The lost follow-ups: Products and people that appear to have vanished without a trace


There'll be the big announcement promising a revolution in the computer industry, lots of press coverage, and then... nothing. What ever happened to these companies and products? Does anybody know?

Comments (29)
  1. Adam says:

    How could you forget Duke Nukem Forever! Or does that not count as, 9 years after the initial announcment, it is apparently still under active development?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Nukem_Forever

  2. DavidE says:

    Here’s one I remember from the early 90s. There was a company that was going to produce a 100x (or something like that) CD-ROM drive. It was a combination CD-ROM drive and hard drive cache. It would start reading the CD as soon as it was inserted, and then would handle requests by transferring both to the hard drive and the system.

    This could have been useful even as drives got faster, but I don’t think it ever came out. If it did, it was a total flop.

  3. Adam says:

    Another amusing Duke link. Took me a while to find it as it’s almost 2 years old:

    http://bonedancer.livejournal.com/47522.html

  4. There are MANY Microsoft products that have gone the same way – WINFS for example?

    [At least (1) there was a beta of WinFS before it got “restrategized” or whatever they want to call it, and (2) there was an announcement of same. It didn’t (1) exist only in press releases and (2) vanish without a trace. -Raymond]
  5. JamesW says:

    Beaten to the WinFS punch. Raymond’s asking for trouble with this topic. A couple of Microsoft mentions in this article on<A HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaporware">vapourware</a&gt;. Project Cairo, Longhorn and that reliable stick WinFS…

    Addmitedly it’s not just MS. Apple’s long search for a replacement OS provides another rich seam of vapour until they bought NeXT. I guess the difference with MS and Apple is that both of them have produced some worthwhile stuff in their time. Raymond’s examples are purest marketing tosh.

  6. David Walker says:

    The Zeosync "announcement" was the silliest thing I ever heard.  I knew when I first heard about it in 2001 and 2002 that it couldn’t pssobily be true.  

    If I’m wrong, I would love to see proof.

  7. GrayShade says:

    Check out Atomchip: http://atomchip.com/

  8. james url jones says:

    The "they gave up"-link is broken.

  9. Virgulino Ferreira says:

    I’m sorry, but I still miss Cairo. (And WorkplaceOS, and PinkOS, and Taligent…)

    http://www.byte.com/art/9511/sec6/art14.htm

    ‘[…]in 1992, Bill Gates announced that Cairo would arrive in three years and would incorporate object-oriented technologies, especially an object file system. […] It seems that Cairo is Microsoft’s sly way of promising the world. "Will we see Plug and Play in NT?" "Oh yes, of course, in Cairo." "Will NT ever produce world peace and cheap antigravity?" "You bet — in Cairo." ‘

    http://www.byte.com/art/9611/sec10/art5.htm

    15 years later, I think that NT 7.0 will have all Cairo features. 8-))

  10. SpecOps David was discovered to be just another attempt at selling WINE, without even bothering to hide the fact.

    http://www.winehq.com/?issue=222#Project%20David%20Uses%20CodeWeavers%20CrossOver%20Office

  11. vince says:

    As I’m sure we all know, Vista was originally supposed to ship 2002.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/05/24/ballmer_vista_delay/

    Just because it eventually ships doesn’t make it not vaporware.

    [This entry wasn’t about vaporware but rather about things that as far as I can tell never actually existed in any form other than a press release and maybe a fraudulent demo. -Raymond]
  12. JamesW says:

    From Virgulino Ferreira’s first link to http://www.byte.com:

    ‘Cairo’s Object File System (OFS) makes the whole hard disk a single huge docfile’

    Can’t wait till NT 7.0 now :0

  13. Mark Waterman says:

    If ZeoSync had really, as they claimed, found a way to break the pigeonhole principle I would be more than happy with 100:99 lossless compression, as it would be possible to repeat the process infinitely.

    In real life avoiding the pigeonhole principle is, of course, not possible.

  14. Timothy Fries says:

    > Just because it eventually ships doesn’t make it not vaporware.

    Actually, that’s *exactly* what defines something as being not vaporware. ;)

  15. Simon Cooke says:

    Oh, the phantom did exist – I interviewed at Infinium in Seattle in December 2004. (A friend of mine from Sierra worked there now, and I didn’t fancy moving to Alabama with the rest of the start-up I was working at).

    They had some solid tech*, some solid hardware (mainly the keyboard & mouse stuff), but ultimately, as far as I could see, no market. Their hardware would always be out of date, and especially with the 360 being what it is today (and the Live Marketplace stuff), they would have been crippled pretty much out of the door.

    * Can’t talk about the tech. NDA. Sorry. But let me just say that it was a very innovative streaming solution for downloadable content.

  16. reader says:

    > How could you forget Duke Nukem Forever! Or does that not count as, 9 years after the

    > initial announcment, it is apparently still under active development?

    Why do you think it’s called Duke Nukem *Forever*?  9 years is just a blink of the eye in eternity. ;p

  17. DavidE, my now-wife bought one of those CD-ROM drives, probably near the end of the life cycle.

    At the time we bought it, it was a perfectly-servicable 20x drive that came with a driver that did the caching, no extra hardware required. Presumably, the driver would have basically worked with any CD drive, although it may have been locked by programming fiat.

    The extra caching was basically useless. Dedicating a full ~700MB of hard drive to the cache was difficult, dedicating much less made the cache noticably less useful. Programs running off of CD were aleady optimized for that use case anyhow, so the gain was often minimal. And I can’t tell for certain, but I’d swear sometimes the cache was fragmented on the drive such that it would actually come off the CD <i>faster</i> than off the hard drive.

    Last, but not least, it tried to cache the data as soon as you stuck the CD in the drive. Unfortunately, when you stick the CD in the drive also happens to be when you want to use the program, but the caching process wanted exclusive access (by which I mean it was trying to read the drive as quickly as possible, not necessarily a hardware lock). I don’t recall if you had to kill it to access the drive at all, or if it merely contended for the drive, but I do remember that until the caching was complete, the drive was effectively useless.

    Also, while caching, it ate up a lot of hard drive bandwidth and time saving, of course.

    A more transparent implementation might have worked. If it dectected that you were accessing the drive and took the opportunity to grab those blocks (as near as I could tell it could only cache what it read directly, it couldn’t take advantage of incidental reads), and if it stopped the caching process until the drive was idle for some time (and ideally, both the CD and the hard drive), it might have been a lot cooler. As it was, the only use case it helped was "I insert a CD with the intention of using it in about half an hour". This is not a use case that needs a lot of speeding up.

    The good thing is, it was a 20x drive in a time of 52x drives, and I hate the higher speed drives that sound like they’re going to shake themselves apart; give me a slightly slower drive that doesn’t vibrate when the CD is the tiniest bit unbalanced any day.

  18. James says:

    JamesW: Sounds like my beta of NT5.0 was a sneak preview of that "feature", turning my whole FAT partition to one long run of lost clusters :-)

    Mark: As described, the compression isn’t actually impossible; for an obvious example, blank VMWare virtual disk images are essentially a very long string of zeros, which of course compress losslessly extremely well. It’s only when you broaden the claim to compressing *any* data that it all falls apart – and judging by their claims to have circumvented the Shannon limit, falling apart is probably all it would do.

  19. RingZero says:

    I believe OS/2 is destined to be the most important operation system, and possible program, of all time.

       — Bill Gates

  20. James says:

    Jeremy: I’ve often wished for something similar, actually – my OS has been using spare RAM to cache the hard drive since the year dot, why not use spare hard drive to cache the CD/DVD drive as well?

    RingZero: To be fair, one fork of OS/2 is still going strong, with the next much-delayed version having just reached RC1 :-)

  21. Darren Winsper says:

    People did get hold of copies of CherryOS, it’s how they confirmed it was basically a rip-off of PearPC.  CherryOS was then retired when everyone and their dog started screaming "fraud" at them.

  22. ShyGuy says:

    > Here’s one I remember from the early 90s. There was a company that was going to produce a 100x (or something like that) CD-ROM drive.

    In Italy, at least, those CDROMs sold much but basically they were sold as no-brands 12x drives.

    >> Oh, the phantom did exist

    Read about HardOCP vs Infinium on the net..

    >> How about the yearly announcements of "this is the year of linux on the desktop!"

    What about "this is the year of Windows unbreakable stability!" ?

    This is not a post about products overcoming their problems (ease of use and win-app compatibility for linux; high degree of personalization, stability and security for windows) it’s about never existing but highly advertised products.

    Even Cairo doesn’t count because it’s clearly a failed attempt (MS TRIED to do it) versus an intentional fraud.

    The products listed are either not existing in anyway (Phantom, ZeoSync’s RDE) or just ways to sell an already existing (and free) product under another name, either by fraud (CherryOS violates PearPC license) or not (DavidOS seems to be just Linux+Wine but I might be wrong).

    On the DavidOS defense, Lindows.Com (now Linspire) was just basically the same and was successful to some degree.

  23. AndyB says:

    Actually, its rather easy to cache several CDs.

    1. ‘backup’ your cd in the form of an ISO image.

    2. use one of several tools (winiso, winrar, poweriso) to mount the iso image as a drive letter (or just as a file)

  24. Anyone remember CherryOS?  That obvious rebranding of Pear OS?

  25. Wang-Lo says:

    Not <a href=” Wang-Lo says:

    Not exactly a product, but no less vaporous for all that — http://research.microsoft.com/~pablo/avalanche.aspx

    -Wang-Lo.

  • Ulric says:

    No one mentionned this, but at the same time as Duke Nukem Forever (1995), the game Prey was also announced by 3DRealm, and never materialized.

    Well, it was demoed and will be released for the xbox 360.  Of course it’s not really the same game, and more of a tongue-in-cheek joke to re-use the name.

    I’ll let Wikipedia recap:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prey_%28video_game%29

  • DNF says:

    It’s a joke in itself.

    DNF = Did Not Finish.

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