Rocket at 25: remember the 1990s?
As Rocket celebrates our 25th year, we’ve been looking back at some of the milestones that the company – and the technology world at large – has seen since we opened our doors. There has certainly been a lot of change since our first decade in business, so today we’d like to take a few minutes to look back at some of the “technologies of the future” that didn’t quite make it to the future. It’s not that these were bad products (some of them were actually pretty awesome), but in the technology industry timing is as important as innovation. So let’s jump into the Wayback Machine and set a course to the distant past…the 1990’s.
Apple Newton. If there was an Academy Award for being too far ahead of the curve, Apple’s Newton would have swept the ceremony. The Newton (which was the name of the platform, not the device) was revolutionary, but in the early 1990’s its handwriting-recognition feature was considered so bizarre that it merited an ironic mention on The Simpsons. Newton sort of faded away, but just a few years later the Palm Pilot took over the world with an almost identical interface. Only this time, no one was laughing.
Remember Prodigy? This BBS actually traced its roots back to the early 1980’s, but in 1994 it became the first dial-up service to allow access to the World Wide Web. Today that might seem quaint, but at the time it was revolutionary. Sadly, Prodigy Classic faded away by 1999 – allegedly because it wasn’t Y2K compliant – although the company managed to live on for several more years under new ownership.
Napoleon had his Waterloo, Julius Caesar had his buddy Brutus, and Circuit City had DIVX. If you don’t recall this alternative video-rental format, don’t worry: it only existed for a year and ended up costing the electronics company over $330 million in losses. DIVX may be the Ishtar of technology, but its attempt to introduce a new way of pricing content wasn’t a terrible idea. Unfortunately, it was quickly done in by consumer backlash and a lack of support from other companies in the video entertainment industry.
If the nineties opened with the promise of the Newton, they ended with the advent of the Blackberry. In today’s world of iPhones and Galaxies, it’s hard to believe that for over a decade all of us were completely addicted to our “crackberries.” These handheld devices let people easily check their email during dinner for the first time and ushered in the era of versatile smartphones. Canada’s greatest contribution to the world (other than Rush) was a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. If the iPhone was Keanu Reeves, the Blackberry went the way of Alex “Ted” Winter.