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Twitter pays tribute to TwitterPeek – the retro gadget nobody wanted

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There are a lot of questions about Twitter’s future now that Elon Musk has finally bought the company and named himself CEO. But far from fears of relaxed standards, paywalls and other fees, some fondly remember a time when a brave tech company thought Twitter was big enough to justify its own mobile device.

Today’s tweeters are rediscovering the much-mocked gem that is the TwitterPeek, a mobile device designed solely for Twittering – yes, really. Have you ever bought one? Nobody else either. But some are now suggesting that Musk is resurrecting the device (for more nostalgic delights, check out our pick of the best retro games consoles).

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For anyone wondering what happened to Musk’s takeover of Twitter, it’s worth remembering that the social media platform of few words was once considered so important that it received its own mobile equipment. In September 2009, New York-based Peek Inc launched what it billed as the “world’s first Twitter-only device”. We suspect it was also the last.

TwitterPeek was a handset with a full QWERTY keyboard and a 2.7-inch by 4-inch color screen. With contract-free wireless coverage, it allowed users to send and receive tweets and direct messages, follow accounts, and view images sent through Twitpic. It looked a bit like a Blackberry phone… but with only one function.

Twitter had a lot of fun rediscovering the ill-fated retro gem after user @RetroTechDreams job (opens in a new tab) on this subject. “Sounds like a gag,” one person tweeted. “Don’t give Elon Musk ideas,” one person wrote. “I have a feeling that mainstream Twitter material will be making a comeback soon,” someone added.

Many want to know if the device’s claimed “lifetime access” still works (spoiler: it doesn’t. Some people who bought the devices confirm that they are now unusable). Even Musk himself got involved. “Little did we know this was also Twitter’s peak,” he wrote.

Why did TwitterPeek fail?

While there’s sometimes room for simple, specialized devices that only do one job well, that wasn’t the case with TwitterPeek. The company had previously had moderate success with an older email-only device, and it saw Twitter as warranting similar treatment, despite regular phones already offering access to social media.

But TwitterPeek’s biggest flaw was that it didn’t even do its job very well. It was slow and the screen only showed the first three words of each tweet, so you had to click to open each message. You couldn’t open links and you could only see certain images. It could also only save ten of the latest tweets.

The reviews were ruthless. The Telegraph was confused, asking “What is the purpose of TwitterPeek?”, while Gizmodo’s was devastating. “TwitterPeek is so dumb it hurts my brain,” was its headline.

Peek persevered, adding more social media and news features to its next offering, the Peek 9 in 2010, including Facebook. But by then, Blackberry was already testing social apps for phones that…well, that could also be used as phones. Although Peek promised “lifetime access”, it ended support for its devices in 2012.

Twitter loves some of the other retro treats posted by the same account, from Microsoft’s Clippy skins to X-Files Winamp skins. If you’re finding inspiration for your own ideas, be sure to check out our selection of the best free retro fonts.

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