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Best and worst vintage computer brands in your opinion?

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    #31
    Depended on the PB model. PB did use some very cheap non-standard components so planning on their replacement was necessary. Having to prepare to make sure all components were properly placed in sockets and run the burn-in tests that Packard Bell skipped was another drawback. The cacheless Pentium models were awful. The loss of cache did make them cheaper than other Pentium systems but many 486 systems performed better while costing less.

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      #32
      My only problem with Packard Bell was when I tried to upgrade my P150 model, there were all kinds of obstructions deliberately placed in the case to prevent someone from getting a hand in there to do anything. I had to dremel off several crossmembers before I could do anything inside it. It was like they put the motherboard inside the case and then riveted a bunch of crossmembers in place to prevent you from ever getting it out.

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        #33
        Best "Brands" is not a very good topic as most brands have made good machines and bad machines. But regardless this seems to be more of a Steve Jobs and Packard Bell thread. Here let me comment on the only one of those two talking about.
        Packard Bell was a generic, boring, cheap-O brand. But it because my friend bought one (486) It was the first time I ever got to use a new computer. So in that regard I am nostalgic for it. I still remember us going to Sears to buy it. But I have no illusions it was any good. It was just a "good first computer" for him and most people.

        Steve Wozniak, may you live to be 139 years old. The one true Steve.. In your name Amen.

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          #34
          My first and only OEM machine purchased new was a Packard Bell 286-12 from Sears. The monitor was a crappy .3x dot pitch and the HD was small and slow. After using that a few years I built my own 386DX/40 and built everything since then.

          PB spent a lot of time finding the worst components to build a machine from and in later years stuffed used returns into machines sold as new.
          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

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            #35
            Originally posted by Unknown_K View Post
            PB spent a lot of time finding the worst components to build a machine from and in later years stuffed used returns into machines sold as new.
            wow sounds just like DELL! I was a service tech for Dell for 5 years in the early 2000's. They would give us used return items, make us put them in a refurbished enveloped and install them into customers computers. Most didn't notice, some people were really upset (with good reason).

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              #36
              There's a reason why Commodore and Macintosh repair videos are so popular on YouTube -- because so many of them need repair.

              Meanwhile, computers like Ataris and TRS-80s mostly get ignored, because you can't make a half-hour restoration video about a machine the works perfectly the first time you plug it in and turn it on.

              And at least around here in NJ, Leading Edge was the favored brand of cheap PC clones, not Packard Bell.

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                #37
                Leading Edge was pretty popular around here in Ohio. The thing is you really had 3 different places to buy computers in the 80's and depending on your age and market (home or business) you were presented with different brands.

                For example if you went to Kmart , Hills, Sears, etc you tended to see lots of Commodore, Packard Bell, and Leading edge. Radioshack had the Tandy line and those stores were all over the place. And then you had business class resellers who sold the Compaq, TI, IBM, and HP stuff.

                By the time you got to the 90's mail order was in full swing (Gateway2000, DELL, and millions of others in Computer Shopper) plus electronics places like Bestbuy, Sun, and the local Appliance stores were selling computers plus some small computer shops selling white box machines.
                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


                  #38
                  My thoughts on best and worst change around.....I mostly hang out in the realm of x86 IBM Compatibles, but I've messed with Mac stuff some.

                  First off, my philosophy is there is no "perfect" computer. I've owned over 100 different examples over the last 20 years - Macs, Commodores, IBM Compatibles, Tandy this and that, and they all had some kind of fobile to them. Some like the Commodores I have very limited experience with. Like I said, IBM Compatibles are my mainstay.

                  My thoughts on Macintosh is that they are very solid, very reliable machines. Their achilles heel is three areas - yellowing/brittle plastics, ease of service on the machines, and generally, making it as usable as an x86 IBM Compatible of the same vintage on a mixed platform network like my own. Sure, I could ultrabrite them, but then I run into the problem of taking the darned thing apart, especially early AIO Macs. I spent a long time early on chasing around a super-long star tip driver to get the cases open, only to resort into a really janky McGyver setup using multiple extensions that were thin enough to actually fit in the holes. Then there's the whole CRT issue on those models, if you're not comfortable discharging CRTs - something I've only very recently gotten used to dealing with - they're not something you'll be very comfortable with upgrading the RAM, replacing batteries, doing board level repairs, and even doing something as mundane as replacing the HDD. Then there's the whole functionality standpoint. Network cards, especially PDS and NuBus, are EXPENSIVE. That's why I have a Mac SE FDHD that has yet to see more than a month a year of usage, because when I find an ethernet equipped PDS card, it'll be over $100, I'll need to get some special driver to remove the back, discharge a CRT, and then take the motherboard out to install the card. If it was an IBM based system, I'd be in and out in 5 minutes. Then there's the whole chicken/egg thing with STuffit that I run into every time......Stuffit comes in a SIT file, which needs Stuffit to "expand". If I don't do it with a SIT File, the Resource Forks - more often than not - get boggled up. IBM? I'd just plop the drivers on a Floppy or a Cd-ROM and install them and be done in like....15 minutes, including card install.

                  I've owned a LOT of IBM stuff, tons, PS/2s, PC-330s, I've gotten to work with an on the original PC 5150, and XTs, and ATs. I've even used and worked on their late 90's Aptiva stuff - and the famous ThinkPads - which I even hold current Lenovo models in almost as high a regard. To me, they are the best, but they do have their flaws too. The original PC only has 5 slots and used wider slot covers than the other models. The PS/2s can be a real pain if you have hardware in certain ISA models that does not have ADF files for them - like the Ps/2 Model 30 286 I've had 2 of - which I stuck a Diamond TeleCommander 2300 modem/soundcard into, and my god that thing ran great surfing the web via NetTamer and playing DOS games with sound using that setup. Just an annoying error message. The Ps/2 models of course have the achilles heel of being proprietary and hard to get parts for, especially upgrades like soundcards and network cards, and the parts are often expensive. My ThinkPad 755CD was easily on par with my current NEC Versa P/75, and just like the NEC, the 755CD cracked to pieces but kept working the whole time, and I was not hep to all the various chemical tricks we have learned now. Also, today, IBM is BLOODY EXPENSIVE - back when I got those systems, I was paying $5-30 for them. Now tack an extra zero or two onto those prices.

                  I'm also a HUGE Compaq fan, especially the early Deskpro. But those too are expensive, going for about $200-300 now. But they were probably the most elegant OEM PC design I've ever seen before or since. Modular power cables for all the drives, a set layout for the drives in front, a power supply with a single ribbon, all eight expansion slots, memory cards that were fully 32-bit in the 386 models. I mean, I could run Windows 95 on my 2571 Deskpro 386 - a computer from 1986 that could run an operating system 9 years newer....that's insane good engineering. I also never crashed or hung a Compaq. Heck, the keyboard port was in the front - and being as I was swapping/testing keyboards a lot at the time, those Deskpros were quite handy. Heck, I may still have my Deskpro 286 at my childhood home....not 100% sure though. The Presario CDS models are my second favorite AIO System (next to the IBM EduQuest). And I'd love to own a Compaq laptop, and have toyed with getting one but they are so expensive.

                  NEC is my newest favorite because they are Compaq/IBM quality currently, at 2001-era prices. The 1st generation Versa (Ultralite/E/V/M/P models) are ALMOST as good as an IBM ThinkPad. Their only achilles heel is the plastic and I've figured that out now because I found out the Backing Soda Superglue trick works on NEC's plastic like practical plastic welding. They run as fast as my best IBM systems - like my PC-330 or PS/Valuepoint machines did. I can still get parts for them as easily as you could a ThinkPad or LTE or Toshiba Sattelite/Tecra from the early 90's, and I have yet to hang any of the four I own (40EC, V/50, M/75, P/75) with software at all. They travel well, you can still get batteries, their power consumption is on par with some cheap modern laptops, and the later models have sound. Also, because of the industrial nature of the screens, getting pinouts and figuring out solutions like upgrading or downgrading your panel is an easy proposition, not to forget to mention that ALL color models were Active Matrix except the V-series. I also have a Ready 9522 Desktop, which despite being made by "Packard Bell" - it seems they used far more upscale components. Unlike the Packard Bells I've had, which are finicky about RAM, Hard Disks, and had a CMOS battery that already melted and ate up the Motherboard traces by 1999, the NEC has a Dallas Clock chip, I stuck in Parity RAM (it only takes NP RAM) and it uses the Parity Chips as a part of the regular memory - so I have 136MB in that computer which is insane for a Pentium 100. About the only bad I can say about it is the Alliance Video chipset is anemic (my 486 DX4-100 desktop with an S3 805 2MB VLB or my Versa P or M/75 eat it for lunch in DOOM Frame rates).

                  For 286 and older, if I go OEM, another favorite of mine is Tandy. My first PC was a Tandy 1000 SX in 1997 (yes ninetey-seven, not eighty-seven) - and since then I've owned quite a few Tandy machines and all of them have been so solid even the worst issue like a failed chip, would not kill the system completely enough. Right now I have a Tandy 1000A setup that's just killer - Deluxe Mouse, NEC MultiSync monitor, XT-IDE with a 3GB HDD, and it's a sleeper too (dual Floppies). I'm building game pads and a light pen for it eventually. It's also my favorite box for BBS surfing.

                  The two worst vintage OEM's I've dealt with were a Transitional period Dell 325SX (I got a PC's Limited Branded monochrome VGA monitor with it) and a row of Packard Bell models very popular in East Alabama in the early 90's. And even then, those were not that bad. The #1 problem was that they did not think about where to put the CMOS battery in those machines and so most of them had some ruined traces on the motherboard I either had to bodge back together, or work around with add-in cards. I had one PAckard Bell that lost it's HDD controller due to this, another one that would not POST so I had to hack-in a Zenith motherboard that had the same issue but instead now, the VGA chipset had memory problems. There were a few "Franken-Bells" running around at the time too, like an AST Pentium 60 living in the Dell's LPX case, the Packard Bell Legend 843+ tower with the Zenith motherboard in it that had Ethernet and a replacement ISA SVGA card, or the PBM - A Packard Bell with an IBM PS/Valuepoint board in it. All these had some interesting "redneck mods" to the cases to get the riser cards to fit and work.

                  Comment


                    #39
                    Originally posted by Mad-Mike View Post
                    NEC is my newest favorite because they are Compaq/IBM quality currently, at 2001-era prices. The 1st generation Versa (Ultralite/E/V/M/P models) are ALMOST as good as an IBM ThinkPad. Their only achilles heel is the plastic and I've figured that out now because I found out the Backing Soda Superglue trick works on NEC's plastic like practical plastic welding. They run as fast as my best IBM systems - like my PC-330 or PS/Valuepoint machines did. I can still get parts for them as easily as you could a ThinkPad or LTE or Toshiba Sattelite/Tecra from the early 90's, and I have yet to hang any of the four I own (40EC, V/50, M/75, P/75) with software at all. They travel well, you can still get batteries, their power consumption is on par with some cheap modern laptops, and the later models have sound. Also, because of the industrial nature of the screens, getting pinouts and figuring out solutions like upgrading or downgrading your panel is an easy proposition, not to forget to mention that ALL color models were Active Matrix except the V-series. I also have a Ready 9522 Desktop, which despite being made by "Packard Bell" - it seems they used far more upscale components. Unlike the Packard Bells I've had, which are finicky about RAM, Hard Disks, and had a CMOS battery that already melted and ate up the Motherboard traces by 1999, the NEC has a Dallas Clock chip, I stuck in Parity RAM (it only takes NP RAM) and it uses the Parity Chips as a part of the regular memory - so I have 136MB in that computer which is insane for a Pentium 100. About the only bad I can say about it is the Alliance Video chipset is anemic (my 486 DX4-100 desktop with an S3 805 2MB VLB or my Versa P or M/75 eat it for lunch in DOOM Frame rates).
                    I too have been completely falling in love with the NECs as well (have been interested with the Versas having the IR ports) and outside of build quality, their design is really nice as well! These are such cool computers, although not for $1,300 currently:



                    Maybe someday I'll land just a really nice NEC tower that doesn't have too high of an ask.
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                    My Random Accessed Computer Memories Blog here on VCF!
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                      #40
                      I like IBM also. MCA is a bear of course. But the ISA/PCI lines are pretty solid. Not top of the line performance but extremely well documented. The one downside is that finding replacement OEM parts / expansions is a bit of a challenge in some cases.

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                        #41
                        8-bit era Apple and Rod Canion era Compaq (but I worked there, so I'm biased) are the pinnacle of the best brands for me. In the '90s, Micron made a great Pentium PC. The worst? McNealy era Sun (personal vendetta between Compaq and Sun).

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                          #42
                          I suppose we could add Patriot to the worst brand list. When my wife and I were young and foolish, we bought her a Barbie PC. Like so many, she was seduced by the cute look of the thing, and the promise of a digital camera, which was a joke. That was the absolute worst computer we've ever had - slower than an Altair on Teletype, not a scintilla of reliability. The PSUs on those machines were like 80 year old triple heart attack survivors, at any moment they were ready to pop out. Support was somewhere between zero and zero.

                          To make matters worse, we compounded the mistake by also buying my wife's much younger brother the Hot Wheels version for his birthday.

                          It goes to show you can make complete garbage, but as long as you have the right branding/licensing arrangements it'll sell like hotcakes.

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                            #43
                            Barbie PC repair

                            But it does use an Intel motherboard--just terrible packaging and design.

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                              #44
                              Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
                              Barbie PC repair

                              But it does use an Intel motherboard--just terrible packaging and design.
                              Linus RENTED a Hot Wheels PC not too long ago for WAY too much money, but he's rich and can afford it. I wish I could.

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njwuFgoBMK8

                              Comment


                                #45
                                For me it was the OS that mattered the most. In the case for the early 8-bit computers it was how open they were about the system, so you could get into the guts and make things work. For me the top of the heap was Commodore, Apple, and to a lesser extent Tandy. The absolute worst in this case was TI who didn't give any access to the guts of the system. I wasn't exposed to the IBM side of things until the mid 80s, but didn't really care for DOS.

                                By the end of the 80s I think the top of the heap was Amiga DOS. It didn't matter what I wanted to do, it never got in my way. By this time I had a lot more experience with Unix based systems and the UI was so much better than anything I had used before, even MacOS. By the early 90s I was already using virtual desktops with OLVWM on Sun systems. I didn't have any interest in Microsoft DOS or Windows at the time, even though I was forced to use them at work.

                                In fact I have never owned a Windows computer, I went from Amiga -> MacOS -> Linux and have never looked back. Although I'm still using a Windows laptop at work.

                                Jason

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