How It Was Supposed To Change The World:
No recent product in the last 50 years got the kind of hype the Segway did prior to release. Even though it's little more than a fancy scooter, the first people to lay eyes on it thought it was the second coming of Jesus. Sweet, scooter Jesus.
The buzz started well before the majority of people had even seen a Segway. In early 2001, word started to spread about an invention that would change the world. Journalist Steve Kemper fanned the flames of hype in his 2002 book, Code Name Ginger, which told the story of the development of the Segway and inventor Dean Kamen's attempts to get investors for their miracle invention.
And get them he did. The venture capitalist John Doerr said it was "as big as the Internet" and Apple honcho Steve Jobs said it was "as big a deal as the PC." Presumably both men, when showed a cigarette lighter, bowed down and declared it to be "our fiery overlord."
So whatever its quality as a transportation device, one thing was certain: the Segway could totally make smart people say stupid things.
How It Didn't Change Shit:
There were a lot of reasons the Segway failed to set the world on fire. For one, it's a fucking scooter. And not even cool like a Razor scooter. It's the Razor scooter's fat, anime-loving cousin. After months of being prepared for a revolution in transportation, the public was a little disappointed when the Segway turned out to be a podium on wheels instead of something cool, like rocket boots.
Oh, and it cost as much as a used car. And it was almost impossible to use it without looking like a complete asshole.
Kamen wasn't going to let his dream die just because people thought it was epic scale gay. As he said, "it's an alternative to walking. We can't let them call us a scooter." There was just one problem: Almost everyone called it a scooter. Consequently, it was illegal in many countries in the world to use a Segway on public streets or sidewalks for the first several years of the invention's existence.
Kamen sold a few, mostly to police departments and hilariously chubby mall cops, but in the end the Segway turned out to be one more thing that didn't live up to the hype. But at least it didn't make you shit your pants.
Is There Any Hope?
The good people at Segway are nothing if not persistent in their desire to make your lazy ass ride their little scooter. Since its massive flop on arrival, laws have been changed allowing the use of Segways in 43 states with several others having local regulations to allow them. Sweden and Denmark also recently overturned laws that prohibited the use of Segways.
As of March of 2009, 50,000 Segways had been shipped, a number they'd initially planned to reach back in 2003. So, hell, maybe by the year 2200 upwards of one in five people will be on a Segway. The rest of them will be getting laid.
Now check out the lucky bastards these inventors are envious of, in 5 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World. Or check out some stuff we only think we invented, in 11 "Modern" Technologies That Are Way Older Than You Think.
And visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see some totally rad, new Transformers we invented out of the ones (all of them) that Bucholz broke.