Segway announced Tuesday that it would stop the production of its iconic personal transportation namesake less than 20 years after releasing its first model.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

A man had a vision, a vision of a way to improve daily life.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEAN KAMEN: What Henry Ford did in the last century for rural America is what this device will do in the next century for city dwellers.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The man – Dean Kamen, an inventor. The big idea – the Segway. The Segway dream is scheduled to die quietly on July 15, when the brand will retire the last Segway PT.

MCCAMMON: It’s hard to imagine now how much buzz the awkward-looking roving machine once had. Before Segway even had a name, it had a reputation as an exciting secret in 2001. Ahead of its debut, the Segway was known as It or Ginger. Early on, prominent investors and high-tech honchos used words like revolutionary to describe Ginger.

SHAPIRO: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was an enthusiastic investor. Apple’s Steve Jobs predicted it would be bigger than the PC. And Kamen promised revolution.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAMEN: If we’re successful, if enough of these become part of the infrastructure, what will happen is people will start to take back this very, very core of their cities.

SHAPIRO: After lots of hype, Kamen unveiled his dream on “Good Morning America” in December 2001.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”)

KAMEN: This is the world’s first self-balancing human transporter.

SHAPIRO: It looked like a push lawn mower with a place to put your feet. The first reaction by “Good Morning America” host Diane Sawyer was not encouraging, but it was prescient.

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DIANE SAWYER: I’m tempted to say, that’s it?

MCCAMMON: And that was it. Oh, and the price tag was $5,000. In its first year, 100,000 Segways were sold. And in the more than 18 years since, only about 40,000 more. They seem to be useful for police departments, and tour companies liked them, but most of the world shrugged or, worse, laughed.

SHAPIRO: “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart predicted the Segway would do for transportation…

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)

JON STEWART: What the beer hat did for both beer and hats.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: If only.

MCCAMMON: Then-President George W. Bush tried to give it a go but fell off one in June of 2003. By September of that year, others were tumbling off their Segways. Here’s how Michele Norris put it on this program.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MICHELE NORRIS: About 6,000 Segway human transporters are being voluntarily recalled.

MCCAMMON: Not the sort of publicity anybody wants.

SHAPIRO: In 2009, Kamen sold the company to a British businessman. Less than a year later, while riding a Segway, the 62-year-old Brit died when he rode it off a cliff and into a river near his Yorkshire estate.

MCCAMMON: In 2015, a Chinese firm bought Segway, and now they’ve decided to make the vehicle of the future a thing of the past.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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