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The 25 Greatest PCs of All Time 207

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the where's-my-compaq dept.
theodp writes "As the IBM PC turns 25, the editors of PC World present their list of The 25 Greatest PCs of All Time (IBM & others) and the rationale behind their picks. What, no IMSAI 8080?" And my favorite compaq luggable is missing too. Clearly this subjective and arbitrary list is subjective and arbitrary!
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The 25 Greatest PCs of All Time

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  • Oh No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Devv (992734) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:39PM (#15899158)
    I wish that webpage with the article didn't have links with weird ads. On one hand I can see this is interesting but really, what are they measuring? It's very hard to say just that these are the best. I don't like this type of articles just listing top xx of everything listable. Maybe it's just me.
  • sponsor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:40PM (#15899164) Homepage
    Let me guess... Toshiba sponsored this article?
  • WTH? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NetNinja (469346) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:43PM (#15899179)
    The Commodore 64!
    The Amiga 500!
  • Re:Oh No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by andrewman327 (635952) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:45PM (#15899186) Homepage Journal
    Like most of us here probably do, I disagree with some of the selections. The 2006 Toshiba is a strange choice, as there are plenty of media computers out there and I fail to see how this one is so revolutionary.


    If I wanted random lists of stuff I would visit Listable [listible.com]. On the other hand, I see this as a guide to some of the best computers with the reasons that they are great. I have never considered PC World the last word on technology.

  • by payndz (589033) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:50PM (#15899206)
    If the list is just 'personal computers' in the most general and literal sense rather than the generally accepted 'Wintel/IBM PC-compatibles' definition, then I'd also like to nominate:

    Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K
    Psion Series 5

    And yes, I am British. What gave it away? :p
  • IBM PC not #1? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BTWR (540147) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [3robignacirema]> on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:52PM (#15899216) Homepage Journal
    In the 80s, Apples and Commodore's were popular, but the IBM PC was one that truly brought the "modern" pc to all houses. Only middle/uppermiddle class and above bought a "computer" back then, but it was the IBM-PC (and later, the "100% compatibles") that truly brought PCs to every household...
  • Re:WTH? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plover (150551) * on Sunday August 13, 2006 @04:07PM (#15899276) Homepage Journal
    They listed the Amiga 1000, which was the first generation of Amiga, and was truly a novel machine. Everything from the multitasking OS to the custom graphics chipsets was new.

    The 500, while still a cool box, wasn't a great technological leap forward. It was merely a mass-marketing-wrapped version of the 1000. (And Commodore poorly mass-marketed it!) As the easter egg [eeggs.com] hidden inside one of the later versions of Workbench said: "We made Amiga, they [Commodore] f*cked it up".

    If they wanted to glorify Commodore in this list, a better representation might have been the Pet. That was probably the pinnacle of Commodore's technological achievements.

  • by Keith Russell (4440) <keith DOT russell AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 13, 2006 @04:31PM (#15899345) Journal

    No Commodore 8-bits, even though they reached critical mass in the United States. No Sinclairs, even though they reached critical mass in the UK. But a 6-month old Toshiba makes the list because it has an HD-DVD drive that almost nobody can use today?

    Yeah, I agree with another poster: This Top 25 list was brought to you by Toshiba.

  • by topical_surfactant (906185) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @04:50PM (#15899418)
    Many people who have read this wonder why the Commodore 64 and the VIC 20 were cut out. I think that the biggest excuse the authors may use is that those two machines were not breakthroughs in technology, but breakthroughs in affordability. I still believe that this is an incomplete argument though, especially in light of the huge popularity of the 64 and the resulting massive available software and reference rag libraries. In the United States, the 64 jump-started the home computing craze by being flexible enough to be a do-it-all machine: productivity suites, games and scientific tools were all available.

    A friend who used to work at Lockheed told me how they once developed a communications bus that worked on the 64's parallel port and allowed the computers to be used as a multi-node supercomputer. They used the rig to calculate "safe" trajectories and orientations for a stealth fighter jet when flying through hostile radar zones. They bought the machines at Toys R Us.
  • Atari 800! Yay! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @05:13PM (#15899490)

    I learned everything on that little guy. Kyan Pascal. Deep Blue C. Action! (a C-like language tight enough to write side scrolling shooters in) Atari Basic and later a version of BASIC that would compile to machine code for decent speed (QuickBASIC???). 6502 assembler. Even FORTRAN and Forth.

    Christ on a cracker, I feel old. :(

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @05:52PM (#15899612)
    "Apple ][? iMac? Kaypro? TRS-80? Half these things aren't even PCs, because a PC is by definition IBM-compatible."

    I would have modded this -.5 Naieve instead of Troll. Oh well.

    In the olden days, what we call PCs were called IBM Clones. Everything else was called PC in some form or another. (As memory serves, it was usually spelled out as 'personal computer'.) Over time, x86 machines took over and marketshares for everything else were in the single digits. The term PC, by de-facto, became 'a Windows machine using an Intel or AMD processor'. I'm not saying the definition was/is super-strict, (Linux boxes have been called PCs, for example...) but when you see mags like PC Gamer, you start building a new impression of what PC commonly refers to.

    What parent poster is saying isn't totally false. We've all heard of Mac vs. 'PC' debates. I don't think the current generation is as aware of why the PC distinction took place originally. Back in the olden days, a computer occupied a huge room and only the gov't or big corps had them. Maybe I'm being a little dramatic here, but the reason my definition of PC changed was because I've been reading a lot of Asimov. His stories were rather vague about people having their own computers, but there was always some big major computer (Multivac) that everything was centralized to. It wasn't until.. what.. the 70's until people actually had significant computing power in their homes.

    I think we should cut the guy a little slack. It probably would have been a little clearer if the title had said Personal Computers instead of PCs. (Though I'll grant that his post was superficially nitpicky.)
  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by srw (38421) * on Sunday August 13, 2006 @06:04PM (#15899656) Homepage
    My understanding, and I would love an authoritative source on the matter, is that Ed Roberts was the first to use the term "Personal Computer" to describe the Altair. So "personal computer" predates the "IBM Personal Computer" by six years.

    As the article states, there is plenty of debate over whether the Altair was the first personal computer, but most of that debate isn't arguing whether or not an earlier computer was called a "personal computer" but rather whether or not it took the role of a personal computer. (i.e. a computer used by a single person)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 13, 2006 @06:10PM (#15899676)
    Come on people let's see your lists, and please give a short reason why you choose each, eh.

        For me (a Canadian) I have to say that the PET 2001, Atari 400, Amiga 500, and Sinclair ZX81 had the biggest infulence on me at home; at collage it was the DEC Rainbow, Apple II, and then the IBM compatables; at university is was all Mac, i386's, and Digital UNIX boxes.

          1. Sinclair ZX81 / Timex 1000 - Cheapest computer I could buy.
          2. Commodore P.E.T. 2001 - My first computer that didn't feel like a toy.
          3. Atari 400 - Felt like a toy, but it did colour! Did more than the Vic-20.
          4. Amiga 500 - Games with beautiful sound.
          5. Apple II - These were everywhere in school.
          6. DEC Rainbow - These were both stand alone and networked, did CP/M and DOS.
          7. i386's - Wow I can compile Borland Pascal in seconds, not minutes.
          8. Mac - Pretty display... but how do I run my own code.
          9. Digital - You can do what... over several clients... with UNIX - wow!
        10. i486 - A cheap UNIX box by using Linux (0.87)!

    --
    Peace and Long Life,
    KnightFire
  • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday August 13, 2006 @06:26PM (#15899722) Homepage Journal
    ...I bet that no matter how much people disagree with my personal picks, more people will at least comprehend why I picked them, unlike the original article's list!


    1. Ok, I have to admit the Apple II was cool for its time. If you plugged in enough cards, it could even fry an egg on the back of the case.
    2. The Commodore PET 3032 was at least as impressive, and even came with bullet-proof steel armour plating.
    3. The ZX-81 was powerful enough to be used in robotics and was one of the smallest computers ever built.
    4. Commodore's Amiga had one of the most amazing colour graphics systems of the time. It even had some support for parallel processing, as you could plug in additional processors in the back.
    5. The BBC Micro Model B had far more sophisticated I/O than any machine of its age (and is rarely equalled to this day) and supported both multiple processors and parallel memory banks in upper memory. Some of the earliest LAN party games were developed for this machine.
    6. Acorn's Archimedes wasn't spectacular, but had a damn good pre-emptive OS and was a very solid machine. Oh, and it also introduced programmers to the notion of RISC, which sparked a revolution in computer design.
    7. The Viglen 386 machines had some cool memory management - unlike most machines of that time, you could use both the mainboard and the extra memory at the same time, so you had an extra megabyte to play with.
    8. Who can forget the Osbourne 1? The machine itself wan't amazing, but DID introduce the concept of mobile computers to the public, which revolutionized how people looked at machines. Greatness can come from altering perceptions.
    9. Many machines could be used for multiple tasks, but the All-In-One was the first to really the first to get it through to people that this was a practical way to use them.
    10. The Apple Macintosh was the machine that truly introduced the world to GUIs, hypertext (hypercard) and action-based (as opposed to command-based) computing.
    11. The Simon, however, has all of the above beat. Designed and mass-marketed in the 1950s, it was the earliest PC ever built - LOOONG before the Altair and long before even the microprocessor.
    12. The Apple G5 was the first well-known 64-bit personal computers (a market AMD and Intel are only now dabbling in)
    13. The Transputer was arguably an entire 32-bit PC on a single chip, when most computers were still 8-bit or 16-bit at best, with support for infinitely scalable parallel processing. In terms of design, it was utterly revolutionary. In terms of its impact on parallel programming, it was phenominal. In terms of Inmos' ability to sell them, it was the greatest disaster to have ever walked the Earth. Mind you, Thorn EMI (who owned Inmos, and were mostly into selling records and music equiptment) didn't help matters.
    14. The AMULET is another system-on-a-chip, but is also totally asynchronous - an amazing achievement for a modern CPU, never mind a SoC. A variant, called the OCCULET (which runs Occam) is freely downloadable.
    15. Gateway PCs. The design was crap, the reliability was questionable, the cowprint was sad, but it seriously kicked ass on price for a long time. Mind you, at one point they used convicts to build them. Gateway's contribution was to kill the overinflated prices and overinflated egos. That was an impressive achievement by any standard.

  • Re:99er Magazine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AngryNick (891056) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @06:53PM (#15899789) Homepage Journal
    I too am perplexed by their decision to ignore the TI-99/4a. It was cheap enough for just about any family to afford and supported both BASIC (for the kids) and assembler(for the dad). My dad wrote the code and I spent hours designing sprite graphics and translating sheet music into sound() funcs for use in a Frogger game (Toader). We sold enough tapes of that game to just about pay for a 32K memory upgrade cartridge.


    Another great one that is missing is the Timex/Sinclar 1000 [oldcomputers.net], a $99 machine with 1k of RAM.

  • by Yehooti (816574) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @07:23PM (#15899882)
    Where's the DEC Rainbow? Closed system, so that hurt when it came time to upgrade, but it did about everything at the time with its two processors (Z80 and a 8086 as I recall). CPM then later came MS-DOS for it. Mine had four floppies. Still have that sucker somewhere--probably as a door stop in the back room. Just can't bear throwing it away.
  • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday August 13, 2006 @11:08PM (#15900577) Homepage Journal
    Hey, the Osbourne was number 8 on my list. :) But, yeah, I missed the other ones you mentioned and a few more. Fortunately, I only got to number 15, so have 10 more to go...


    1. DEC Rainbow (for all the reasons mentioned)
    2. The Hyperion (for all the reasons mentioned)
    3. The UK-101 (it was a truly cool kit system)
    4. Sirius PC (variable-speed drives for higher density, useless but cool)
    5. Jupiter ACE (Forth-based home PC)
    6. Atari ST (First PC with MIDI as standard)
    7. Dragon MSX (First attempt at portable binaries)
    8. Research Machines Nimbus PC (Lots of innovativations, such as decentralized architecture)
    9. Texas Instruments TI-99 (Introduced speech synthesis to home computers)
    10. KIM-1 (A major stepping-stone in hobbyist 6502-based PCs)
  • TRS Model 100 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michael_cain (66650) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @11:46PM (#15900697) Journal
    Nice to see this machine on the list. I carried one around the country for about 18 months. Wrote trip reports, meeting notes, etc. Tracked expenses. Had BASIC programs that downloaded error logs from a bunch of custom test equipment over the serial link. And it did have one of the nicer keyboards I've ever used.
  • Re:TRS Model 100 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zakezuke (229119) on Monday August 14, 2006 @02:42AM (#15901036)
    Nice to see this machine on the list. I carried one around the country for about 18 months. Wrote trip reports, meeting notes, etc. Tracked expenses. Had BASIC programs that downloaded error logs from a bunch of custom test equipment over the serial link. And it did have one of the nicer keyboards I've ever used.

    Yes, in fact going to 80x86 was rather disapointing in contrast. The TRS-80 model 100 had hell of alot of battery life, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 hours or so, on 4 double aa batteries. You could at least get some work done if for example you were on an international flight, and can get away without having extra batteries.

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