Dearly Departed: Companies and Products That Didn't Deserve to Die

Some products just didn't deserve to die. But they did, because the companies made bad business decisions. We revisit several of our favorites--from minicomputers to software utilities--and mourn the best and brightest that died an untimely death.

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Smothered by the CD blanket

  • Image
  • Company: CompuServe Information Service
  • Born: 1969
  • Died: 1998 (acquired by AOL)
  • Cause of Death: AOL blanketed the world with its trial disks and offered inexpensive monthly rates while CompuServe still charged by the hour. It wasn't known as "CompuBucks" for nothing! Then the Internet entered the picture, drawing more users away-and AOL did nothing to promote CompuServe's stellar feature: its discussion forums.
  • Founder: Golden Unite
  • Most well-known product(s): CompuServe
  • Why we miss them: It was a grownup's online service-a social network (actually, a lot of social networks, through its forums) long before FaceBook and LinkedIn were even imagined.
  • Lasting image/quote: "On December 29, 1994, CompuServe Information Service posted an electronic demand for royalty payments from companies that make graphic software for viewing pictures in the Graphic Interchange Format (GIF). GIF was developed by CompuServe in 1987 and is the most common way to store, view and transmit photographs and other graphic images; it became a standard because CompuServe encouraged its adoption by not charging a licensing fee. But GIF is based on a software algorithm patented by Unisys in 1985. Unisys notified CompuServe about infringement two years ago and the companies reached a licensing agreement in June 1994. Unisys is demanding royalty payments from dozens of companies other than CompuServe." (New York Times, 1/5/95, C1; San Jose Mercury News, 1/5/95, 1F.)

Who do you miss?

Obviously, this is just a tiny subset of companies that have been and gone, and are mourned to a greater or lesser extent (and, come to think of it, for every one of our 'dearly departed', there's probably someone who instead says 'good riddance').

Now it's your turn. What do you think of our choices? Are there companies not on our list whose passing (or refocusing away from products you loved) you mourn? Please tell us who they are and what you miss about them so they can be properly immortalized.

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