Ahead of Its Time Tech

“Everything old is new again” is a mantra held in pop culture circles, but the saying can also be applied to mobile technology. While many innovations from years past have gone unnoticed (or outright flopped), the seeds they planted are now giving rise to a new crop of gadgets that build upon their positive attributes while attempting to avoid their pitfalls.

In that spirit, we’re scrutinizing some of the most hyped gear over the past 15 years and analyzing why they initially failed. Then we’ll take a look at today’s hottest mobile tech and demonstrate why these gadgets were simply ahead of their time.

Gadgets Featured:

1. :CueCat
2. Gemstar Rocket eBook
3. HP Jornada 820
4. Ojo Personal Video Phone
5. Pepper Pad
6. Sharp Actius RD3D


Year: 2000

What It Was: A USB barcode reader designed to scan codes in magazines and flyers and then direct users to web pages when it was connected to a computer.

Why It Failed: Few readers were interested in whipping out a ridiculous cat-shaped scanner just to avoid typing URLs, and even fewer publications actually used the barcodes. However, Wired magazine supported the format for a time, and even sent all of its subscribers :CueCats to use.

Why It Was Important: This kitty was put to sleep long ago, but its legacy has nine lives; smart phone users have barcode scanning apps (such as ScanLife) that perform similar functions today. One of the most recent high-profile examples of this resurrected technology is Google Goggles, a visual search tool that lets users point their smart phones at an object and have the software launch Google search results based on the captured image.

Current Chance of Technology’s Success: Uncertain. It may simply boil down to whether or not the average mobile phone user feels the need to take photos of objects in order to fetch information.

“Augmented reality has been around for years,” said Dominique Bonte, practice director of telematics and navigation for ABI Research. “Nokia has a technology called Point & Find that lets you take a photo of a movie poster to receive theater locations and even purchase tickets. Consumers just don’t use it.”

Ahead of Its Time Tech Contents

1. :CueCat
2. Gemstar Rocket eBook
HP Jornada 820
Ojo Personal Video Phone
Pepper Pad
Sharp Actius RD3D

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