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Electronic Thingamajigs We Never Got To Fiddle With

January 7, 2019

It seems like there’s always a “must have” gadget that everybody’s clamoring to get. These are some examples of that hype…except that after their were touted and promoted, they never actually hit stores.

The Phantom

In 2003, a company called Infinium Labs touted a video game system called (what would turn out to be ironically) the Phantom. The slim, white box ran a computer operating system (Windows XP) and connected to a TV. Why is this different or important? Because it allowed users to play complicated, memory-hogging computer games on their TV, without a desktop computer. Even better: The console would cost nothing, if gamers signed up for a two-year subscription to a service where they could download as many games as they wanted (this is long before streaming anything was popular). The only times the Phantom appeared after its announcement were prototypes at electronics trade shows in 2004 and 2005. An unrelated investigation of an Infinium executive effectively shut down the company after that.

HVDs

A program led by General Electric in the mid-2000s developed the next stage in CDs and DVDs—HVDs, or “holographic versatile discs.” While a CD could hold about 800 megabytes of data, and a DVD could store about six times that, an HVD (which was going to be marketed as a safe and secure method of digital archival storage) could handle somewhere in the area of 500 gigabytes…or the same capacity as 625 CDs. Who wouldn’t want to back up their computer (a few times over) or store their entire music collection on just one disc? People who have to worry about money. It would have required a $15,000 device to use, and the discs would have cost about $200…should it have ever reached a market crowded with cheap and effective storage methods such as the aforementioned CDs, standalone hard drives, thumb drives, “the cloud”…

Sega VR

Back in the ‘90s, the idea of “virtual reality” was all the rage. Just image, immersing yourself in a 360-degree, completely digital world! Well, companies released VR products even if the technology was still a little clunky. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy offered gamers the chance to hold their head inside a $200, table-mounted viewing device where they could play tennis on a black-and-red screen. (Numerous players reported severe headaches as a result.) Competitor Sega never released the VR device it spent a lot of time and money developing. The Sega VR system, designed to be added on to the company’s popular Genesis video game console, was a black-and-red helmet that made the wearer look like a robot that also offered full-color games that could be navigated with head movements. Reportedly, in practice the games were so blurry that nobody who tested the system could tell what was going on. Sega pulled the plug in 1994…right around the time they offered a Sega VR as the grand prize in a contest on the back of boxes of Alpha-Bits cereal. (No telling what prize some kid actually received.)

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