A colleague of mine introduced me to a saying: ‘If the baby is ugly, let’s just say it’s ugly and get it over with’.
Oh, Geocities, your babies were ugly. Just look at the screenshot of the site used in the ad – if that’s the posterboy, imagine what the rest of the sites looked like…
In 2009, the plug was finally pulled on this mainly Frontpage-‘designed’ bonanza of wall-to-wall ugly.
But hey, it was free and it got us what we all wanted in the 90’s: A home on the Infobahn.
So, yesterday, Wired Reread went viral, thanks to the same kind of celebrity endorsement that Fisherobviously went for in the above ad from 1993. In the last 24 hours, Wired Reread increased its readership with a couple of thousand percent, going from web anonymity to fast lane fame.
“Everyone at @wired HQ is gonzo over www.wiredreread.com So simple, so embarrassing. (via @erikmalinowski)”
Get it out there and share the fun!
And now – back to the old news. A new (proper) post will appear shortly…
OK, yes, so you can record on a disc. But you’re clearly also dancing like a white dude, and can’t figure out to buy jeans with a suitable leg-length. So curb the enthusiasm, will you?
Anyway, the MiniDisc was one of the many storage formats that were cool (storing just around 1000 times more than the 1.2MB floppies we were carrying around back then) but just never really caught on in the consumer space – at least, not enough to displace CD/R’s. I remember my cousin having one – I was quite envious…
Take the poll: Did you own a MiniDisc?
We all know that WordPerfect was eclipsed by Microsoft Word in a big way, but back in 1993 it was top-dog. And who can blame consumers for wanting this nifty piece of word processing software, when it now includes liquid paper gone extreme? Yes, up to 8 previous actions are stored and can be undone – oh Data Processing Unit of the future, you make dreams come true! I love the way they put quotation-marks around the “Undo” – so it’s not really undone, or what?
Makes me think that we’ve gone backwards on this one in recent years: Most SaaS products of today don’t have an Undo feature. This was made painfully clear to me, when I messed up this blog’s template through blogger.com yesterday and laid it bare for 10 minutes… Where’s the Undo?!?
GMail introduced Undo a while back, but that’s only because their mail-servers are so loaded that it takes more than 30 seconds to actually get the mail out the door anyway.
And where’s the undo feature in Facebook, when you’ve messed up your life? The internet is like pissing in a pool – once it’s out there, it’s damn hard to take it back.
PS: Notice how new feature #1, sound in documents, never caught on. When was the last time you received a Word document with sound effects in it? And how would I print that? Through my Alice Cooper endorsed Stereo?
What I find truly ironic about the 90’s was that none of us teenagers back then had yet grasped the distinction between irony and sarcasm, thus we coined the phrase Chronic Ironic about our extensive use of sarcasm, unwittingly doing something incredibly ironic…
In any case, in the 90’s we never really said what we actually liked. We only hinted at what things we didn’t like, either by praising them, or – like the denim-clad postergirl above – sarcastically withholding our full endorsement.
Sounds complicated, I know, but once you mastered it, you had it made.
So, let’s have a guess what this girl actually did like. The Cranberries? Nirvana? Ohh, I know: Alanis Morissette:
The story on how AOL discs were bundled with frozen ham, just to give you that one little sip that got you hooked.
This insert from one of the very first Wired editions was the precursor of what was to become the largest carpet-bombing of a nation ever – with floppy discs.
By 1994, AOL had done the math. It turned out their product – dial-up access to the growing world wide web – was like crack cocaine: Once a customer logged in the first time, he/she would keep coming back, logging in, spending more and more time with their service. And this was dial-up charges, not the flat-rate hell (for ISPs) that was to come: AOL made a profit for every minute you were online. The math was clear: The lifetime value of an average customer was through the rough, meaning they could turn up their Customer Acquisition Cost dramatically and still make money.
Tell that to Marketing, and they’ll come up with some great ideas! Instead of buying big ol’ boring ads in magazines like the one above and lamely ask people to mail in for a disc, why not produce the floppy discs in ship-loads and bundle it with every other product imaginable? Doesn’t matter if most of those you hit don’t have a modem – or even a computer. If just some of them do, and just some of them tried out product, AOL would make a profit. So said the numbers – and so they hit the button: 300 million disc were produced and bundled with magazines, modems, flowers and frozen hams.
No, I’m not kidding – frozen hams.
With the disc, you got 2 hours of online access for free and you would be AOL’s forever – or at least until their service deteriorated.
The discs were so prolific they were nicknamed coasters, as in the thing you place under your cool beer. In the end there was a backlash and AOL stopped the carpet-bombing. But whether you liked the marketing or not, this strategy propelled them to no. 1, and enabled them to steal one of the biggest old-world media companies at the peak of the bubble (a book I can highly recommend, btw).
Oh, and the old joke about the discs: “The directions say ‘install and run.’ I’m too old to run… should I call the police?”
PS: If you’ve got one of these lying around, it might be worth something today.
Yup, that was actually what it was called.
This baby was launched in 1993, ran on 4 AAA-batteries, giving it a ridiculously low battery-life, and sported the Newton operating system from Apple. It was highly anticipated, with hype going two years before the launch, which the actual product had a hard time catching up to. From Wired’s own recap of the product in the same issue as this ad was brought:
“Much like the original Macintosh 128K machine, the Newton has its share of flaws, bugs and limitations, but it’s still an amazing device that heralds a major revolution in personal computing”
Does this at all sound familiar to you?
In 1997, Apple followed up with the MessagePad 2000 (ahh, the golden age of millennium product names):
Scan from Wired May 1997
This 2k version was rather well received on the market, bringing in a bit of extra dough for Apple. This was in the struggling years, before the bubble and before the effects of the Second coming of Steve Jobscould be seen from the outside, when pretty much all stories about Apple was on the angle of when they would die.
Oh, and despite what you might think when reading the above, I totally believe in the success of the iPad. I’ve reserved a seat in my couch for it, and my moms next computer is going to be an iPad.