A-T Technology Death Pool

MSN Direct Marks The SPOT

Just think this resolution used to be high tech

It’s Going To Be A Cold Memorial Day Apparently

[image from Wikipedia.org]


In our world technology moves very quickly. It doesn’t take to long for a good idea to come and go in the blink of an eye. That item then looks  horribly out of date in less then a decade from release.The future according to Bill Gates wasn’t on a phone or on your computer. It was going to be sent to you over the air.





It seems like Microsoft may have finally squashed this bug

MSN Direct’s Logo With The Ever Present Butterfly

[image from Wikipedia.org]


Now this is hard to believe but there was a time before smartphones. Yes I know this is hard to understand but it is the truth. It wasn’t even that long ago according to our calendar. It was in a dark time known as 2004 that Bill Gates envisioned a future full of devices that lived all around you feeding you little snippets of information constantly.  You could see the weather, news, stock information, receive MSN Messenger messages, and even look at your Outlook calendar.

It a was a future full of Microsoft products. The world would be surrounded by watches that look like Dick Tracy TV watches. We would have coffee makers that could tell you the weather. A refrigerator that would tell you what’s on your Outlook calendar for the day.



Really I understand what I am looking at here. Would I lie to my readers?

Direct Band Spectrum


The system would transmit the date through FM radio signals with transmitters piggybacked onto existing broadcasting hardware. Given the backing of the Microsoft CEO who considered this as his pet project the future looked good for this.

The reality was that MSN Direct only lasted from 2004 until January 2012 when the system was finally shut down. Due to issue with users of the watches being unwilling to pay $60 a year for this service as well as retail shops not knowing how to sell the equipment.  Add in that there was a limited service area that was usually only close to large cities and you can see the reluctance of even early adopters.

A lot of well known companies jumped onboard with Microsoft such as Fossil, Melitta, and Oregon Scientific but in the end the service just never got a foot hold.  In 2011 Microsoft announced that the data stream being shut off and the dream died.  The last gaps for MSN Direct was it being used for traffic information in GPS units.


Watch cost $729, Geek Cred priceless

Tissot High-T MSN Direct Watch

[image from watchreport.com]



I was one of those early adopters who believed in this technology. It was a time when the smartphone was just starting to gain traction with the Palm Treo’s and early Blackberry’s. Until the iPhone arrived in 2006 your options for constant information when you were out and about were slim. In the following days I am going to cover some of the MSN Direct hardware and likely learn I am not the only reader of Atomic Toasters to own some of it.

  • PowerTryp

    I had no idea anything like this existed (probably because Canada). I look forward to learning about a technology that could have been revolutionary.

    • fodder650

      I need to go find the old maps but I thought it had been available in a couple Canadian markets. Still that was awhile ago and I may be smoking crack.

  • Well, if this stuff went live in 2004 you can figure development started in 1999 or 2000, maybe 2002 at the latest. In 1999 PDAs were cutting edge, so I can see why this might have seemed like a good idea.

    I was in the cell phone industry in 2000. I was with Mitsubishi wireless, we had a PDA phone on the market, but didn't sell many. I think we sold more demo models to AT&T than we sold actual phones, every AT&T store got a demo model. At the time the thing was cutting edge. My engineering contribution to it was to use stick on wheel weights to give it heft instead of a custom cut piece of zinc, saved about $10/phone.
    <img src="http://www.beststuff.com/images/articles/101100e3.jpg"width=500&gt;

    • fodder650

      Some of the PDA phones did work though. I remember people who had Palm TREO's that thought they were the greatest piece of technology ever created.

    • OA5599

      When AT&T swallowed my previous phone company and made me switch to a TDMA phone, I got stuck with one of those Mitsubishi phones above. It isn't the only reason I left AT&T after number portability was introduced, but it was certainly a factor.