Technology ideas I thought were stupid… until I tried them

I have consumer’s arrogance. I’ll admit it.

While innovators, inventors, businesspeople, and artists are busy working to make money (and art, too, if they’re lucky), I’m comfortably sitting back, relaxing, and critiquing them from my little soapbox of a blog. It’s easy once something has tanked to balk at it, “What were they thinking?”

Sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they had a good idea in theory, but in practice it was terrible. Sometimes it just didn’t get implemented properly, or it worked for test groups but not consumers at large.

Well, sometimes… sometimes, it actually works!

Here are three products I balked at wrongly. I thought they were stupid until I realized they were brilliant.

  • The iPod’s Scroll Wheel. Yes, I understood the appeal of the iPod. Yes, I knew Apple made slick-looking products. But the scroll wheel baffled me. I thought about the CD players of old. Wouldn’t I just want to click to the next song right or left? Why would I want to go in a circle? Apple knew, though. They knew that people either already had or would soon amass music collections with songs numbering in the thousands, and scrolling through thousands of songs without a scroll wheel is tiring for your fingers. Even though I’ve long since grown disillusioned with iPods and iTunes (I use Sandisk players with Linux now), I do miss the scroll wheel and appreciate it for the brilliant invention it was.
  • The Wii. When I first heard about the Wii, I thought Nintendo was crazy. The name sounded stupid, like a kid peeing. The system’s graphics weren’t in the same class as the PS3. You used the remote to make motions with? What is this—Tron? Well, apparently it is. Gamers and non-gamers, children and adults alike love the Wii. I’m not much of a gamer myself, but I enjoy the Wii, too. It’s like a video game console for non-video-game-players. I even know someone who claims that Wii bowling practice leads to better real-life bowling performance. Not sure about that, but if it’s true, then cool!
  • The Eee PC. Okay. It has a 4 GB hard drive, a crappy webcam, no optical drive, 800×480 screen resolution, a child-size keyboard, and only a 3-hour battery life? Why do I want that? I guess it’s at least cheaper than the Macbook Air by US$1400. If someone had pitched that to me, I would have said, “You must be on crack!” But the Eee PC has been selling quite well for Asus, spawning competition from HP, Acer, Dell, and others, and keeping Asus itself on its toes with a new release with better specs. It’s gotten rave reviews, too. I was intrigued by this little giant and read literally hundreds of reviews before taking the dive and buying one myself, and it’s lived up to the hype even though it isn’t perfect. Asus just realized that these days most of what people use computers for is the internet, and that’s all the Eee really is, an internet appliance that can do a few other cool things, too.

So, hats off to you CEOs who, on rare occasion, know better than I do what will be successful or a good idea.

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1 Comment

  1. I would agree with the Wii. I remember hearing about Nintendo’s idea for a remote to play games with( not to mention the name). I thought at first that the idea was strange and ludicrous. I have since played it many times and have enjoyed it. I still think the name is stupid, though.
    The scrollwheel and Eee I didn’t think were crazy though. I wouldn’t have believed you if I heard that the Eee would be a leading place to pre-install Linux, though.

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