Plan 9 from Bell Labs comes to my mind (papers & manpages): By the creators of unix, tight integration of networks (better than other systems I have seen so far), UTF-8 all the way down, interesting concept with process-wide inherited namespaces.

It used up way too many weirdness points, though, and was fighting the old Worse is Better fight. It lost, and we are left with ugly and crufty unices today.

Another one that comes to mind is Project Xanadu. It was quite similar to the modern web, but a lot more polished and clean in design and concept. It probably failed because a really late delivery and by being too slow for the hardware at the time.

I guess that's mostly the problem: ambitious projects use up a lot of weirdness points, and then fail to gain enough traction.

A project that will probably fall into the same category is Urbit. If you know a bit of computer science, the whitepaper is just pure delight. After page 20 I completely lost track. It's fallen victim to a weirdness hyperinflation. It looks clean and sane, but I assign ~98% probability that its network is never going to have more than 50.000 users over the span of one month.

[ Question ]

The tech left behind

by Leafcraft 1 min read12th Mar 201911 comments


Hello, I am asking for some insights for a research I am doing. Can you cite examples of technologies that have been forgotten? What I mean by "forgotten" is not things we don't know how to do but used to (I suspect there aren't that many), nor things that are no longer in use but used to (mechanical television), but things that were decently developed (either in theory or in practice) but never "saw the light of day" anyway.

It's my first time posting, so I won't do much policing on the answers, thanks in advance.

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I would argue that spaced repetition is one such technology. We've known about forgetting curves and spaced repetition as a way of efficiently memorizing data since at least the '60s, if not before. Yet, even today, it's hardly used and if you talk to the average person about spaced repetition, they won't have a clue as to what you're referring to.

Here we have a really cool technology, which could significantly improve how we learn new information, and it's being used maybe 5% as often as it should be.

There's a large class of viable pharmaceuticals which don't see the light of day because their unpatentability causes companies not to fund the clinical trials which would be necessary to clear regulatory approval.