The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time — And I especially hated one of them – The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time

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 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 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.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time — And I especially hated one of them”

  1. Doug Garnett – Portland, OR – Doug Garnett is an expert introducing innovative consumer products and services to market while driving higher return on innovation investment. His career has been spent in innovation and he is the president of Protonik, LLC - an innovation consultancy focused on marketing and innovation. Prior to founding Protonik, he was founder and CEO of ad agency Atomic Direct.
    Doug Garnett says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the comments on the CueCat.

    What mystifies me is how many products get funded despite fundamental marketing flaws that a savvy, introspective marketer can identify.

    for example, the CueCat. It has never in history worked to ask consumer to do significant work in order to get advertising (not information). But, they had to hook this thing up. Then, had to go to a computer to use it (when we never read magazines at our computer).

    So, let me get this straight: I’m at Starbucks and see an ad with a bar code. I mark it and rush home to scan it with the CueCat?

    I have one stored in my basement in order to exhibit to my classes on “worst marketing ideas”.

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  3. This one case study alone is rationale enough for my plan to market myself as a hired “No Man” who will tell companies and entrepreneurs all the reasons why their ideas won’t work, sending them back to their drawing boards.

  4. It would have been publicly accepted if Doug Davis (the fat technoidiot) didn’t start a war with the hacker community. Also, chose Tandem computers for their network to get a kickback. What an idiot. I wonder who he is putting out of business now?

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