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Best and worst vintage computer brands in your opinion?

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    Best and worst vintage computer brands in your opinion?

    Hi there, I am new to this forum, so feel free to welcome me!

    Anyways, to my question. Over your computer-using lifetime, what PC brands have stood out as your personal favorite and least favorite, in terms of ease of use/reliability/etc? For the record, I'm 22 (around the same age as the computer in my username), so a bit younger than most folks on here, but I do admire old tech, computers especially. I'll start with my picks for the best and worst

    Best for me would be Apple (after Steve Jobs' return), thanks to obvious reasons such as elegant, simple designs with performance well ahead of most of the industry.

    Worst however, would be Packard Bell. I don't really have any experience with them, but everyone I know that did have experience, hated them. Many of you may recall that around 1996, this company was sued for incorporating used parts inside their machines and not disclosing that fact, thus leading to NEC acquiring Packard Bell and eventually withdrawing the name from North American shores. Speaking of which, you can still buy a Packard Bell computer in Europe, right?

    Now, you all can chime in and let me know your favorite and least favorite vintage computer brands!

    #2
    My favorites were the compact Macs, partly because I used a couple of them extensively myself, but also because these systems were the basis of the desktop publishing 'revolution'. Producing full-color magazine spreads on a 9 inch black and white monitor might seem a challenge, but was actually a real delight to do.

    Least favorites are harder because there's quite a few of them, starting with the BBC Micro, which was overhyped and overpriced, and ending in Mitac-branded PCs, which were very poorly built, and would shred your fingers when it was necessary to open them up, because the metal chassis parts were rough-edged, very sharp, and often interference-fitted together so would come apart unexpectedly. They were cheap.

    I was not a big fan of many of Apple's products from the era of Steve Jobs' return, though the G3 iMac was a well executed design that deserved to set trends - and harked back to his idea of 'computing as an appliance' from the early Mac days. A lot of computers from those days were rather forgettable however!

    Comment


      #3
      My favorites were actually the no-name clones. Of course, there was both low and high quality no-name gear. But typically it seemed like the big name brands usually tried to cut corners, have wacky proprietary designs, or build in dumb stuff I didn't want.

      Personally I liked the typical ERSO style XT clone motherboards. They were usually no-nonsense and worked well. The "baby" 286 and 386 motherboards could usually be found with decent quality. I liked the typical bulky AT style clone desktop and tower cases, as well as the later XT form cases that visually looked more like AT case style. Monographics, CGA/EGA/VGA clone cards often offered more compatiblity, flexibility, or speed as they were often sold as upgrades to the name brand machines. Buy a power supply by itself, and it was likely to be higher quality, simply because buyers were actually looking directly at the quality and there was plenty of competition.

      Comment


        #4
        Favorites:

        - Radio Shack TRS-80 Models III/IV, CoCo I/II/III
        - Zenith Data Systems (8088 to 386 models) Used these in the Marine Corps in the 80's and 90's. They were unstoppable tanks!
        - DEC (still miss my DEC HiNote 486 laptop)
        - Compaq Portables (the "Lunchbox" variety)
        - HP business class machines
        - IBM Thinkpad laptops
        - Early Alienware desktops - man they were expensive but oh so yummy

        Least Favorite:

        - eMachines (you looked at these things in the wrong way and they would belch problems)
        - Monorail all-in-one (cool design but horrible screens and a PITA to upgrade ... I still want one though!)
        - Anything with a PC-Chips motherboard in them, ugh.

        Honorable Mention:

        Packard Bell - These poor computers got a bad rep. I worked on many in my PC store tech years. These were sold at big box retailers so many of your average Joe's would buy these and screw them up beyond all recognition (viruses, installing every piece of crap shareware they could get their hands on, etc..) The only thing I didn't like about them was the cheap plastic used everywhere.
        Last edited by kc8eyt; March 28, 2021, 10:55 AM.

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          #5
          Best? I still favour SWTPC. They never forgot the hobbyists who brung em.

          Worst? NIC. What was Larry Ellison smoking?

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by AndyO View Post
            My favorites were the compact Macs, partly because I used a couple of them extensively myself, but also because these systems were the basis of the desktop publishing 'revolution'. Producing full-color magazine spreads on a 9 inch black and white monitor might seem a challenge, but was actually a real delight to do.
            Contrarian opinion: the original 128K floppy MAC. Although it was revolutionary, it was very expensive, incapable, and basically unusable except as a toy. As a technical writer, I still remember my manager (a BIG booster of the Mac) swearing all of the time as the bomb appeared on the screen wiping out all his work while he was trying to do "real" documentation with it. I joked that the bomb would cause a screen burn. It actually did!

            Apple was completely clueless about making the machine expandable into something usable.

            To be fair, Windows (up to about Windows 3.11) was also an amazing "toy" IMO. And I bought and used Windows 1 and the $120 mouse.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Slob View Post
              Contrarian opinion: the original 128K floppy MAC. Although it was revolutionary, it was very expensive, incapable, and basically unusable except as a toy. As a technical writer, I still remember my manager (a BIG booster of the Mac) swearing all of the time as the bomb appeared on the screen wiping out all his work while he was trying to do "real" documentation with it. I joked that the bomb would cause a screen burn. It actually did!

              Apple was completely clueless about making the machine expandable into something usable.

              To be fair, Windows (up to about Windows 3.11) was also an amazing "toy" IMO. And I bought and used Windows 1 and the $120 mouse.
              I agree the original Mac was kind of useless because of the price of RAM limited it too much and the 400K floppy didn't help things either.

              You can say the original 64K IBM PC was useless as well but it had expansion for much more RAM and DOS isn't as RAM hungry as a GUI based OS.
              What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
              Nubus/ISA/VLB/MCA/EISA cards of all types
              Boxed apps and games for the above systems
              Analog video capture cards/software and complete systems

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by Slob View Post
                Apple was completely clueless about making the machine expandable into something usable.
                The 128K Mac was severely memory starved, but the 512K expansion remedied that (I had my 128K Mac expanded in some dark office in Pasadena). Most other limitations at that point were software, and that area was pretty vibrant on the Mac. Early MacWrite was not a high end word processor. It was a great technology demo, however.

                I did software development on a 512K Mac with 2 400K floppies, it was fine. It was better when the 800K floppies came out. The Mac Plus was at a real sweet spot with 1MB and a 20MB SCSI drive.

                Mind, if you wanted a color screen, larger monitor, the Compact Macs were not for you. The Mac II fixed that.

                A lot was learned with the early Macs, and we'd all be worse off if it hadn't been tried.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Slob View Post
                  Contrarian opinion: the original 128K floppy MAC. ...
                  I can't argue with that. I arrived as Fat Mac models were replacing the 2 128K Macs in the college so I never used them, but I did hear quite a lot about them from the users who had suffered them.

                  My first was a Mac Plus, and my personal was an SE, so I didn't suffer the memory limitations personally - I may not think of them so fondly if I had!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    The good computer PC brands were Gateway, Everex, Northgate, HP, and some of the high end clones.

                    Worst were Packard Bell, Leading Edge.
                    What I collect: 68K/Early PPC Mac, DOS/Win 3.1 era machines, Amiga/ST, C64/128
                    Nubus/ISA/VLB/MCA/EISA cards of all types
                    Boxed apps and games for the above systems
                    Analog video capture cards/software and complete systems

                    Comment


                      #11
                      For me good brands have been IBM (duh), Dell, and above all Gateway/Gateway2000.

                      Worst would probably be newer HPs (anything beyond like 199 and those crappy generic ones you find occasionally that look like they were built by a computer store.

                      Also shoutout to E-Machines. Way better PCs that you'd think for the price!!!

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Unknown_K View Post
                        The good computer PC brands were Gateway, Everex, Northgate, HP, and some of the high end clones.

                        Worst were Packard Bell, Leading Edge.
                        Oh yeah! Bleeding Edge! Forgot about those. I want to update my naughty list with these as well.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          My first "IBM Compatible" was a soldered-up board and a LINEAR power supply (the only kind I could make at the time) in a wooden box made by my grandfather! But our experiences at work were like this: HP: Overpriced and comparability issues. Gateway: Lots of bang for your buck and good enough quality. They were the first mfr IMO who could sell you a computer better and cheaper than you could build yourself. Dell: Very good, especially the mechanical aspects. Zenith: Also very well made, unusual with a passive backplane construction. We stayed away from PS/2 Microchannel. I know of only one system that I worked on that really used the full potential of Microchannel based design, and that was a 1990's videoconferencing system "bridge", a rackmount box with about 15 cards in it, loaded with FPGA's that cost about 200K including licensing.

                          I remember Packard Bells and Leading Edges because I cut myself on them a lot

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by AndyO View Post
                            I can't argue with that. I arrived as Fat Mac models were replacing the 2 128K Macs in the college so I never used them, but I did hear quite a lot about them from the users who had suffered them.

                            My first was a Mac Plus, and my personal was an SE, so I didn't suffer the memory limitations personally - I may not think of them so fondly if I had!
                            Well, I lost my aversion to Macs because I'm writing this on one! But that gave me a long-lasting bad impression. I wonder if the 21st Century Steve Jobs would have let the 1984 128K Mac out the door. Maybe there were insurmountable financial pressures. But I do recall Apple saying at the time, "it's not expandable, because it's all that you need". Just. Wow.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              My favorites have always been Compaq, IBM for desktops, and I've always loved Toshiba notebooks.

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