As many electricians know all too well, technology moves exceptionally quickly, and there is a need not only to adapt to what is successful now but what might become necessary for an electrician to install in the future.
Most recently, we have seen this with the rise of the electric vehicle charging station, an effective necessity for anyone who wants to run an increasingly popular electric car.
By contrast, some homes feature the relics of technologies that almost were and perhaps should have been, but ultimately were not. Either due to competition, a poor launch or an inability to translate a promising technology into a long-term product.
Probably the first technology that comes to mind when people think of electrical technologies that ultimately failed, Sony’s Betamax video tape technology was a classic example of how what people will decide is the best option is not always based on factors people expect.
It was part of the infamous Format War with VHS tapes, which were bulkier and lower quality, but were also much cheaper and allowed for longer recording times.
Whilst Betamax was seen to be the better format (although exactly how much better is still a matter of debate), VHS was the format that ended up in every home, and Betamax is still a by-word for failed alternate technologies such as DIVX and HD-DVD.
A great example of a repeat offender when it comes to potential electrical technologies that fail again and again, virtual reality has a consistent cycle, and many people who have installed VR technology have done so more than once.
There is the initial wave of promise, where the primitive and expensive but highly impressive early forms of the technology are bought by early adopters who also serve as evangelists to try and get more experience and accessories made to improve the experience and fix certain fundamental issues.
This cost puts off other people, who wait until the technology gets cheaper or buy lower-cost alternatives that prove to be unimpressive. The poor-quality technology ends up shifting the perception of VR, which loses its popularity, and the expensive goggles and wires end up languishing in a box.
Whether it is Virtuality, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, the Virtual Boy or the many other failed VR technologies, VR seems up to this point destined to languish in a void of what could have been, with people living in hope for the next time that could be different.
There are two stories surrounding General Motors’ exceptionally forward-thinking EV1 electric car. Both state that the car was ultimately a failure, but the difference is in the reason why.
The first story comes from GM themselves, who simply claim that it was a glorified concept car leased out to a few test markets that were cancelled and recalled after California’s regulations were ultimately dropped, with all but a small number of stragglers crushed to meet regulations.
The alternative story is that it was a deliberate act of sabotage, given that the EV1 proved that a capable, practical electric car could indeed be made that felt like an actual car, and the recall set the electric car industry back at least a decade.
The truth may never be known, but a car that still provokes such fierce debate two decades after its discontinuation makes it one of the greatest what-could-have-been stories in the history of electricals.