Terrible tech: 11 great ideas that just don't work

Flying Car
This can only end badly...

We love tech, but we don't love it unconditionally - and it doesn't always love us back, either. Tech can fight us rather than delight us, confuse rather than amuse, be destructive when we need it to be productive. Sometimes that's because of bad design, sometimes because of bad users, and sometimes because it was just a really bad idea in the first place. These are a few of our least favourite things. What are yours?

1. Kinect


There's a reason Microsoft went back on many of its decision about Kinect

Microsoft's Kinect sensor is the stuff of sci-fi, but unfortunately we mean sci-fi of the dystopian, nothing-bloody-works variety. It ignores our kids, it gets confused by dogs, it struggles in small rooms and it's a pretty awful way to control your Sky HD box.

How to fix it: Give it Cortana.

2. Captchas

Captchas are the little boxes with barely legible text that are designed to frustrate spambots and ticket scalping bots, but as each new generation gets cracked they become harder and harder for humans to decipher. Ticketmaster's current captchas are essentially Rorschach blots.

How to fix it: sites could use puzzles, simple arithmetic, SMS verification… there's no shortage of alternatives.

3. Glossy screens


Always remember: what looks good in the store might not work at home

We're writing this on a typically dull British day, and we're doing it with the blinds down and a blanket running from the top of our head to the top of our PC. The glossy screens that looked so bright and deep and gorgeous in the shop reflect so much light that if we try to log on at lunchtime, we're blinded until mid-afternoon. Moving around to find a dark corner is all well and good, but that's not much fun with a 27" iMac or on a busy train.

How to fix it: Invest in a matte monitor or, if cash is tight, a matte screen protector.

4. Smartphones

Smartphones seem to be good at everything but the phone bit: we've lost count of the number of times even short calls have become extended games of telephone tennis as calls drop or go silent for no good reason after just a few words. The main culprit is usually mobile phone coverage.

How to fix it: change provider, use voice over Wi-Fi apps or get hold of a Sure Signal, which connects to your router and delivers strong indoor 3G.

5. Windows RT

Windows RT

Windows OS are always hit and miss. RT was definitely a miss

For consumers Windows RT was a confusing mess, a Windows that didn't run Windows programs and whose predicted armies of low-cost tablets didn't appear. Of the few manufacturers that could be bothered launching RT devices, most of them had bailed out by last summer. The RT-packing Surface 2 is better than its predecessor, but that's better in the sense that death by shooting is better than death by boiling.

How to fix it: buy something running Windows 8.1. Or buy an iPad. Ha!

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.