Vaporware: The Origins…

Vaporware: The Origins…

The term vaporware is not a modern one. In fact the term exists for at least thirty years as an informal terminology of the computer’s market and the wider electronics market. According to a relevant wikipedia article, “vaporware” means a product that did not make it to retail even if there were announcements from the productions company. But it also means that most of the times, this product, was not officially cancelled! This term was also used to describe products that were well in advance announced, even years before their final release to the market and usually these products are surrounded by “mystery” and great speculation regarding their specifications or release dates.

It seems that the term derived, initially, from the software industry at the early 80’s where there was great competition and a frenzy to innovate and gain the market advantage and also the stock price advantage! The situation at that period, often led to this kind of announcements from software and hardware companies while they were trying to keep in front of the market needs and boost their stock prices up! These practices , even then, not especially nowadays, were found to be more or less illegal, a misinformation of the public that led to extreme expectations and certain people made whole fortunes out of this tactics. On the other hand using the term vaporware for an announced product was also considered a malpractice as if it turned out not to be a vaporware, this announcement was also a misinformation but even before the release, announcing a product as vaporware could seriously affect the market for the company and the product. So it is some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy!

Despite all this, in the computers industry, vaporware is common. The first time it was heard, it was the year 1982 from computer’s engineer  Ann Winblad. Winblad was working for a business platform for Microsoft, compatible with the Xenix operating system. Suddenly she seemed to realize that there was no progress made with the platform and especially with Xenix and decided to ask around for Microsoft intentions. When she asked other engineers about Xenix they responded that actually the project was vaporware. The project was vaporized!! So after the incident, vaporware became a mainstream term in computer’s industry. Vaporware soon emigrated to other industries as hardware, consoles, home appliances, everything. After thirty years or so, the term found its way to retro-computing and especially affects the expectations of present retro-computers users that tend to expect modern additions to their machines from small and mal-funded companies that can only do things up to a certain point. The retro-computers market is relatively small. Some dare to involve in this market to develop software and hardware and balloon the consumer’s expectations who are generally to optimist about their old and outdated machines. A perfect example for this, is the Amiga market. Anyone can take a little time to consider the products that were announced over the years and what was really final made available to public. But this was and is a trend and some people also tried to take advantage of this trend. Developers appeared and dimmed immediately as fireworks, inflating the phantasy that our Amigas could do present, modern, tasks. Maybe if they even could, then Amiga would not be a hobby any more  Would not be considered retro, so we would be in the need to find another hobby.

Well, for the sake of this blog, we decided, to gradually present some software and hardware  not only for Amiga, but for other retro computers and consoles. And to do this according to Amigaplanet standards, we decided to expand a little bit, the criteria of Vaporware classification. That means that we will also accept vaporware products that :

a) Their release dates keeps getting postponed for years, not for just “two more weeks”

b) are cancelled long after their supposed release date

c) products that were never officially completed due to i.e. Lack of funding

d) products reaching prototype stage or testing stage but not mass production

e) products that were completed but never made it to the market due to developers’ financial problems, bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions and change of strategy or planning.

So with above criteria we will try to stick to our plan and not announce everything as vaporware but also include many interesting stuff in our presentations which we believe it can eventually grow to full database of vaporware products.

Stay tuned for our future posts of the vaporware universe!!



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