Greetings. And welcome to. The Old PC Yard.
There are. Bzzzzt . Numerous. Failures in PC history. We’ve isolated the. Worst 16. Around.
We are certain that a smart human such as yourself. Will. Have strong opinions on this list. If TRUE, then replay in. Comments. If FALSE, have a. Nice day.
Initiating countdown module in 5…4…3…2…
16. IBM PCjr (1984): Nicknamed the Peanut, the PCjr was surprisingly expensive given its similarities to the Commodore 64 and Atari systems. It came in two models—a 64KB 4860-004 at $670 and a 128KB 4860-067 at $1270. Each offered color CGW graphics, a 4.77MHz Intel 8088 proc, wireless keyboard, lightpen port, two ROM cartridge slots, two joystick ports, and full PC compatibility. Critics universally panned the chiclet-style keyboard, and gamers maintained their loyalty to the Apple II.
15. Mac Portable (1989): With a hinged black and white active matrix LCD screen, a removable trackball for a mouse, expandable SRAM, a fairly speedy boot from sleep mode, a SCSI mode that allowed it to be used as a hard drive, video out, and a low-power 16MHz Motorola 68HC000, Apple’s very first portable computer was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it was neither light in weight (16.5 pounds) nor a commercial success.
14. Commodore Plus/4 (1984): Commodore released like 2,000 computers in about 5 years time. That’s baffling. The Plus/4 was a home computer with a built-in software suite—word processor, spreadsheet, database, and graphs. It had 64kb of memory, a MOS 8501 proc, and a pretty snazzy-looking chassis. Unfortunately, Commodore 64 fans called it the Minus 60. ‘Nuff said.
13. GateWay Destination (1996): Gateway’s $4,000 PCTV was ahead of its time, so much so that it never really sold that well. The system came with a set of surround speakers, a tuner card, and a 36” 640 x 480 CRT monitor. We take the HTPC for granted today, but in an era where Windows was still fairly crash-prone, a home theater slash computer made no sense at all.
12. IBM PS/2 (1987): How ya’ gonna’ do it? PS/2 It! Or not. The Personal System/2 was IBM’s failed attempt to regain control of the clone market via a closed, proprietary architecture. IBM originally intended for OS/2 (get it?) to be the OS, but at the time of release, it wasn’t ready. Consumers balked en masse at IBM’s evil empire play. But the system introduced several important new standards, including Micro Channel Architecture, the PS/2 interface, VGA connectors, and 3.5” floppies.
11. Sinclair QL (1984): The QL in the name was short for quantum leap, and with a Motorola 68008, 128KB of memory (expandable to 640KB), LAN ports, two built-in ZX Microdrive tape cartridges, and a built-in multi-tasking OS named QDOS, it certainly seemed advance. Unfortunately, the Sinclair QL shipped five months late and was buggy enough to doom it to failure…FOREVER.
10. Apple III (1980): It was essentially an Apple II designed for the business crowd, and was powered by an 8-bit 1.8MHz SynterTek 6502A processor. It also had 16-color high-res graphics, an 80-column display with upper AND lowercase characters, and a numeric keypad. All of this cost between $5,000 to $7,000, making it outrageously expensive and wildly unpopular.
9. Go L Mach L 3.8 (never released): We’re ashamed to admit that Maximum PC got suckered into the hype around Liebermann Inc’s PC-on-steroids. The company promised outrageous speeds and features that went way beyond the state of the art in 2003, including 5.0GHz systems, five-screen displays, outrageous cooling schemes, Solid State Drives, and data throughput speeds of 8GB/s. The company went out of business in 2004, having never shipped a single product.
8. Apple Lisa (1983): In the words of The Arnold, Apple’s first crack at a GUI-based business computer was one ugly muthableep. It was, however, a powerful machine for its time, with a 5MHz 68000 CPU, 1MB RAM, two 5.25-inch drives, a hard drive, and a paper calculator. Unfortunately, it cost $10,000. Success: denied.
7. Commodore 128 (1985): If you’re a way-back Commodore geek, you were probably excited about the Commodore 128. It sported 128KB of memory, an 80-column display, and two dedicated processors—a 2 MHz 8502 and a Zilog Z80. (They didn’t work in tandem.) A dedicated C64 mode ensured 100% compatibility. Ultimately, however, the masses didn’t want a low-cost, business-oriented machine. We wanted games, awesome music, and great graphics. We wanted the Amiga.
6. Osborne Executive (1982): Adam Osborne’s self-named 1980 portable sold surprisingly well. The Osborne Executive? Not so much. As legend has it, the Executive played a direct role in shutting down Osborne Computers. Once it was announced, computer retailers immediately began cancelling orders for the Osborne 1. The company declared bankruptcy later in 1983. Forever after, the Obsorne effect would refer to a company obsolescing an existing product by pre-hyping the successor.
5. NeXT Computer (1988): Based on the Motorola’s new 25MHz 68030 CPU and including 8MB-64MB of RAM, a 330MB hard drive and an 1120x832 grayscale display, Steve Jobs’ NeXT station cost $10,000 a pop. It was inaccessible to most and didn’t sell very well. Despite its limited commercial success, NeXT played a pivotal role in history. Tim Berners-Lee used a NeXT Computer at CERN as the world’s first web server. And much of the Mac OS X environment is built on OPENSTEP’s foundation.
4. Atari Falcon (1992): Technically named the Falcon030, the final computer Atari Corp produced embodied the disarray that must have existed at the company during its final years. A 32-bit 68030 CPU in a 16-bit data bus? FAIL. Well, at least it had a Motorola DSP56000. Atari canceled the Falcon in 1993 to focus on the, ahem, Jaguar. Ahem.
3. Coleco Adam (1983): Released in time for the holidays in 1983, the Adam was plagued with issues. Defective tape drives, an electromagnetic surge on startup that was capable of nullifying tapes or discs left in the system, and a power supply that was located in the printer. Hey, at least it played Colecovision games. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much else. Returns killed the company, and even a newer Adam that cost less and offered a $500 scholarship for kids couldn’t compensate.
2. Power Mac G4 Cube (2000): Measuring 8 cubic inches and suspended in an acrylic enclosure—bah, pretty G4 Cube and pretty G4 fanboys make Hulk mad. Critics agreed—most argued that it was too expensive, didn’t include a display, and worst of all, had a “manufacturing issue” that led to cracks in the fancy, newfangled case. We’ll say no more.
1. Babbage’s Difference Engine (1822): Like so many other computer makers on this list, Charles Babbage was ahead of his time. WAY ahead. Unfortunately, high costs prevented the mathematician from realizing his dream of building a steam-powered mechanical machine that could compute values of polynomial functions. The London Science Museum did realize his dream, however. In 1991, using some of the original parts, scientists completed a working version of the difference engine.