After tickling your fancy with the best of our bunch in the Hall of Fame post, in the best interests of BBC-style balance, we felt it was only fair we shared some of our clangers too. It’s with a healthy case of disagreement that I present to you after 25 years the Stone Hall of Shame.
After bolstering our notebook credentials with the acquisition of Rock (a specialist gaming laptop company), we were keen to launch a shiny new portable thing.
15″ somethings were as always popular, so we played it safe and developed the Doceo. Aside from being one of the worst names ever, the device was actually really popular with customers, who loved the performance and the build quality. So why does it make the Hall of Shame? Because it was grotesque. As such, this dual core was destined for the dungeon for crimes committed against the retina.
The D200 was so big it didn’t require internet connectivity, because it was already everywhere. When I joined Stone in 2010, this device was already a little bit infamous internally.
After the overwhelming success of the RM One, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the great and good within Stone wanted a piece of the pie. You can probably see in hindsight why the device ended up the way that it did. When we spoke to schools, they said they liked the RM One ‘cos it was big, tough and difficult to nick. So we decided to make it bigger, tougher and potentially easier to nick owing to a bizarre carry handle. Surely one of the heaviest PCs of the noughties.
The D200 wasn’t inherently a bad device and it certainly had its fans. But there was a limit to how many professional strongmen are willing to accept a day rate to install these colossal cases at a customer’s site. I personally had to help carry these things off a wagon when building our BETT stand in 2011 and I owe it to my chiropractor to mention this monster of a machine.
2008 seemed to be a strange year for devices within Stone and few devices would make a stronger case for an appearance in any Stone Hall of Shame collection than the UMPC.
When I did the rounds speaking to colleagues about this article, some of the most eternally positive people made a plea that it was just “ahead of its time”. These are the same people who always think it’s really going to be England’s year this year during the World Cup.
The specs certainly seem impressive for the era at first glance. It was a netbook (they were just becoming massive) and it had a webcam (huge at that point). All in all it seemed an ideal device to capitalise on the phase 2 development of the web.
It went beyond these safer bets though. It came complete with a giant detachable phone.
Skype was just starting to take off, and again, the logic was probably sound. ‘This big new IP telephony thing is going to be huge, so let’s have a device that students can use to chat and collaborate over Skype’. That’s all well and good, when students actually want to talk to each other. With the development of SMS text messages and MSN messenger and the like a few years earlier, teenagers were loving anything that meant you didn’t have to actually talk to anyone. Communication was now ‘new media’.
One of my colleagues in Purchasing diplomatically described it as “one of those things at BETT when netbooks were just becoming popular.” Enough said.
Cool grey cases
Back in the day, all PCs were beige. When retail started to go black in 2001, product bods at the time were reluctant to make the leap fully from the tried and tested white. It was decided that a safe middle ground of cool grey cases might be just the tonic for cautious edtechers who wanted a taste of the future without going the whole hog.
So Cool Grey, or specifically Pantone reference 420c, began its haunting of Stone’s purchasing team. You can’t deny the colour looked cool. The challenge was in the supply chain. Stone’s component suppliers weren’t so sure about this brave new branding.
“Trying to convince our main CD-ROM partner at the time, LG, to specifically create 25,000 CD-ROMS in a specific colour for a single UK system builder was a challenge to say the least”, recalls Pete Berks, Stone’s longstanding Purchasing Director.
Mark Whitfield, Schools Team Leader, recalls it was a confusing time for customers:
“It was a fashion disaster. We could never get the DVD and the floppy drive to match. They were different colours.”
This meant PCs often hit customer site that were made up of three different colours, which if you were being kind you might say was ‘novel’. I wouldn’t be kind: it made for some monstrous looking systems and therefore makes a fitting end to our celebration of failure over the past 25 years.