There are two definitions relevant here. In the most commonly used sense, vaporware is a product not
delivered on time but still publicized. Some argue that large companies such as Microsoft create
vaporware strategically to eliminate competition; a company is less likely to continue work on a
project if a big company is going to debut their own version of it.
While many credit Charles Babbage with developing the first computer, it's important to note that he
never completed a working prototype of his Analytical
Engine. In this sense, Babbage earns the dubious honor of being the first developer of
"vaporware," since he never actually produced an "Analytical Engine" or "Difference Engine," despite
resigning from an eminent professorship at Cambridge to work on the project full-time. Babbage took
up an incredible amount of resources from the British government for his work, but produced very
So in one sense, vaporware is the oldest and noblest tradition in computing.