Valentine's Day isn't a bed of pink roses for everyone. All those treacly greeting cards, chocolate hearts, teddy bears and balloons only serve to remind some of us of our own stupid heartbreaks. Can't we just move on to Arbor Day or some other holiday that doesn't feel quite so judgmental?
It's not just humans who stomp on our hearts, though -- we've all fallen in love with some gadget, website, streaming show or other bit of tempting technology only to be left disappointed by its broken promises. Read on to see which tech and science has left Team CNET downtrodden and questioning our undying love.
Pining for the old MoviePass
When I first discovered MoviePass, I thought we'd be together forever. It was perfect. The film subscription service promised to let me watch as many movies as I wanted for the cost of less than one ticket a month. Boring Sunday afternoon? MoviePass. Late weekday night? MoviePass. The latest minor superhero movie you knew would suck but whatever? MoviePass. I started watching several movies a week and finding myself weirdly proud to run out of titles to see at theaters.
Sure, I was needy. I wanted MoviePass to be available at all times. I was exactly the kind of user the company was hoping not to attract -- the one who'd watch anything, anytime, instead of casually remembering my card's existence every few weeks.
You probably know the story. Things got messy. I could no longer watch the same movie more than once. Surge pricing entered the scene. It just wasn't the same service I'd fallen in love with.
How are things now? I still have my card, but I barely use it anymore, because MoviePass only offers very specific movies, and they're often at inconvenient times. "There are no more screenings at this theater today" has become its go-to answer, and I've just given up and started going on movie dates without it.
Still, I refuse to let it go. I have some unreasonable hope things will change and go back to what they once were. MoviePass didn't respond to a request for comment, but at this point, I doubt it's gonna happen and my friends insist I should forget about it.
But we could be so happy together...
-- Marta Franco, San Francisco
Hoping (and hoping) for hyperloop
It's been over half a decade since
promised us a "cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table." The insane new transit concept would shoot us to our destinations at supersonic speeds like so many bank deposits launched from the drive-up lane to a smiling teller on the other side of the window.
Alas, here we are knocking on the door of the 2020s and Musk's "hyperloop" remains a distant fantasy.
Yes, there are significant efforts to make the futuristic tech a reality with the help of no less than Richard Branson and Musk himself. The Branson-backed
Hyperloop One says its technology will be "passenger-ready" in the mid-2020s and Musk's Boring Company has already started digging out a potential future hyperloop station in Washington, DC.
But the going is slow, few are the full-scale tests and proofs of concept, and many are the distractions swirling around Musk and others.
We may finally have remarkable reusable rockets and electric cars with capabilities straight out of Knight Rider, but it seems my heart will pine forever for the 40-minute hyperloop ride from Albuquerque to Denver that never quite arrives.
-- Eric Mack, Taos, New Mexico
Singing a sad Songkick
I love live music. One of my favorite things is to descend into a dive bar and see a noisy new band. But first you've got to find them. Fortunately, I thought technology had solved that problem -- until the solution was cruelly snatched away.
When I wanted to check out a gig or discover a new band, I'd open live music discovery service Songkick and see who was playing in town that night. To see what those unfamiliar bands actually sounded like, I'd have to hop over to music streaming app
and paste in each name to try out their music. It was a bit of a chore, frankly.
Then in 2011, joy of joys! Spotify introduced third-party plugins. Songkick was one of these new apps, which meant that I could both discover gigs and listen to the actual bands right there in Spotify's player. Seamless! I seriously cannot tell you how much this combination plugged directly into my music-addled brain.
Even better, Songkick could be set to show gigs wherever you were, so whenever I traveled to a new city I could just open Spotify and fire up the Songkick plugin to hear all the bands playing that night. All within seconds and a couple of clicks, no copying and pasting or switching apps required. I loved it so much.
It was this feature that took me to an East Berlin bar to see various old-school punk bands competing to be the loudest and fastest. It was this feature that took me to a club in Stockholm to see an electro-disco act play to the drunkest crowd I've ever seen. Perfection.
And then Spotify ditched plugins.
I was back to switching between apps, copying and pasting band names. This isn't the end of the world, but it's a disaster compared with the sweet nectar of my favorite music services seamlessly and lovingly integrated.
Spotify and Songkick, you broke my heart.
-- Richard Trenholm, London
Game Boy, always in my heart
Game Boy was the one I wanted, the one I craved. The one that got away.
I was 9 years old when I first laid eyes on the handheld gaming console. I loved everything about it. The shape of its body, three sharp corners, and one curved. The way it blinked to life the moment you clicked the game cartridge into place. The way its tiny 2.6-inch screen and 160x144-pixel resolution pulled me into a world I didn't know, a window to its black-and-white gamer soul.
But even at such a tender age, I already knew Game Boy would never be mine. My parents valued theater and books over
, going to the park over being cloistered indoors. And if I really needed an activity on road trips, well, that's what my imagination was for.
My parents' disapproval, the fact they'd never let us be together, didn't stop me from sneaking out to spend time with Game Boy whenever I could. Friends and cousins would sometimes take pity on me, handing over their
to give me a turn. I was all thumbs, and it showed. In Super Mario Land, I jumped when Mario jumped. In Tetris, I leaned right and left while positioning my pieces. It was only a matter of minutes before I invariably hit a poisoned mushroom or stacked my Tetriminos too high, and died.
Little did my well-meaning parents know I was destined to write about technology and that gaming could be a respectable career path all its own. So much time has passed, and we've both moved on, me to
, you, Game Boy, to the annals of history. But Game Boy, I've never forgotten you.
-- Jessica Dolcourt, San Francisco
The Beginning (and End) of Everything on Amazon
I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and although he bailed on us as a young man, the city won't let you forget him. When I was 9 we moved to the suburb of White Bear Lake, and every day my school bus chugged past the White Bear Yacht Club, where Scott and his famous wife Zelda lived during the summer of 1921, and possibly the place where he first thought of The Great Gatsby.
Someone told me as a kid that Scott and Zelda were kicked out for dancing on the tables, and the yacht club's own site says the couple "proved to be too rambunctious and were encouraged to relocate." On bland late '70s-early '80s mornings, I used to stare into the trees that shielded the club from the road, trying to imagine those flapper and Art Deco days.
So in 2015, when Amazon released the first season of Z: The Beginning of Everything, its biographical series about Zelda Fitzgerald starring Christina Ricci, I sucked down the 10 episodes as fast as Zelda pounded gin. And though The New York Times sneered that the series made the lively Fitzgeralds seem "as drab as dishwater," I loved it. Ricci was an inspired choice for Zelda -- you're never quite sure what she'll do next. And the 1920s literary and social setting felt like a smart, comforting antidote to the Kardashians or The Real Housewives of Wherevertheheck.
I shouldn't have been surprised when the show was rudely canceled after just one season, even though season 2 was already in pre-production. I'd hoped that since Amazon was its own production giant free from network restrictions, there might be time for Zelda and Scott to live on. Their lives certainly had the drama for it. But then again, not living up to expectations is nothing new to the Fitzgeralds. They've been kicked out of better places than this.
-- Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, Seattle
Digg-ing a hole in my heart
Way back in the late 2000s, Digg was a vital cog in the internet machine. Reddit was still a fledgling site with a small but rabid user base, Facebook had yet to become a behemoth and YouTube was still largely the domain of Annoying Oranges and double rainbows (all the way). Somewhere, there's an alternate universe where Digg didn't end up digging its own grave with a revamp that's since become notorious as one of the worst decisions a site ever made.
In this universe, Digg didn't take power away from users and give it to publishers in hopes of making more money. It didn't remove the downvote button, and it didn't make it difficult to find new or rising content. It also didn't make a bunch of structural changes that had implications beyond what users thought.
But we inhabit this universe, and though we've all moved on and managed to survive in a post-Digg world, for an all-too-brief moment, it was a great hub for exploring the far reaches of the web before algorithms, paid manipulation and state-backed bot armies entered the scene. And the fact that it redesigned itself into near-oblivion is cause for heartbreak enough. (Let's not even get started on Digg Reader…)
You were a gift when you came into my life, back when you were new in town -- easy on the eyes, perfect when I held you. You made me laugh and cry. You had so many great stories to tell.
Sure, sometimes things felt a little off. We'd have trouble getting on the same page. You could be a little flighty, if I'm being honest here. And you had this weird habit of telling me how many people liked a certain thing you said. It was like they were always intruding on our private moments.
But, well, I just never got over my first love -- the way we'd meet in bookstores and libraries, the history we shared, the notes I'd write in the margins.
Ours was a marriage of convenience, Kindle. Fun while it lasted, but my heart is elsewhere.
-- Jon Skillings, Boston
Crying over Cassini
I cried over a spacecraft like I was watching Rutger Hauer's final speech in Blade Runner. NASA's Saturn-exploring Cassini mission took a swanning death dive into the ringed planet's atmosphere in September 2017 and I haven't felt the same since.
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. A snowman etched into the north pole of Enceladus. I watched propellers glitter in the rings of Saturn. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Except those moments won't be lost. Cassini spent 13 years in orbit around Saturn and turned its adventurer's eyes on the planet's strange and wonderful moons. We'll always have the Death Star moon Mimas, Titan's mysterious disappearing island and a lasting legacy of science gifted to us by a spacecraft that died in the name of exploration and curiosity. I miss you, Cassini, but it was a quest worth taking.
-- Amanda Kooser, Albuquerque, New Mexico
You're letting me down, TV sci-fi
It's the new Golden Age of Television, so why do modern sci-fi shows suck? I say this having just finished rewatching (and recapping, in podcast form) the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, which aired from 2003-2009 and is arguably the best sci-fi show ever created. I say this having just shared all 14 precious episodes of Firefly with my teenage son. Pure gold.
The budgets are obviously there; some of these shows look movie-quality. Discovery's season 2 opener was as visually stunning as anything I've seen on TV. Too bad the second episode was a dull, recycled return to the show's dull, disappointing form.
I don't ask much from my sci-fi. I want characters I like (or, better, love); plots that don't feel forced or recycled or flat-out brain-dead (I'm looking at you, Lost in Space); and something I haven't already seen a dozen times.
Thankfully, there are a few shows that deliver. Black Mirror continues to serve spectacular (if disturbing) visions of the future. Netflix show Maniac was trippy and twisty in a delightful way. And if you haven't seen Travelers (which Netflix just canceled, sadly), you're missing out on the best sci-fi series in a long time. It's a totally fresh take on time travel that's smartly scripted and populated with characters you can't help but love.
I think that's where most modern sci-fi falls flat. It goes by the numbers, serving up lavish effects or labyrinthian plots (cough, Westworld, cough) but failing to create characters we want to root for. I couldn't connect with The Expanse because I couldn't connect with the characters. So pay attention, showrunners: Make me laugh, make me cry, make me feel something. Everything you need to know can be found in four seasons of Battlestar Galactica and 14 episodes of Firefly.
-- Rick Broida, Detroit
I wanted to love you, UMPC
I've always wanted one portable device that could be anything and everything I needed. I had a Palm PDA, a Handspring Visor with stowaway keyboard and awfully heavy laptops. I was so excited for the introduction of the Ultramobile PC, aka UMPC.
It was a full Windows machine you could carry with you in your pocket (assuming you had large pockets).The device I wanted for years was real. Then I read about the reality of my dream machine. It had high prices and slow performance with the added bonus of lousy battery life.
Thanks to that awful combination, the product category didn't last long in this world. These days, phones have become super advanced. But let's face it -- they can't fully replace laptops or desktops just yet. One day the perfect pocketable PC will appear, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
-- Iyaz Akhtar, New York
Streaming music, a love/hate thing
As a music geek growing up in the '80s and straight through to adulthood, I've spent countless hours in record shops. Whether it was a mall store like Sam Goody or Camelot when I was a kid or the small independent shops I frequented after I could drive, it didn't matter: I was there to explore, and I loved every minute of it.
Then one day, it was all gone. It wasn't overnight, of course, but it feels that way all the same.
MP3s dealt the first blow, but even as I amassed gigabytes of digital music, I still found myself combing the record shops around New York. And then one by one, shops big and small disappeared.
Once streaming services took hold, though, it was all over. Even people who once paid for music, whether digital or physical media, stopped buying music and started renting it from Spotify and the like.
Don't get me wrong: Streaming services are great, especially when it comes to music discovery. But nothing will ever replace the feel of finding that one album by a forgotten band in the cut-out bin at your local record shop.
-- Josh Goldman, New York
Apple's eWorld, the one that got away
Way before Google, Bing and even Yahoo, Apple had eWorld. The easy-to use community included everything from email to message boards to descriptions of the few websites that existed in the mid '90s when the web was just starting to take shape. Apple's attempt to compete with AOL only lasted from 1994 to 1996, but it made a big impact on me as a budding techie and journalist.
Right out of college in 1995-1996, I worked as an editor on the InGuide section of eWorld, which cataloged websites that fell under entertainment, education, technology, news, sports, kids' content, lifestyle and gaming. I made sure users could find the best sites on the web at the time.
While it was exciting to do what felt like groundbreaking work at the time, I was sad to see that eWorld never really fully caught on with the tech-hungry public. AOL already had a huge reach -- remember getting AOL CDs in the mail every week? We never got to see eWorld grow or turn into the vast community it was envisioned to be. And AOL never felt like a close-knit village like Apple's eWorld strived for.
So in the end, it seemed like everyone lost out on what could have been.
-- Bonnie Burton, Los Angeles
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