Apartment Living BlogApartment Living › Home Technology Fads Through the Years

While technological inventions like the cassette tape and the VCR are part of wider trends, fads are more fleeting.

Do you remember any of these home technology fads?

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1980s

The Clapper: The infomercial sang “Clap on, clap off” and launched this product into public awareness. The Clapper was released in 1986 and millions were sold over the product’s lifetime. In newer models, an “away” function was added to turn on the lights at the first sound it heard. This digitally integrated light switch has prompted some to ask if The Clapper led the way for smart-home technology.
Flowbee: In 1988, this vacuum cleaner hair-cutting attachment hit the market. The 1992 comedy “Wayne’s World” parodied it, and by the year 2000, 2 million were sold.
Pac-Man: In 1980, Pac-Man was released, and within one year, it made more than $1 billion in quarters at the arcade. Then in 1982, Pac-Man was released for the Atari game console and it sold 7 million units. In total, Pac-Man’s gross consumer revenue is estimated at $2.5 billion.
Music Vest: This wearable sound system was released in 1984 with a retail price of $34.95. In its list of 25 Worst Infomercials, Time Magazine called the product part NASA and part Soul Train. With the technology integrated into a piece of clothing, did the Music Vest lead the way for wearable technology?
Polaroid Camera: Predating Instagram, the Polaroid camera was the instant camera that made it possible to take pictures and see what they looked like nearly instantly. Instant camera sales went from 7.4 million in 1976 to 10.3 million a year later, then to 14.3 million in 1978. Polaroids enjoyed the peak of their popularity in the 1980s, and by the early 1990s, they were the world market leader in instant photography and electronic imaging. In a retro throwback, OutKast sang in 2003 “Shake it like a Polaroid picture.”
Nintendo Power Glove: It was released in 1989. There were 100,000 units sold, but a year later in 1990, it was discontinued.
It was released in 1989 to much fanfare and enthusiasm, but the technology didn’t deliver. The instructions were long and confusing. There was no left-handed option, and it was difficult to setup and calibrate. The company projected they would sell one million Power Gloves by the end of the year, but only 100,000 units sold. A year later in 1990, it was discontinued and labeled a commercial failure. However, seventeen years later Nintendo successfully released a gesture-based technology when the Nintendo Wii hit the market.

1990s

Beepers: In 1980, there were 3.2 million pagers in use, and in 1994, that number grew to 61 million. Just like “video killed the radio star,” cell phones killed the beeper.
Clippy: The Microsoft Office Assistant, an animated paper clip called Clippy, existed from 1996 to 2007. Smithsonian Magazine called it “one of the worst software design blunders in the annals of computing.” In a 2010 article, Time Magazine said it was one of the “50 worst inventions.” An Atlantic Magazine author joked, “On my tombstone it will say, ‘He dealt with Clippy.’” Despite Clippy’s demise in 2007, it made a comeback on April Fools’ Day 2014.
Sega Dreamcast: Released in 1999, there were 10 million Sega Dreamcasts sold, but the next-gen consoles overtook its market share. In 2001, the Sega Dreamcast was discontinued.
Ionic Breeze Air Purifier: This air purification device claimed to use “electrostatic precipitation” to remove dust, pet dander and pollen from the air. There were 3.2 million sold, but The Sharper Image went bankrupt after losing a class action lawsuit for false claims.
Motorola MicroTAC Flip Phone: These clunky devices were sold on infomercials. At the time, they were the smallest and lightest handset on the market. The phone included a 30-minute or 75-minute rechargeable battery, and the retail price was $3,000.
Tamagotchi Virtual Pet: By 1997, sales of these virtual pets topped $1.6 billion. The New York Times said: “There are dozens of World Wide Web pages devoted to Tamagotchi.” (How strange to think of a time when “dozens” of webpages was a lot!) There were 76 million handheld digital pets sold. Luckily, anyone who owned a virtual pet never needed to limit their apartment search to pet-friendly apartments, as they would have if their pet was the four-legged kind.
Sony MDR-G61 Headphones: The first behind-the-head headphones, these headphones launched a style trend with a cool way to keep your hair in check while listening to your Discman.
Zip Drives: As high-capacity computer disks, the first Zip drives could hold up to 100 MB and later versions expanded to 250 MB and 750 MB. This was a huge improvement on the 3.5-inch floppy disks, which could hold 1.44 MB per disk. Zip disks were later replaced by USB flash drives and writable CDs.
iMac G3: The all-in-one computer with the colored plastic, the iMac G3 was the first consumer device released after Steve Jobs’ return to Apple. Jobs said the “i” stood for Internet, individual, instruct, inform and inspire.
Sony Aibo: All 5,000 robot dogs were sold within the first 20 minutes of launch, and an Aibo appeared in a Janet Jackson music video and on episodes of “Frasier” and “South Park.” The fad only lasted from 1999 to 2005.

2000s

Napster: Between 1999 and 2001, the file sharing service had 80 million registered users. In college dorms, as much as 61% of Internet traffic was MP3 file transfers. In 2001, Napster paid a $26 million settlement for copyright infringement.
Rejuvenique Electric Facial Mask: The infomercial product claimed to reduce wrinkles by exercising face muscles. The regimen was 15 minutes for three to four times a week, but the creepiness of the mask meant it could also be used for your Jason Halloween costume.
E-Book Readers: The Sony Reader existed briefly between 2006 and 2014. The life of the Barnes & Noble Nook was even shorter, from 2009 to 2016. The Amazon Kindle was launched in 2007 and is still sold today. By the end of the decade, e-book sales for the Kindle outnumbered hardcover. Tablets and other more versatile tech now have the edge over uni-task e-readers. The iPad was launched in 2010 and 338 million have sold since.
Bark Off: This infomercial product used ultrasonic waves to silence dog barks. The product targeted the 77 million American dog owners. Inside Edition called it a rip-off, not a Bark Off.
Netbooks: In 2007, these small, lightweight laptops were launched. By 2009, netbooks peaked at 20% of the portable computer market. Then in 2011, tablet sales overtook netbooks. In 2012, netbook sales fell by 25%.
Bluetooth Earpiece: In 2000, the first Bluetooth headset was shipped. This new technology enabled you to go hands-free while you were on your cell phone. In 2008, hands-free cell phone laws were implemented in some states.
Myspace: Launched in 2003, it took just a few years for Myspace to surpass Google as the most visible website in 2006. But by 2009, Facebook had more users than Myspace.
GPS Navigation Devices: In 2000, the Clinton administration removed military-use signal restrictions, making GPS technology available. In 2002, the TomTom was released, and in 2007 it sold a record 4.2 million devices in the Christmas quarter. By 2009, revenues shrank because of the growing popularity of smartphones and the economic crash.
Air Multiplier: In 2009, the bladeless fan introduced by James Dyson achieved airflow up to 55 mph and cost $300+.
Google Glass: Released in 2013, “Glass went from being coveted to becoming a punch line,” said The New York Times. By 2015, it was discontinued.

Present Day

Will these be fads or broader trends? Only time will tell.

Amazon Echo: The Echo was released in 2015, and that year there were 2.4 million sold. In 2016, an additional 5.2 million were sold. The Amazon Echo and other smart-home devices are becoming a standard for digital integration in many luxury apartments.
Wearable Technology: In 2013, sales started to take off, and by 2014, one out of five American adults had a wearable device while 71% of 16- to 24-year-olds wanted wearable tech. In 2015, the wearables market exceeded $2 billion, and the market is expected to grow 35% by 2019.
Virtual Reality: There are currently more than 43 million active VR users worldwide. It’s predicted that by 2020, the hardware market will be $5.2 billion and the software market will be $24.5 billion. The VR headset Oculus Rift was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion. It was released in 2016, with the headsets carrying a retail price of $600.
Augmented Reality: It’s predicted that headset sales could reach $1.2 billion in 2017, and by 2020, it could be a $90 billion market. The AR game Pokémon Go was released on July 6, 2016, and by July 12, it had 21 million active users. In total, the game has been downloaded more than 650 million times.

 

Sources:
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About :

Amber is the Social Media & Content Manager for For Rent Media Solutions™ and has been with the company since April 2007. In her role, Amber helps execute and optimize a social media strategic plan across multiple channels, as well as manages the company's social media product. This includes blogs, social networks, video sharing sites, and other conversational media. She spends a great deal of time building relationships with consumers, social media influencers, and bloggers to generate awareness of For Rent Media Solutions brand. In her free time, Amber loves running, #hashtags, and DIY projects.

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