list in 2007.

1998’s Sega Dreamcast

(Source By Evan-Amos – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

This video game console really took gaming to the next level. It dreamed up a few innovations that really pushed the gaming industry into expanding their possibilities. The Dreamcast included a modem internally that allowed players to join others online. Sega even released its own online gaming network that inspired the creation of similar products like the hugely popular Xbox Live. Consumers could also buy a variety of controller accessories like fishing rods, maracas, an extra screen, or even a microphone that paved the way for voice chats during gameplay in the future.


With so many groundbreaking features, it’s a little shocking that this game system was the failure it was. It seems the Dreamcast  was a victim of a few poor circumstances that caused Sega to discontinue it by 2001.

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