I was just reading PCWorld’s hugely entertaining list of the 25 worst tech products of all time and found myself in vigorous agreement with most of their choices. As I drew near the end of the the series, I asked myself, “Where’s the CueCat?’
One more page and there it was, the evil Kitty, in 20th place (AOL was number 1, which I wholeheartedly agree with.).
One of the reasons I fled Forbes.com in 2000 was the decision to support this evil device, a bar code reader disguised in a plastic cat-shell. The brain-dead assumption was that the magazine would print bar codes in advertisements and articles and a user — armed with the evil Cat — would scan the code and be taken directly to a special URL on the advertiser’s or Forbes’ website.
I thought it was the dumbest thing I ever heard of. But no one was listening. The fact that the inventor, Jovan Philyaw, [now renamed as J. Hutton Pulitzer] was an infomercial king who made his money on windshield wipers was lost on everybody. This nasty little thing personifies the stupidity of the late 90s for me. I thought if you sanded off the ears, it might make a good vibrator.
“20. DigitalConvergence CueCat (2000)Appearing at the tail end of the dot com craze, the CueCat was supposed to make it easier for magazine and newspaper readers to find advertisers’ Web sites (because apparently it was too challenging to type http://www.pepsi.com into your browser).
The company behind the device, DigitalConvergence, mailed hundreds of thousands of these cat-shaped bar-code scanners to subscribers of magazines and newspapers. Readers were supposed to connect the device to a computer, install some software, scan the barcodes inside the ads, and be whiskered away to advertisers’ websites. Another “benefit”: The company used the device to gather personally identifiable information about its users.
The CueCat’s maker was permanently declawed in 2001, but not before it may have accidentally exposed its user database to hackers.“
What were people thinking? Forbes wasn’t the only dumb money in the scheme. Wired got in on the fun, as did Belo, the dumbest of the dumb newspaper companies. Mark the passing of the CueCat as the last gasp of print media to get in on that Web thing.