Revenge of the CueCat

Most of you won't remember this dude: The CueCat.


This little guy was going to be the end all and be all of computer peripherals in the early 2000's. I even remember seeing an infomercial on it (scoured the webs to no avail) set in the future, where they started the years over at "BQ" and "AQ" for "Before CueCat" and "After CueCat". It was shockingly bad.

The product was almost universally panned. The Tech-Blog I read, Gizmodo, named it the worst invention of the "2000s". Ouch. Worse, Quicken has it on their list of Frightening Finances: 12 Epic Failures, along with such things as The Spruce Goose, WebVan, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, IndyMac Bank and the Ford Edsel. That's painful.

But what was it? Well, it was a bar code reader. Certain products, news papers, and magazines (I remember 'Parade' specifically) had these special bar codes in them that would allow you to scan the barcode, and it would take you to that website. (See, it's a "cat" to go along with your "mouse". And you wonder why it failed.) The barcodes were proprietary, so you had to bring everything to your hulking desktop computer with its dial-up modem, connect to the internet, and then scan the barcode to read more of that in-depth interview Parade had with Alf.

Oh, and they also had the "good idea" that they would imbed audible codes into commercials, so that if you were on line, AOLing with your peeps, it would launch a new browser and take you (slowly) to the companies website.

And to make matters worse, so people figured out hacks to make the product useful, like for scanning in their books' ISBN numbers in.

Surprisingly, this product crashed and burned.

But, the idea just won't die. There are tonnes of these "2D barcodes"

  • Microsoft has their own "Microsoft Tag" that uses colored triangles.
  • Data Matrix tags are squares of back and white dots.
  • AT&T has one, just like Data Matrix's.
  • There's an open source one called QR codes.

That's the one that I put up in my banner, the QR code. Maybe you've see them around? If your smartphone has the right software, you can scan the codes and go right to the web site. Cora and I bought some strawberries and the plant stakes had QR codes on them, so you could get more info on the plant while you were away from the computer.

If your interested in generating you own, this site will do it for free. In the mean time, watch out for something like this plastered on your local bus stop, office bulletin board, and drunken hobo. So, download a QR reader to your smartphone today.

Daddy needs to go on a readship drive.


(Actually, I have a separate blog I use for my Christmas newsletter, and then just send a slip of paper with a URL in the card. I think I'll add a QR link next year. Not that anybody would know what it was, but it would be cool.)

What do you know, Scope-Tech actually talking tech!


Joshua said...

Whenever I see these things, I always blur my eyes and see if I can get a "Magic Eye" thing going on. In this particular one, I see a zombie, facing "the camera," and the right side of his face (our left) has been shot open and his jaw is hanging down.

I might need more sleep.

So. Cal. Gal said...

Ahh! Until I read 'bar code reader' I was thinking "What the hell is that?" I remember it now. I also remember thinking "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of." lol!

Cora said...

Since we talked about it when we were buying plants I have started seeing QR codes all over the place. Dunno why I didn't notice them before.

Sassy Britches said...

I can't wait until Christmas.