The :CueCat was barcode scanner that you could plug into the keyboard port of a normal PC. They were distributed with Wired magazine – the intent being that you could scan a barcode in the magazine and your Web browsers would navigate to a relevant page automatically.
One day in 2000 in the HelpShare fishbowl, Luke Meyers discovered the :CueCat (and its pending distribution) on Slashdot. We thought the magazine application was lame and set about to invent something better to do with them. I was particularly obssessed because I thought that these cool devices were going to disposed of by the millions in a few weeks unless we could come up with a better use for them.
The best I could come up with was Teralist, a community created UPC database. This was before the days of the Amazon API, but I coded up a web site where you could scan books and CDs and build a personal library. In fact, you could scan anything with a barcode, and add it to the database.
The site had a top 10 list, with #1 labeled “Scandaddy.” Luke, Larry, and I would compete each night to scan one more jar of peanut butter or CD to stay in the lead. It actually made for a fun game, because you were sometimes unsure if the barcode was going to be found in the database, or if you would have to enter the description yourself.
I remember thinking hard about the business model for this app (providing access from cell phones, generating shopping lists, etc.). Teralist was hosted out of the closet in my apartment, on my DSL line. Ultimately its downfall was that I moved away, lent the computer to someone, and didn’t have the time or money to host it propperly.