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back to article Ten technology FAILS

Nokia's N-Gage, Palm's Foleo, Motorola's Atrix, Apple's Newton MessagePad, HD DVD, Sony's Rolly, Sony's Mylo, Philips' CD-i, Commodore's CD-TV, IBM's PCJr, the Camputer's Lynx, Gizmondo, the Phantom, Atari's Jaguar, MySpace, Beenz - behind every iPad there are dozens and dozens of technology products that aspired to greatness …

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FAIL

Business card sized CDROMs

Remember them? Not so much a new tecnology as a novel variation of an existing one. Lots of arty types used them as a combination business card/portfolio to hand out to people. Rendered obsolete and unplayable overnight, with the advent of slot-loading CD/DVD drives.

I think I've still got a box of blank ones somewhere.

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Stop

The Newton was not a technology failure

It was a marketing failure. Apple overpromised and paid the price. That's all. Safe for the very first model, the devices were outstanding. Fast, convenient, incredibly ergonomic and versatile – and built like tanks. Today, they preserve the memory of a time when Apple still tried to push the world forward with visionary technology. If you have ever seen the Knowledge Navigator Clip "Parkbench" you know what I mean. Deeply inspiring stuff.

Here you go:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HntiqyNPtVc

Presently, Samsung will sell you a Galaxy Note which is basically a Newton Message Pad on steroids that does not need an extra cellular card. I don't know whether project Einstein brougth Newton OS to this phone already but it is sure worth a look.

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Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: The Newton was not a technology failure

I beg to disagree. Jimbo seems quite displeased with the performance of its handwriting recognition:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxZJsGuUfew

//one of my favorite Simpsons moments

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Anonymous Coward

you forgot mp3pro

which was killed off by the greedy bastards who bought the licence and thought they can keep control over it. Well, they did, and the format died with them. What was their name, they were kind of big. Until they became irrelevant :)

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UMPC

I am about to take apart my Samsung Q! and remove the hard drive before i give it to the excessive folks at work. while I haven't used it for years, it was a nice little piece of kit for traveling back when I used it. But then it got bogged down with security software to keep the baddies out.

They were ahead of their times, though. Look what's coming out now. Microsoft touch screen fondleslabs. Not much difference except a couple years to further reduce footprint while increasing processing sped.

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Boffin

OpenDoc and Reasons why Symbian was hard to code for #94

The OS that became Symbian had a similar principle; that editors for the core data types could be embedded within each other. But because at the time, the largest system overhead to running multiple processes were the pages (multiples of 32K) of RAM needed for the call stack, meant that an instance of an editor control had to use as little of it as possible. This contributed to a pathological loathing of allocating anything on the stack, which meant you had to allocate on the heap, but without any form of garbage collection, or try/catch blocks, there had to be a mechanism to keep track of all those heap allocations if something threw an exception... Which was the job of the CleanupStack mechanism.

And beyond ER5 nobody ever really made use of the embedding editors paradigm. Everyone HAD to use the CleanupStack.

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UMPC's

Intel x86 UMPC's are still made (or were as of year ago haven't looked since) as I bought a Villiv S5 (with an atom processor) when my Samsung Q1 blew out. They are kinda pricey though, but the only real option when you want a full fledged OS in your pocket.

I wouldn't count them as a Technology Fail like the author did though as they have also mutated into the netbooks, and tablets people love now.

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Silver badge

Re: UMPC's

I'm fairly sure Sony dipped their toes in the UMPC waters... seem to remember one came with a stylus that looked like a guitar plectrum, on a lanyard.

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MS Bob

It was a Windows 3.1 product.

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Facepalm

Zip Drives?

I thought they were gone with the floppy. But no, they're still selling them on Amazon.

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Bronze badge

Re: Zip Drives?

Zip wasn't ubiquitous tech but it wasn't a failure, I'd say. The parallel port drive was very portable between PC's, and zip disks were very reliable. (can't say that for all those click-of-death drives, though)

From a consumer point of view - at the time burning CD's was out of the question for cost reasons, and the only alternative were 1.44 floppies or transporting hard drives - which wasn't very viable option back then. When 250MB models came out the CDRW momentum was gaining ground fast and the 750MB Zip drives were pretty much obsolete when introduced.

I really hoped the 2.88M floppies would at least get a mention on this article...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Zip Drives?

Zip Drives?

Oh yes. Well I remember the unending "click of death", as you waitied for in vain for your data to read back in.

This was during the era when Apple experimented with licensing the MacOS. A mate had one of the clone machines which had a Zip Drive built in, at a time when Apple were still putting floppy drives on their computers. How our minds boggled at the thought of 250MB removable storage built right into the computer.

...and then of course Iomega came out with the Jazz Drive, which was like the Zip but had 2GB storage. I'm not sure if they really existed though. I never saw one in the wild —and found it difficult to believe that a removable medium could exist which stored such a collosal amount of data.

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Silver badge

Re: Zip Drives?

When I was at uni, my zip drive was essential. There was no LAN or net connectivity in dorms, and not enough computer labs for the people who needed em. I could do all my work in my dorm, put it on my massive 100MB Zip, and rock on down to the lab at 2 am, when there was a chance of a seat.

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Re: Zip Drives?

"I really hoped the 2.88M floppies would at least get a mention"

2.88Mb? Pah! The Amiga had 3.5Mb(ish) drives...

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Silver badge

Re: Zip Drives?

Yep, essential as a student, ZIP drives... £70 for the drive. Solid State still too expensive, but its arrival was known to be inevitable. MiniDisc player in bag. A year into the design course and Apple release some £600 portable audio device, that wouldn't work with PCs.

I never had the click of death, but the Win2000 (pre SP1) campus machines had an entertaining feature- they would wipe your Zip disk and copy on to the entire contents of the disk the last user had used in the machine. Bizarre.

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FAIL

Re: Zip Drives?

I've just remembered that, while at university in 2001, I once took my housemate's Zip drive and 5 disks as payment instead of cash for a month's rent (I think).

I never found a use for it.

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(Written by Reg staff)

PointCast rocked

PointCast rocked. In about 1997 I worked for a small business where we each had dialup internet. It was frowned upon to stay online all day, as doing so was expensive. PointCast made it possible to suck down a decent lot of content and access it without needing to be online.

I think it's also worth mentioning in the context of FlipBoard, a product that surely owes some inspiration to PointCast.

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Bronze badge
Holmes

I want to say that PDAs were NOT a failure and they are NOT forgotten

However, it would appear that I am wrong, certainly on the forgotten count, insofar as no one has made any comment about them. Anyway, I certainly remember my Palm-based PDA as a major success that changed my life, and I still miss it.

On the point of failure, I think the PDAs were actually induced to commit suicide, which ought to count as a form of murder. There were various factors in their disappearance, but I think the main culprit was Microsoft, which had (and apparently retains) delusions of success in small-form-factor devices. What my PDA did was excellent, but NOT the same things that my computer did. However, Microsoft managed to start an imaginary arms race to create a computerish PDA. Did Palm walk into the trap? Or did Microsoft's advertising cloud basically force them down the path to their destruction?

Guess it doesn't matter. The economic losses were chump change to Microsoft, though they were probably larger than Palm's total profits over the length of it's existence. (Just to clarify, my good PDA was a Sony CLIE, and I still haven't forgiven Sony for dumping it. I also had one or two non-Palm PDAs, and they were not good.)

Hmm... I just got email that says I'm a "bronze" user with more editing options, but I don't see them anywhere that's obvious... Am I supposed to embed the HTML directly in the comment?

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Re: I want to say that PDAs were NOT a failure and they are NOT forgotten

Sony clies. amazing devices. well before there time. I really wish sony would get the old clie team back together and make an android clie. like the nz90, but up to date, and with android. dear god, i think i need to lie down...

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Push Technology

Don't forget active Desktop.

And now Not-Metro tiles.

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Anonymous Coward

OpenDoc

That whole multiple docs in one. It's very nice actually. You can do some useful things and it save you time. Caligra/Koffice does this, AFAIK. It's the underlying concept of the suite. It's not vendor agnostic though. I'm sure there are other suites out there with similar functionality.

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Anonymous Coward

PointCast and the great bubble

PointCast's real value was that it built an aggregate of top-quality content and delivered it with a slick and addictive interface. There were tools for customizing the look and building those beautiful advertisements. PointCast knew that "push" would die with fast Internet. The software was undergoing aggressive modernization to be ready for a world of highly scalable Java servers producing content for web browsers. All the tech and bright minds were there. The problem was that the leaders wanted to PointCast become a portal ruler too fast; becoming a risk to any company it partnered with. New CEO David Dorman was no inspiration. All software development halted while engineers and product managers waited for the a direction to become clear. The big corporate secrets were not what was being developed, but what WASN'T being developed. Small partnering contracts that could have grown to be HUGE were neglected and violated. IdeaLab bought PointCast and took in investment money even though the company had long been idle and the product pipeline destroyed. Employees were given some token projects to work on, some game consoles, and told that they could hang out until they found a new job.

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Bronze badge

UMPC's rule!

Netbooks are a bit limp after you've played with a core based one of these...

where else can you run VM's on a hardware accelerated 4" screen.... if only my UX1 had a capacitive screen it would be awesometastic!

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The eleventh one

Caps Lock USAGE at El REG.

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Trollface

Bob's interface

Was far better than W8's is now!

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Digital Compact Cassette - another Philips failure

Excepting the CD-DA, Philips really knew how to make rubbish technology, and the Digital Compact Cassette was a doozy. Launched in 1992 and finally killed in 1996, it managed to take a number of audio-equipment companies down who'd believed in Philips' siren call.

The best thing about it was to make it backwards compatible, right up to the point that your ten-year old cassette shed oxide over the pristine thin-film head.

Oh, and it had Teletext-style graphics along with a similar refresh speed, which one of my bosses got very excited about. Mind you, he reckoned Philips's CDi was cute, as well ..

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What about D-VHS?

In the dying days of VHS JVC produced a huge, horrendously expensive gold-coulored (IIRC) digital vhs player.

Same size tapes (massive) but full digital encode.

Completely failed to make any consumer impact. Not surprisingly.

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"Intel quickly figured that people really wanted laptops that were cheaper and more portable than those then available, and devised first the netbook..."

Wait wasn't that Asus's little baby???

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PDAs

I was using a Palm right up until the moment I got an iPhone - my kit was iPod, Palm IV & Nokia 8810 (I'm not a big photographer). Worked perfectly well - in fact better in some ways because while it was sometimes a pain ensuring contacts between phone & PDA were synched, I didn't have to worry about changing one permission somewhere and suddenly seeing stuff appearing on some piece of social media that I don't want appearing. Not that this has happened, but I'm a worrier.

I also quite like the idea of OpenDocs, and don't see why, with yer new-fangled coding and super-stripped down apps, that it couldn't still have some legs at some point. It's not like the tech industry doesn't recycle old ideas in new ways or anything.

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Law
WTF?

Google Now

"constantly tracked its user’s activities, learning and eventually anticipating what they wanted to get up to - in short to be the digital equivalent of a PA."

Screw Siri - this is exactly what Google Now is doing, and successfully....

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Silver badge

Re: Google Now

You're right, this is what Google Now is doing. However, unlike a PA, Google Now is doing this in order to show me even more highly targeted ads. Normally, PAs don't do that.

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Bod

Webtop

Early days yet I'd say. Death of the desktop PC is near even if they're way more powerful than the tablets that will kill them off. Something needs to replace the desktop to do the bigger apps, photo & video editing, development, etc.

Once the broadband speeds meet the requirements, and the clients (tablet, set top box, smart tv etc) have the video processing grunt), then all the apps in the cloud, cloud OS, and desktops replaced. Once the performance is there, and it will happen, then it's the end of ever having the pain of installing software. At least locally.

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Bronze badge
Coffee/keyboard

Re: Webtop

Early days yet I'd say. Death of the desktop PC is near even if they're way more powerful than the tablets that will kill them off. Something needs to replace the desktop to do the bigger apps, photo & video editing, development, etc.

Once the broadband speeds meet the requirements, and the clients (tablet, set top box, smart tv etc) have the video processing grunt), then all the apps in the cloud, cloud OS, and desktops replaced. Once the performance is there, and it will happen, then it's the end of ever having the pain of installing software. At least locally.

Hey, dude, watch it there, will ya? I damn' near drowned in that snake oil, man.

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It's good to reminisce past hysteria. Keeps me cynical!

from http://www.jimpinto.com/

"eNews August 10, 2001

Update : Dean Kamen's 'IT' (or, Ginger)

You might remember the introduction of Dean Kamen's 'IT' or Ginger (eNews January 17 & 27, 2001) - a mysterious new invention that had attracted significant venture financing and attention in the press. A half-year later, several people have asked : Where is Kamen's IT now? Does Ginger have a name? What is IT? Can I see a picture?

Well, it seems that IT (or Ginger) is still a mystery. Passionate interest in Kamen's forthcoming project, thought by some to be "a new transportation device so revolutionary that it will force urban planners to redesign cities in its wake", has made him one of the most watched scientists on the planet.

At the other extreme, there are those who balk at the outrageous claims ("personal transportation vehicle destined to change the world"; "entire cities will require re-thinking to accommodate the power of this monumental breakthrough"; "the invention without comparison since man learned to use tools") and they think that Kamen is just a modern day "Robin Hood", taking from the rich and giving to the poor (Kamen does a lot of work with kids). At best, they suggest that he is simply getting funding from fat corporations and naive investors, to keep himself in helicopters, yachts or whatever.

The vast audience of the Internet loves sleuthing, so if you're intrigued, you might like to review all the discussions and guesswork. A lot of websites have mushroomed up over the past year. Some have pictures (spoofs) of IT, and you can even find movies of IT operating!

If you DO discover what IT is, please let me know! "

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Paris Hilton

Re: Dean Kamen's 'IT'

And it ultimately killed him. All that's left behind are gangs of Star-Wars-looking security guards at airports driving their Segways whilst on their walkie-talkies. At least in Schiphol anyway.

Paris because she also likes to hold a pole with two round things at its base.

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Paris Hilton

Before Second Life - Active Worlds

I remember what I think was one of the earliest attempts at creating virtusl worlds online, in 1996. It was called Active Worlds, and I got a job to setup a licenced server running a virtual world for the Swedish Federation of Worker's Unions ( "L.O." in swedish ) The idea was to give a free account to each of the members - about a million of them nationwide..

Well.. ..I built the initial world, and there were like three people in there or so,. not a million. One of them was really skilled in building and very active. When I felt it was time to bow out I asked him ( we had daily chats in there for several months ) if he wanted to take over the role of the admin. He dropped dead silent for a minute, then he typed "I have to ask mummy first"... ...it turned out he was 10 years old! I had been there with him for months assuming he was a Union member in his 20's or so.

After that, I never used Active Worlds, but I know they had an online community giong on. Maybe they eventually transformed into Second Life ? If anybody else remember them let me know,

Technology fail it was. Indeed,

Paris icon because I felt so stupid, just like she must feel everyday.

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Plays for Crap

Never understood what Microsoft was trying to say with their "Plays For Sure" nonsense. I have yet to see an MP3 that didn't play on ANYTHING capable of playing MP3s. Oh wait, this was yet another lock-in scheme to get people to use their crappy WMA format? Figures.

(Still it's amusing to think of people sitting in front of their computers with beads of sweat pouring down their face, worried that the MP3 they just downloaded might not "play for sure." Microsoft marketing to the rescue!)

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Anonymous Coward

What a long article just to take a dig at Google

But agreed. Chrome OS is useless.

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Coat

SL

I was surprised to see SL covered without mentioning furry penises..

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FAIL

BOB

Now

Can I make windows 8 tiles look like BOB.

come to think of it, is/ was BOB the beta release of windows 8..

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FAIL

10 years of foreseeing the end of Second Life; 10 years FAILING to prophetize the end

Ironically, high-brow journalists, technologists, critical thinkers and all the cultural elite of our planet are constantly debunking false prophets who routinely claim that the "end is near" and that they should pay for "salvation" — this started hundreds of years before Jesus Christ (who was also a prophet-of-the-end-of times), and it still goes on.

The intellectuals laugh at them all the time and make fun of them publicly. And it's generally agreed that those prophets are to be scorned, despised, and, of course, totally ignored.

When a *journalist* prophesizes the end of Second Life, however, reality is suspended. Suddenly, and only in this special case, myths are able to be spread, intermingled with lies, defamation, and utter nonsense and absolute ignorance about reality. And what for? Because, like end-of-times prophets have found out long ago — people are willing to PAY for it. Mm hmm. Articles about the end of Second Life pay well. So well, in fact, that journalists have been making money out of it for a decade. And, very likely, will continue to do so.

Nevertheless, unlike other kinds of religious prophets, journalists engaging in mythological believes proclaiming the end of Second Life are acclaimed by the "we told you so" community. A community who is willing to read the story over and over again, and continue to do so for endless years. In 2053 journalists will still print stories about the end of Second Life, and their audience will nod in agreement, saying "yes, yes, we have been saying that all along for forty years. It's true. Second Life is doomed to fail, we always knew that."

Now you know why end-of-time prophets are still around. Their story still sells.

Sorry to disappoint you, but, like all myths, that one is not true. Not only is Second Life still around, but its company, Linden Lab, turns over some 100 million USD annually, and Second Life is an economy that shuffles around 0.7 billion USD annually, in a virtual world of 31 million registered users, of which a million use it routinely. Many commenters remember the days when their own companies were hosting conferences and meetings in Second Life. At that time — half a decade ago! — Second Life was about a fifth of the size of what it is now, in population, virtual land size, and, most important, in its economy.

So everybody left Second Life at the completely wrong time — "it grew and grew", as the old Monty Python song for "The Life of Brian" goes — but there were no journalists left to watch the growth.

Utterly amazing.

Now, there is something that "ended" in Second Life, and, to a degree, I'm happy that it happened. Second Life "ended" being a mainstream product. That's the simple, plain fact. It's not for everybody. It's not for the masses. It's not for clueless companies and organisations who have no idea what to do with it. Instead, it's a niche product, addressed for a very specific market, and a highly lucrative one. So what "failed" in Second Life was the belief that it could appeal to the mass market and become mainstream. But that was never its intended purpose. It was just what journalists and marketeers thought it would be. They just created a myth — a strawman, if you prefer — and when their created myth broke apart, they lamented its demise.

Niche markets are lucrative markets. Look at Adobe's Photoshop. It's not a mass-market product. Did Adobe "fail"? No, because they couldn't care less if their products are mainstream or not; what they care is to look at the balance at the end of the month. The same applies to AutoDesk, Oracle, and the gazillions of companies addressing niche markets. Rolex doesn't manufacture mainstream watches, but that never stopped them to be lucrative and successful. In fact, one might argue that niche markets are "the" thing to invest, because they shuffle a lot of money, have relatively little competition, and a very tight, happy user base.

It's not just "people" who continue to use Second Life (several thousands of them for lucrative purposes). There are also organisations — anything that requires simulation and training can be handled there very easily at a fraction of the cost of developing it on different platforms. Again, one might say that all these organisations are just niche markets — and yes, that would be quite correct. So it's not surprising to see Coca-Cola — a mainstream brand — failing inside a niche market. Suppose that Coca-Cola started to sponsor Adobe Photoshop plugins. Would they succeed?

So, good, honest journalists, who shun religious end-of-times prophets, should abstain from doing the same mistakes, curb their rethoric, do some homework, and ask themselves: what did fail in Second Life? Ah, so people promised it would once displace Facebook, and that failed? Right. Correct. Who were "those people"? Other journalists and marketeers. Aaaaaah. So does that mean that people predicting ludicrous, impossible futures for Second Life have all failed? Yeppers, because Second Life was none of what those people have predicted.

So that's why no matter how often we predict the end of Second Life, it refuses to die, but continues to grow a bit every year? Yes indeed. Because you're predicting the end of a Second Life that never existed: a Second Life for mainstream users. Instead, it's a platform for a niche market for elite users, who have no patience for mainstream products … and are willing to spend time, and, more importantly, money in that niche market.

Try to get your facts right. Or you should be despised, shunned, and laughed at like the next prophet predicting that the world will end in Dec. 20, 2012, hit by planet Nibiru. It's on its way now, you know, only a few weeks are left... this is the last chance to publish a few articles about it!

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Linux

I feel fucking old...... with vauge recollections of amazing shit that barely happened.

Ohhhhh the HUGE lazer disk.....

Ummm what?

DVD's

Enormous HDD's and then the Blu Ray that was "blown away" by the astronomical pricing, lack of content and high cost of blank disks.....

Another Sony and the rest of the DRM nazies fuck ups.

An epic failure that promised so much and then fizzed out......

And the romances of cyber sex in second life.....

Ummm what?

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