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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 @02:39PM (#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.
    • Re:Oh No (Score:5, Interesting)

      by andrewman327 (635952) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @02:45PM (#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.

  • sponsor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @02:40PM (#15899164) Homepage
    Let me guess... Toshiba sponsored this article?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 13, 2006 @02:43PM (#15899178)
    Self built beige boxes must be the greatest PC's of all time because I've not owned anything else in over a decade.
    • I have to agree, the ability to self-build your own box not only helped the PC enthusiast, but also the industry built to support regular people.

      We bought our third computer from a local mom-and-pop company that built beige boxes from standard parts, and supported them. It was nice to have a company like that locally, that one could drive over to see the guys personally instead of shipping things off to a central support center to get repairs. I'm sure it provided more employment to geeks around the country
    • Indeed, the lack of the Frankenbox makes this list suspect. After all, with a Frankenbox, you can ensure that you know everything that goes into your computer. That's what I love about them: there are no mystery parts.

      Furthermore, you don't get the bundled software crap, and you can chose your own operating system.
      • Spot on!

        Why disclude the Frankenbox? I find that being able to do a custom build/os install upstages all other options.
          I understand that is not an option for some users, but I try and stretch it as far as I can.

    • So, you have never owned a laptop, heh?
  • WTH? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NetNinja (469346) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @02:43PM (#15899179)
    The Commodore 64!
    The Amiga 500!
    • Re:WTH? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by plover (150551) * on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:07PM (#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.

      • Re:WTH? (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dun Malg (230075)
        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.
        Nah, the pinnacle was clearly the 64. The PET didn't do anything.
      • Re:WTH? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @07:11PM (#15900023)
        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 hidden inside one of the later versions of Workbench said: "We made Amiga, they [Commodore] f*cked it up".

        Actually the firmware that has that message stored inside it is pretty rare - as the message was discovered by the public shortly after the launch of the A1000. You'd have to have an early model A1000 as Commodore management recalled most of them. The A500 was in fact designed by the West Chester group probably because of that incident and most certianly wouldn't have contained roms that had that particular message in it.
      • They listed the Amiga 1000, which was the first generation of Amiga, and was truly a novel machine. . . . The 500, while still a cool box, wasn't a great technological leap forward.

        I agree, but they list the Mac Plus instead of the original Mac. It, too was an evolution. And like the Amiga 500 over the 1000 before, it got just enough things right that weren't quite there on the first try. For consistency, I would think the list should contain the A1000 and original Mac.

        Wow. Just thinking of my belo

  • by payndz (589033) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @02:50PM (#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
    • What gave it away? The fact that you fracking told us!
    • It almost always is left off lists like these (thanks to them being US centric). But in the UK, where I lived at the time of its launch, and even here in Australia, the Spectrum was a landmark computer.

      And the one I learnt to program on! :)
      • I wouldn't claim Sinclair was big here in Australia. We moved here from the UK in Dec 1983, and it was a wasteland of Commodore 64s. Huge shock after the ubiquity in England, where every corner shop seemed to have a rack of tapes and the bigger dept stores were crammed with machines, peripherals and games.
        Thanks to exchange rate/wholesale shenanigans the 48K ZX was $399 australian at the time, whereas in the UK it was selling for closer to A$200-$250.
        I was in a WA Speccy club for 4-5 years, membership wa
        • Hmm, maybe I was wrong indeed about how popular it was here in Aus... I guess I had my subscription to Your Sinclair, and the cover cassettes (ahh, cassettes) kept me occupied!

          I still have my speccy and tapes, although I seriously doubt many of them would actually load these days.
  • I have great memories of our Amstrad 1512, and if I remember it was the first decently priced, consumer accessible PC in the UK of course I have no sources to site this. However the use of GEM as an alternative to Windows and I remeber as a kid having some programs in magazines like PC Plus where you could play games in glourious 16 colours. Of course there was the posh kids who had the hard disk version.

    rus
  • IBM PC not #1? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BTWR (540147) <americangibor3@yahooELIOT.com minus poet> on Sunday August 13, 2006 @02:52PM (#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...
    • It only enjoyed the success it did because it was made by IBM, so businesses snapped them up-- if not at first, then definitely after Lotus 1-2-3 appeared and give the machine its killer app.

      I have never met anybody who owned one. Everyone I know who had a computer at home had a C64, an Apple, or a Trash 80.

      ~Philly
      • Those IBM PCs in the 80s (pre PS/2) were heavy duty. Well, at least heavy. In 1990, I became the user of a way-outdated IBM PC/AT, ca. 1984 or so. Just for fun, I hauled that thing to the shipping department (on a pallet jack) to weigh it on the freight scale. The CPU case was about 60 lbs. The PGA (!) monitor was 40 lbs, and the keyboard was almost 10#! Crap perhaps, but it would take a bullet for you.

        The PGA graphcis "card" was actually a multi-card assembly. It took up two 16-bit PC/AT slots, on

      • I knew lots of people that had 5150s at home, in the early 80s.

        Of course, I lived in Endicott, NY(1), at the time. :-)

        I still had my Apple ][+ which I felt was superior.

        (1) For those that don't know, IBM started in Endicott, NY and employed, in the early 80s, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5% of the *total* population (not working population) of the area.
    • In the 80s, Apples and Commodore's were popular, but the IBM PC was one that truly brought the "modern" pc to all houses.

      I don't know where you're coming from, any Amiga I owned in the 80 could smoke any IBM in the same timeframe for about a quarter of the price. The first time I was truly impressed with an x86 PC over an Amiga wasn't until a few years after CBM went belly up.

      Only middle/uppermiddle class and above bought a "computer" back then, but it was the IBM-PC (and later, the "100% compatibles")
    • Re:IBM PC not #1? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rob the Bold (788862) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @09:31PM (#15900455)
      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...

      The IBM-PC and PC/XT just weren't designed to be home machines. In the US, Commodore, Atari and Apple computers were all more affordable than the PC. IBMs were equipped more for business use. Monochrome graphics were standard on the IBMs, and they often had HDDs in the 10-30 MB range, not really needed in home apps then. You could get CGA color for IBMs, but it really wasn't worth it -- the home computer world is more than green, puple, black and white. 16 color C=64s and Ataris were far better for home applications where more colors was more important than higher resolution.

      Even an XT clone like a "Leading Edge" was very pricey at $2000 or so in the middle of the decade. A Commodore 64 around the same time could be had for $300, another $300 or so for the floppy. A TV would do for a color monitor if you didn't want to spend another $200 for a dedicated S-Video monitor. If you bought a C=64 or an Atari for home use instead of an IBM PC, you'd have money left over to get a printer and modem and a subscription to compuserve or Q-Link. And your non-IBM comptuers had sound!

      IBM tried to crack the home market with the PCJr in the 2nd half of the decade, but this annoyed and insulted home users more than anything. The keyboard, in particular, was a huge failure with the wireless interface and chicklet keys.

      I'm not knocking IBM PCs. They were great business (personal) computers, and the clones made possible by the "openness" of the bus design did greatly influence home computing later. They just weren't a good choice for most homes (in the 1980s) where computers might be used to play games, run education software, some word-processing and maybe a little finance, in that order -- sort of upside-down version of what the IBMs were good for.

    • you're confusing "market share" with innovation - what exactly did the IBM PC bring to the table? About the only innovation was using all off the shelf parts rather than a mix of off the shelf and in-house parts. I could argue the Disk ][ [apple2history.org] was more innovative.

      The IBM PC was marketed as a business machine and sold mostly to businesses because IBM was the definition of business computing at that time. It wasn't really popular as a home computer until later, so you can't even say it brought the PC to most ho
  • I am surprised that none of the Amstrad range are mentioned. I would have expected to see either the PCW integrated wordprocessor or the IBM compatible PCs which were the first ones at 'consumer' rather than 'business' prices and in effect introduced the PC to the home user.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @02:58PM (#15899237)
    Useless list.
  • by Frequency Domain (601421) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:08PM (#15899281)
    I know everybody is going to complain that their personal favorite is missing, but I can't believe that NeXT isn't on the list. I think it was one of the most influential systems of the last twenty years. In addition to all the innovations with graphics, removable storage, onboard DSP, drag and drop e-mail attachments, object-oriented framework, etc., the first web browser was developed on a NeXT.
    • It was also dog-assed slow in comparison to the offerings from Sun & SGI at the time.
    • I can't believe that NeXT isn't on the list.

      I consider the NeXT boxes to have been more Workstation than Personal Computer.

      Nobody ever bought a NeXT Cube as their home computer, except for supergeeks, and some regular geeks whose workplaces or schools were offloading surplus equipment.
  • Clearly this subjective and arbitrary list is subjective and arbitrary!

    Subjective and arbitrary on /.? You must be new here.

  • What, no IMSAI 8080?
    The IMSAI 8080 is a clone of the Altair 8800, and that's in there. In fact they even mention the IMSAI 8080 in that part of the article.

    Good to see they didn't forget the Commodore Amiga.

  • by popsicle67 (929681) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:30PM (#15899341)
    What about the Macintosh? The first time I saw one I completely forgot why I was at this chicks house and spent the whole night playing on her brothers computer(instead of playing on her bed). If it could take my mind off breasts(hers were amazing) it could do anything.
    • The Mac Plus is on the list, specifically for the reason that it addressed the shortcomings that kept the original Mac off the list.

      ~Philly

    • Certainly hope you were joking. On the other hand usually having to use a Mac puts me off sex too. Seems to work for those who love them and those who hate them (which covers most people). Perhaps they should market them as contraceptives.

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:40PM (#15899381) Journal
    I remember playing Bruce Lee and a ton of pirated games my parents bought for $1 a disk(all they were really worth).
    It took us a while to find out: LOAD"*",8,1 or sometimes only LOAD"*",8
    But once we unlocked all those games, it was a party time that finally broke the era of boring Atari 2600 games. Commodore rocked so hard. Then came Nintendo 8 bit which didn't entirely blow C64 out of the water, but was the 2nd biggest step in gaming, the first being Atari2600 or Colleco(from your vantage point) to C64.
    I loved my c64 and would have kept it if someone didn't offer me $300 for it in 1993 when internet PCs were just starting to make it for the public.
  • by topical_surfactant (906185) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @03:50PM (#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.
    • umm...the C64 IS on the list. Look closely. Click the link to view the complete list.
    • The C64 had a number of things going for it. For many it WAS a breakthrough in technology for the simple reason that it's affordability meant that they could actually own the technology for the first time. I learned assembly language and Forth on a C64.

      The "serial bus" was a collection of digital I/O lines under software control. The floppy drive had it's own CPU and could be reprogrammed. That lead to the fastload cart which converted the slow serial interface into a faster 2 bit connection. In addition,

  • Atari 800! Yay! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @04:13PM (#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. :(

    • I feel old.

      Can't say whether you're old or not, but I'm 27 and cut my teeth on the Atari 800. My favorite was the "READY" prompt. It felt so powerful.

      Of course, I didn't understand all that hex in the DATA statements. I just typed them in.

      Later in life I actually met one of the engineers who worked at Atari. That company had an interesting life!
  • ...then why aren't we doing this list on Apple II's birthday?
  • by jpellino (202698) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @04:57PM (#15899629)
    In our closet^H^H^H^H^H^H new museum.
  • by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Sunday August 13, 2006 @05:26PM (#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.

    • 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.
    • > If you plugged in enough cards, it could even fry an egg on the back of the case.

      Apple has made a lot of progress since then. You don't need to plug cards in to fry eggs on the back of the case anymore!
  • the emate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maynard (3337) <j.maynard.gelina ... m ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday August 13, 2006 @06:16PM (#15899860) Journal
    OK. Sp Apple's emate is on this list, which is very cool. The emate is essentially an MP2100 Newton screen, in a clamshell with a built-in keyboard. The processor is a little different between the 2100 and the emate, but they're both arch compatible. Anyway, what matters is not the chip, but the user and programming environment. Due to the recent /. discussion on the Q1 vs. MP 2100 article, I ebayed myself a newton out of curiosity. It *IS* pretty amazing. And *awfully* slow. I mean horribly slow. Newt's Cape (web browser) can take over ten minutes rendering cnn.com in *plain text*! In comparison, my trusty old 386sx/16 from 1990 used to browse the net with lynx no trouble. Real fast.

    This is not to insult the Newton dev team. The Newton was never intended to browse the net anyway, and never had any internal acceleration for text manipulation and rendering. And the environment - whoa. It's the prettiest thing since LMI and Symbolics. NewtonScript is an ease to hack. If you care you can code up c++ snippets and call them from within Newtonscript. So, you can write fast stuff - but you're still limited to NewtonScript to interact with the OS for drawing and datebase access (no filesystem, a relational db for data storage instead). Actually, I bet the relational db is part of why the Newton is so slow too.

    The Newton has a lot to teach for UI consistency and streamlined design. It really was a beautiful product. I look at Squeak and think: THAT should be the next Newton. Not Gnome, KDE, or Windows XP Tablet edition (Never mind CE). *sigh*

    Want to have fun? Check out Einstein [kallisys.com], a Newton emulator for MacOS X and Linux/ARM: You'll have to use your nefarious hax0r sk11z too find a Newton ROM and then you too can learn 'bout the Newton (and emate) without having to ebay one.

  • by mdouglas (139166) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @08:20PM (#15900259) Homepage
    Fine, fine machines those Packard Bells were. And by 'fine' I mean 'train wreck'.
  • They left out my favorite: the Macintosh IIci.

    Small, lightweight, stylish, powerful for its time, and easier to get into its case than any computer I've seen before or since.

  • So far as I know, it was the first true laptop. Tiny LCD screen, not much RAM, but plenty battery life for anyone who wrote for a living. I wish I had bought one when they were available. Unfortunately, at the time I was scrambling to pay for tuition and food. :(
  • TRS Model 100 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michael_cain (66650) on Sunday August 13, 2006 @10:46PM (#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 @01:42AM (#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.
  • Would somebody mention the Coleco so I can say how "they'll rust up on you like that."
  • A Very American List (Score:4, Informative)

    by uohcicds (472888) <darren@gestaltweb.meELIOT.uk minus poet> on Monday August 14, 2006 @04:54AM (#15901458) Homepage
    This list is indeed very US-centric. And OK, there's nothing inherently wrong with that, being as it's a US site and everything, but there is something missing from this list.

    In the UK in the late 70's and early 80's a very different computing buzz was going on, so I'd like to mention the claims of two other machines: the BBC Micro and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

    The Spectrum was the machine (even more than the ZX80 and 81 before it) that switched lots of kids of my generation onto computing. And it's why, to this day, we have some of the best programmers, developers (and games people) in the world. It may not have had the graphics and audio power of the C64, but it took ingenuity to squeeze perfomance out of Uncle Clive's little rubber keyed wonder. A huge kitechen sink games market grew up around the Spectrum and many of us learned to program on it.

    The BBC Micro was damn near ubiquitous in British schoools in the 1980's and is probably the one thing about Margaret Thatcher's time in office that she called absolutely correctly: the need to get computers into schools. Sincalir came very close to winning the contract to supply BBC-badged computers to put into our schools (as apart of an initiative to introduce home computing to the masses), but in the end Acorn (later to become ARM) got the nod. For the time, the Beeb was a pretty powerful and expandable machine, with probably the best version of BASIC on the market.

    Both of these machines helped to kick start computing in the UK, but never really made it across the pond (though the Speccy was badged as a Timex sinclair and sold in the states). A whole generation of kids used the Beeb at school and came home ot a spectrum (the best seller here). Before the IBM ear, these were the machines that defined home comuting in the UK.
  • I had one with the "SuperRom" chip. The spread sheet application was outstanding.

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