We were promised jetpacks. We got Segways instead.
Well, we didn’t get Segways. Nobody did. At least nobody other than mall cops, tour groups, and techies. Okay, and ironic polo players. But in any case, it’s fair to say that Segway hasn’t exactly been “to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy,” like its founder Dean Kamen said it would. It hasn’t even been to the moped what the moped was to the horse and buggy. Or what the bicycle was. It’s just been a (sometimes morbid) punchline. And one that’s almost too impossible to believe. Did you know that Kamen thought he’d need an around-the-clock factory churning out 10,000 Segways a week to meet initial demand? It’s true. It’s also true that he only needed to make 10 a week to do so.
This wasn’t just self-delusion. It was mass delusion. Back in 2001, Steve Jobs thought Segway could be as big as personal computers. The venture capitalist behind Amazon thought it could be bigger than the internet. The entire internet. The only reasonable explanation for all this hype was that neither of them had actually seen someone ride a Segway. Because, as Y Combinator’s Paul Graham puts it, you can’t ride a Segway without looking like a “smug dork.” And people generally try to avoid looking like that. They won’t use something so inherently ridiculous, no matter how technically impressive it might be.
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