The Darwin Awards are normally handed out to people who manage to end themselves or their ability to participate in the gene pool in some spectacularly idiotic way. But technology companies have some serious Darwinian impulses as well, and we’ve seen many examples of this over the years. If there were a competition for an all-time IT Darwin Award, my list of candidates might look something like this…
Note that these aren’t just run-of-the-mill business failures in the computer industry. these are specifically companies that died or are just about dead through their own massive stupidity. Hence, a Darwin Award.
#1. The Amiga – The Amiga stands forever in history as the Marilyn Monroe of computers – it was in the prime of its life, had everything in the world going for it, and flat-out committed suicide. Specifically, Commodore computers committed suicide by being mismanaged into the ground right after buying the Amiga Corporation. The Internet is still wailing its demise some 13 years later.
#2. Microsoft Bob – Sorry, but it was a loss either way. It is pointless to beat up Bob any further, but if I don’t list it I’ll get 15 comments going “how could you leave that out?” – that’s what a failure it was. You know, personally? I don’t think it was that bad of an idea – it is one of the only times that Microsoft tried to innovate its own new idea instead of simply buying somebody else’s.
#3. XCP – X-tended Copy Protection is the more popular name for the Sony music CD rootkit. It’s been two years since that story broke, and today you still can’t mention that you have a Sony/BMG CD without somebody else immediately going “watch out for those rootkits!”. In addition, the scandal developed into crashing Windows systems, violating the GPL, and botching things up further with a patch which broke user’s computers in new ways.
#4. The SCO Group – Still the legal laughing stocks of the IT industry, for their undaunted legal battles in the face of one failure after another. To this date, they still haven’t won even a draw in the courtroom, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to sue the entire world. Have these guys even made a product?
#5. Unisys – Doesn’t ring a bell? Well, these guys are contenders for being the Enron of the computer industry, with arrests and fines for all kinds of books-cooking schemes. Their chief claim to fame is that for about ten years, they held the patents to the GIF graphics file format, which they tried to sue for violation of. Didn’t work, and today, now that the last patent has expired as of 2004, we can all use gif’ image formats freely. Nyah-nyah-nayh! to Unisys!
#6. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial – I actually had an Atari console and somebody got me this game. Yes, it really is as terrible as you’ve heard. Now, let’s take this terrible game, manufacture billions of cartridges, and try to sell it for Christmas. Atari’s share of the video-game market pretty much died shortly afterwards. Could that be related?
#7. IBM OS/2 – For those of us who actually remember IBM’s attempt to out-Microsoft Microsoft, this one stands out as an exceptional failure. Everything about the OS/2 system was just terrible. It crashed more often than Windows of the same era, had an interface that was clunkier to use, no software to speak of developed for it, was marketed to almost nobody, had no support, and pretty much died gasping.
That’s my top seven. Readers, what did I miss?
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