Technologizer: Dell’s Streak–Is It a Huge Smartphone or a Tiny Computer?

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By Harry McCracken

The time I’ve spent with Verizon Wireless’s Droid X has made one thing clear to me: I like great big smartphone screens. As impressively elegant as the iPhone 4′s 3.5″ retina display is, the X’s 4.3″ superscreen makes for larger type and easier tapping. It’s like the difference between a highly refined sportscar and a roomy SUV. I hope phones in both sizes flourish.

And then there’s Dell’s Streak…which makes the Droid X look like a pipsqueak. At five inches, its screen is so expansive that it’s not clear upon first glance whether this device is a phone. It is. Or at least it can be one: The Dell executive I spoke with at a demo yesterday described the Streak as being “capable of making phone calls.” In other words, Dell sees it as a data device that does voice rather than a phone that does data.

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Technologizer: How to Control Your Facebook Privacy

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By Harry McCracken

If you think the whole Web is suddenly looking more like Facebook, you’re not imagining things. At its developer conference last week, the 800-pound gorilla of social networks made a bevy of announcements — and all the biggies involved intermingling your life as a Facebook user with other activities around the Internet.

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Technologizer: The Secret Origin of Windows

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By Tandy Trower for Technologizer

Few people understand Microsoft better than Tandy Trower, who worked at the company from 1981-2009. Trower was the product manager who ultimately shipped Windows 1.0, an endeavor that some advised him was a path toward a ruined career…Trower recounts the inside story of his experience in transforming Windows from vaporware into a product that has left an unmistakable imprint on the world, 25 years after it was first released.

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Technologizer: Revamped IE 9 Platform

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By Harry McCracken

What’s Microsoft planning for Internet Explorer 9? There’s a lot the company isn’t ready to talk about, including what sort of new features it’ll have and when it’ll be available. But at the MIX10 conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft is telling Web developers about the new capabilities that IE9 will provide, and it’s giving them the ability to get some hands-on experience with them for the first time. (Along with other tech journalists, I was prebriefed late last week.)

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Technologizer: 15 Gadget Ideas Ahead of Their Time

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By Harry McCracken

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” So said legendary tech visionary Alan Kay. He was absolutely correct. But he might have added that inventing the future is anything but a cakewalk. Even though everyone who does it has the luxury of learning from predecessors who tried and failed.

The brightest inventors on the planet keep coming up with ideas that never amount to much–even when they set out to solve real problems, and even when their brainchildren foreshadow later breakthroughs. And professional tech watchers have long proven themselves prone to getting irrationally exuberant about stuff that just isn’t ready for prime time.

Thanks to Google Books’ archives of Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, LIFE, and other magazines that frequently reported on futuristic gizmos, we have a readily accessible record of technology that failed to live up to the initial hype–including random notions that never got off the drawing board, startlingly advanced products that didn’t find a market, and very rough drafts of concepts that eventually became a big deal. The best of them are fascinating, even when it’s not the least bit surprising that they flopped.

Herewith, fifteen inventions–not that all of them ever got built–that were at least a decade ahead of their time. They’re in chronological order, starting with the inspiration that gave this article its title.

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Technologizer: This Dumb Decade -The 87 Lamest Moments in Tech, 2000-2009

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By Harry McCracken

If ever a decade began dumb, it was this one.* When clocks struck midnight on January 1st and the dreaded Y2K bug turned out to be nothing but a mild irritant, it proved once again that the experts often don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.

Which was a relief–and a fitting way to kick off the technological era we’ve lived in ever since. Yes, it’s been an amazing time. But it’s also seen more than its share of misbegotten decisions, bizarre dramas, pointless hype, and lackluster products and technologies–often involving the same people and companies responsible for all the amazing stuff.

So–with a respectful tip of the Technologizer hat to Business 2.0 and Fortune’s 101 Dumbest Moments in Business and, of course, to Esquire’s Dubious Achievement Awards–let’s recap, shall we?

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Technologizer: The State of Windows 7 Satisfaction

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By Harry McCracken

Windows 7 is scarcely more than a month old. Most of the people who will eventually use it haven’t gotten around to trying it yet; those that have are still settling in. And the Win 7 experience will change rapidly as remaining bugs are squashed, missing drivers arrive, and compatibility glitches are ironed out. Even so, it’s not too early to start gauging what real people think of Windows Vista’s replacement.

So to riff on Ronald Reagan’s famous question from his 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter, Are Windows users better off today than they were a few weeks ago, back in the Vista era? We decided to ask the Technologizer community, a group of tech enthusiasts with a high propensity to acquire new operating systems quickly and push them to their limits. Starting on November 16th, we surveyed our readers (and Twitter followers) about their experiences with Windows 7. Our goal: to do a reality check on the mostly favorable initial reviews of the new OS (as well as our own survey of largely enthusiastic Windows 7 beta testers back in March).

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