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The Almighty Buck

Packard Bell to Shut Down US Line, Lay Off 80% 163

Sonoma76 writes " CNet is reporting that Packard Bell is laying off approximately 80% of its 2300 employees... This seems to be a trend as computer makers that were popular in the early and mid 90s (eg Packard Bell, Acer, and even Tandy) have all been replaced by the agressive marketing efforts of Gateway, EMachines, and MicroWorkz. That's right, no more Packard "Hells" to compare your dream machine with." Hopefully it won't be hard for all the laid-off people to find new jobs.
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Packard Bell to Shut Down US Line, Lay Off 80%

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  • by fidros ( 8566 ) <[moc.fessoyneb] [ta] [dalig]> on Tuesday November 02, 1999 @11:51PM (#1567946) Homepage Journal
    Packard Bell was the name of an old Amaerican company that made Radios and TV's and was all but a goner when a team of ex-Israelis took over the brand name and strated making computers. They were once the biggest in retail computers and produced not half bad machines. The rumours about "used" parts where most probably a publicity stunt by Compaq more then true incidents. Their big drop came when technical troubles in mass installing Win95 dropped the quality level of their product to sub zero degrees and the rest was a slippery slope from there on... Yes, I used to work for them (not directly). There were some good people there, but the company was a gonner long ago.
  • I figured they were pretty profitable... They got my money... Once -- Pentium 200 MMX woefully obsolete when purchased in March '98, currently playing Linux router for my two networks :). If they got my money I'm sure they got a lot of other peoples' money and then the average comsumer actually likes buying premade computers at retail stores (I'm currently running a Dual Celeron 400 put together in March '99 :) ). I seriously thought Packard Bell would never die. Yes their customer support was crap. Yes their computers offered no upgradability at all and finally yes they sucked bad for almost anything, but I can think of a lot of other companies that suffer the same problems but avoid the fate of Packard Bell. Better marketing? Better FUD? Better diversification so when something goes horribly wrong (IE Consumers get a tad smarter!) you have something to fall back on? Whatever the case, it's a good day when giants like Packard Bell falldown, for whatever reason. It's high profile and it will keep the other PC makers on edge.
  • Compaq is the next
  • Ok, let's try to calm things down.

    First of all, an explanation with a disclaimer. Both me and Fidros are private people working for a company that was mentioned here, and decided (totally uncoordinated between us) to answer. This is not an answer from GTek, this is an answer from the actual people. Neither of us comes from marketting. In fact, we are both developers, and have been personally involved with some of the projects mentioned here, and others that were not.

    To put things further into prespective, GTek is a software company, with no more than 15 full time software developers. We do not have a PR machine. In fact, the total number of PR plus marketting personnel we employ is zero.

    I should further point out that noone is sueing anyone. You may notice that my reply contained no mention of it, and Fidros' reply had a smily after mentioning it. I should also note that both "Fidros" and "Sun" are our standard /. nicks. We are regular slashdot readers, and this is the way we came across this story here.

    As for the facts. To the best of my knowledge, there are very few companies that can do both hardware and software. I.B.M. is rumoured to be one, I will possibly include Intel as well. The rest of us have to choose. Companies like PB (and most other OEMs as well) need a company to provide the software.

    GTek is such a company. We provide software products tailor made to another company's demands, and we don't even place our logo on these applications. This means that PB got to decide exactly what features were in, and how the product would look. To my opinion, this also means that they should have participated in the development process. At the very least, you could have expected proper feedback about what products are generating Technical Support calls, and what the common problems were.

    I will not go into details. For one thing, as I have said before, I do not represent GTek. Another is that I do not have intemate knowledge about everything, I would not like to slander anyone by mistake. Suffice it to say that nasty politics were a major part of GTek's dealings with PB. I personally tried to avoid such matters, but it was not always possible (for example, when being greated by one VP with a big, fatherly, friendly "Hello, why are you not meeting your schedule?", when I have no project in common with said VP, and in general, am not behind on any schedule).

    Like any other company with more then one product, some of GTek's products were better. Some were worst. Certainly, everyone has the right to an opinion about them. All in all, I think GTek's role in PackardBell's history did a lot more to help it survive as long as it did than to pull it down.

    Shachar Shemesh
    sun-sdr@gtek.co.il [mailto]

    As this thread is quickly deteriorating into flame wars, I would prefare it if further replies were sent to me via e-mail.

  • die packard bell die!!!!
  • I cant believe yours is still working, I have the same model and it has had 4 mother bords in it, 2 new harddrives 2 cdroms, The whole thing has been replaced many times over, (I bought the extended warranty so I dont pay for the repairs) It wont accept linux, it will take a fresh copy of windows but it says that it has configurationg errors. The only real way to make it work is to use their restore disk, I AM GLAD TO SEE THEM GO>
  • AT UCSD in San Diego they sell them in the book sotre, pratically free at $5,2000 and that is without the flatscreen monitor. its only a PIII 450.
  • Thank god, they are finally feeling some pain.

    I rented (!) a PB for about a week once. What a hunk of shite!

    Now if only we saw the same activity at AOL, there would truly be justice in the world.
  • I think that a comparison between packard-bells and the macintosh doesn't work. Sure, they both had proprietary technologies, but the difference between the two is that apple's proprietary served some purpose that often gave the computer more functionality that its PC counterparts. For example, ADB was proprietary, but ADB allowed someone to hook their keyboard to their machine, then chain their mouse to the keyboard. You could even put a third device in the chain,like a second keyboard or keypad, and all along you'd be using only 1 port on the machine (and it was hot pluggable!). It would be a decade before PC's had USB capabilities that would do something similar. Also, mini-din 8 (aka localtalk) cables were also proprietary, but they were easier to put on the back of your computer than serial cables, and they could double as a null modem cable. While it would have been nice if apple's standards were allowed to become open standards, at least their proprietary technologies served some special purpose that justified their existence. The kind of proprietary crap Packard-Bell did really did not give the customer any special advantage. How could a customer benefit from a modem riveted onto a motherboard?
    As for apple shipping late, one forgets that in the mid-90's, apple over-estimated demand and filled their warehouse with stuff that was hard to move, one of their more costlier blunders. They've moved to a sort of dynamic inventory systems that other makers are using, where they try to keep as little stuff in the warehouse as possible. If you underestimate demand, you lose out on selling opportunities. If you overestimate demand, you lose money. If you ran a company, which would you pick?
    I'm not shedding any tears over an incompetant company like Packard Bell that didn't give a damn about it's customers. One wonders whether a similar company based in Redmond, Washingon will suffer a similar fate.
  • We must get ready for tomorrow Pinky! Why what are we doing tomorrow Bill? The same thing we do every day, try to take over the WOLRD!"

    It should be:

    We must get ready for tomorrow Pinky! Why what are we doing tomorrow Bill? The same thing we do every night, try to take over the WOLRD!"

    That's cool about the case though, but if you spent so much time making it, why not use it on you're main computer? got any pics?
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • Packard Bell just gave me an all-around bad feeling about everything! Anyone remember those little stickers that, when ripped off, would read "VOID"?! And that's just when you open the case! I'm not at all sad to see Packard Bell go. They made some of the most difficult and crappy computers ever. I certainly hope Dell (a loyal customer for 5 years, now) keeps their standards high and never sinks to the low that PB did.
  • First, as can be deducted from my home URL, I work for GTek. I must say that constructive criticism has always been a good thing in people.

    In case anyone is interested, we have been producing many applications that were shipped with PB computers. One point I cannot stress enough, though. We are not the company responsible for "PackardBell Navigator". We have nothing to do with that company, or with the product.

    Throughout our buisness with PB we have had to deal with internal PB politics. As a result, we would hear about angry (sometimes abusive) letters released by various PB devisions about our products, but repeated requests for feedback about the actual problems were almost always denied.

    The way I see it - If you want total control over product customizations, you have to participate in the QA. At the very least - tell your provider what the problems are.

    One last note - GTek Technologies Ltd is an Israeli company. You can find our main page here [gtek.co.il] over a very slow connection. This web site is mirrored, at a much faster rate and in the US, here [gtekil.com]. We have nothing to do with an American company called "GTek Inc." (you can find their site here [gtek.com].

    Shachar Shemesh,
    sun-sdr@gtek.co.il [mailto]

  • As someone working for said company (GTek) I am amazed how someone can spew such an ugly lie. If I was an American I would probably sue you... ;-)
    I don't think this is the right forum to tell all the stories I know about the inside workings of Packard Bell, but I can assure you one thing Mr. Konopka, as someone who has a personal knowledge of the facts- without GTek PB was dead LONG ago. The simple fact that GTek outlived Packard Bell is a sure proof of that.
    An ex senior vice president at Packard Bell (Hi isaac! ;-) once told me that no one is useless - in the worst case they can serve as a bad example. Packard Bell is one very good "bad example" of what happens when managment does not listen to it's customers nor it's own employees.
  • Please, please, PLEASE use <UL> and </UL> to mark off your list. Otherwise, my browser (Opera) doesn't recognize the list's starting and ending points, and will mark everything below it as part of the list (indented and everything).

    To prevent a totally off-topic post, I actually own two Packard Bells, a 486 DX2, and a PII 233. I can't say that they're entirely un-upgradable, and I've actually done pretty well with both. I bought the first one before I became even remotely close to being computer-literate, and I bought the second before I knew exactly what kind of videocard I wanted, after some clever sales person (in another store) told me that NEC and PB merged, and the PB quality has gone up. At least I made sure that the video card wasn't on-board...


  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am currently an NEC employee, I ve enjoyed working there but this company called Convergys, an outsource company, who is well known for its extremely poor way of handeling both customers and employees, will soon take over both Packard Bell and NEC consumer technical support. If you thought that PB support was poor, wait until you see how Convergys Corp. treats you!
  • I have fond memories of working those nasty beasts becuase it was the only internal memory that could be performed. Me and my ex-PC World workers voiced our concerns two years ago about their blocked ears, but they remained waxed out.

    They always bought the cheapest parts that somebody else wanted, such as 4MB modules and i586 60's, 90's, 120's and 150's.

    I remember many a happy time taking a hammer and screwdriver to their motherboards so that our customers didn't have to wait another 2 weeks having the system looked at for the 7th time.

    Their bundled software always contained old discontinued crap that would die if the user attempted to install something more useful.
    (Removing MWave from their systems was a registry nightmare that discredited IBM's software)

    I remember laughing in the face of their european operations manager a couple years ago, when he told me they would be number 1. I told him the reasons that wasn't gonna happen so he flew in their chief design/support technician from Holland for a meeting (great guy and I wish him to best of luck as he was too good to be there), but his hands were tied by lapless suits with no business sense.

    I'm gonna stop now (As bitter as I am about them) because I'm now using and supporting Dell's which I consider just as bad.

  • Wow! I had the exact same box, for my first (real) computer.

    I can't say that I've had too much trouble with it... it worked fine with Windows 3.11, which was what I used at the time. Never had any real problems, except for the time when a surge fried my modem. I called the tech support, and even though the warranty has run out, they sent me a new modem, and then got a tech guy to come in and replace it. For free.

    Sure, the box wasn't that great... in fact, it was a piece of shit... but for what I did at the moment (the usual newbie's stuff - AOL, MS Works, Win 3.11), it was satisfactory. And the price was pretty good as well, I got it for $1200, which was a damn good price for a 486 DX2 when a DX4 was the fastest machine.


  • all "consumer" computers are trash. - pak bell, compaq presario etc..

    PC World (UK) has them all - overdesigned cases, looking similar to spaceships, and 14"/15" monitors with crappy speakers built in. - celerons, winmodems, cirrus logic gfx chipsets (ha!), keyboards with "surf the net" buttons on, moulded CDROM fascias(sp?) making upgrades impossible/ugly etc etc.

    Any manufacturer STILL selling 14" monitors deserves to die a painful death. they are doing their customers

    however, the loss of jobs is something to be sorry about.
  • Man, I sure would Hate to be stuck with one of those Athlons I mean, that would just suck! You can't even use one on an intel motherboard!!!

    Non-intel is not Necessarily
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • There almost as stupid as people who use non-MS Operating systems!!!

    this is sarcasm, by the way
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • Celerons are cheaper per MHz then AMDs if you overclock. You get much better performance as well. A cheap celeron will run you like $60, plus you can get a kickass motherboard like the bx6-2.

    There really a much better deal...
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    At least we still have Acer to kick around. Right? Right?!
  • Uh wow. My first comp (perhaps my family's first comp as well) was a PB Legend 730 486 SX/25. The damn thing's still going! We can't kill this thing. We've upgraded/rebuilt this thing so many times...my dad's upgrading it to a Pentium 166 for my grandmother...
    Anyway I'm really going to miss PB, in a way. Perhaps it's just nostalgia. I'm sorry to see so many people around here loathe Packard Bell, because without them (and perhaps Sears not having any IBM PS/2s at the time of purchase and giving this comp to us at a, "bargain!") I wouldn't really, well, um...
    We rarely had a problem with it, and when we did, naturally, PB's support was, "unavailable" or something. We've had more problems with the two Epson printers we've had, one we're about to get rid of. They're one company I'd REALLY like to see die a horrible death. Hmm...
    Anywho, I'm sure it was just a matter of time, because they really went downhill after we bought our puter all those many years ago (1993).
    Just thought I'd share...I've actually had a *positive* experience with PB.


    P.S: I think someone mentioned this before...weren't they connected with AT&T somehow? Or Bell? One of those...
    P.P.S: BTW my dad broke the monitor. He was trying to fix it. lol. Other than that we still have the original everything to the computer, in working condition.
  • by raydobbs ( 99133 ) on Tuesday November 02, 1999 @09:50PM (#1567974) Homepage Journal
    Packard Bell was one of the worst companies I had ever seen in regards to customer service - and product durability. They were sleezy to deal with - including their authorized service centers. It's a shame that so many of their employees are now job-less - but it's the market speaking: If you berate and ignore your customer's needs, turn around and close your eyes to their problems and concerns - don't be suprised that if, or when you turn around, they aren't there anymore... As for the workers - if you are good people, and tried to help everyone you could - there most likely is a better job awaiting you around the corner... :)
  • I recently (Like a week ago) installed RH6.1 on the tower version of that system to be used as a file server and firewall for a small office in the area. What a horrible case design. In order to put a network card in it, the case needed to be turned upside down. The two sides are held on by 6 screws, all on the bottom. The cards are mounted -upside down- to a daughter card. Oy. But, it works, and that's all it'll ever need to do. God knows it couldn't handle Windows.
  • ...and now that Packard-Hell is dead and gone, watch for their customer satisfaction levels to increase dramatically! :-) :-) :-)

    Condolences to those whose jobs were cut, but someone had to make the obvious wisecrack.

  • I feel your pain. I work for NTT right now (as a developer, not a phone tech). Packard Bells fail so consistantly that, given a model number, I can tell you what is going to break and in which order.
    • Legend 428CD: CD-Rom, combo card, mobo, power supply
    • Multimedia S606 power supply, power supply, mobo
    • General Packard Bell System: CD-Rom, combo card, power supply, mobo.

    ...and that's not counting the monitors...
  • I've never really know the origin of Packard Bell...at a first glance it would seem a combination of Hewlett-Packard and Bell Laboratories but maybe they they were banking on just such an assumption to market their product.

    Sorta like me selling computers under the Torvalds Malda brand name. (shamelessly kissing up to moderators).

    What exactly spawned Packard Bell, and weren't they the company that was buying used parts and putting them in new computers?

    - JoeShmoe

    -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
  • My first experience with Windows was on a Packard Bell. A slow, unreliable, unupgradeable, poorly made, generally EVIL Packard Bell.
    On its own, Windows is horrifying enough, On a Packard Bell, it's enough to drive a man to Linux.
  • What the hell?

    Go into BIOS and disable the thing. It wasn't taking up an ISA slot, it was actually wired to the motherboard. You could have just left it there.

    (I've delt with about 30 of these things).
  • Packard Bell has been losing money ever since NEC bought them, years ago. They've never been a profitable division of NEC.

    I'm not sure how worried I should be. I work for NEC now, as part of an acquisition by them earlier this year. Our division's management is giving us the "don't worry" speach, and we have nothing to do with Packard Bell, but still...

    Although I will say that I really like my NEC Versa notebook, which I believe is manufactured by Packard Bell. Works very well.

  • This is possibly the only poisitive thing anyone has said of PB:

    They did make a decent 286 system.

    Everything else sucked. "Yeah we'll put the modem and sound on the same card! Genius! *Suit Highfive*"

  • Up until last week, I was a PB tech at the Magna, UT facility. (I guess I quit just in time, eh?) We had all been seeing this coming for a long time, despite the re-assurance of the "suits". The main problem was that PB had contracts with crappy hardware and softare companies (ie. G-Tek [gtekil.com]) to continue using their products in the systems. Bad business, bad product, and lack of resources in the tech support dept finally caught up. Justice is served for the execs and for future customers, but woe to my ex-coworkers and to new PB customers seeking product support.
    -Joshua Konopka
  • I don't know...they're a different (and more powerful) beast...even though they botched the Digital merger, they're still doing fine in their portable, desktop, and server markets...
  • Make me sucker #3 with the same computer ;)

    My mom bought it I remember the day after christmas '95 or '96 at Circut City. I was with her so I couldnt steer her right with a brand new pentium 60mhz IBM. But thats what I get when I sleep in when mom goes computer huntin'.

    At first it was an ok computer, I mean i know my way arround computers but never actually owned one. I feel that since I could fix that baby and work arround some many of it's bugs I could do anything with a computer now.

    What i really do miss is the good old DOS Prodigy, may it rest in peace. What I'll never miss is the Navigator Software.

    All in all an ok computer for it's time (well for a PB) until 3 months into it the monitor went byebye. after fighting with PB customer service for 3 months (yes, thats three (3) whole months) and threatening a lawsuit we finaly got a 'new' monitor.

    I must thank even to this day the caring people over at Circut City for lending us a monitor until the fiasco was done with. Last june the monitor finaly died of old age (actually it probably melted.. man those monitors ran hot.. enough to almost burn your hand).

    Sadly I final stopped using it in february when I got a computer sugar daddy (I do the website and graphics, he buys me computer parts). And I say sadly because I used it for so long.

    I still have it here next to my desk. I'm thinking of installing linux on it to learn it. My problem is that it now doesnt have a working cdrom, internal modem(which has been replaced by a nice little zoom 33.6), sound card and floppy drive.

    I have a nic I'm going to install so i can install linux through a lan.. although I'm still leaning how to accomplish that. If anything I'm going to turn it into a piece of shit firewall for when/if I get DSL. Hell, maybe even a ftp server and print server.. who knows.. i'm not that far enough into learning linux to do that now.

    ok, sorry for the long ass post.. this is my 2nd post ever i think, I like being a lurker.. ok, later all.

  • don't forget the other contributions of great artists to the field: Lynch wasn't the only contributor to the entrepenurial craze.

    Calvin Klein was clearly influenced by Dali's Andalusian Dog, and the wild colors and brave patterns of Hilfiger's 1999 fall lineup is a clear, if understated, nod to the works of Bergman.

    Rockefeller Jr. was so blown away by Bunuel's Simon of the Desert that he spent his remaining years as an achorite mystic living on a telephone pole in New Mexico, controlling his vast hordes via remote control.

  • I second that, I used to have a Packard Bell 286 (in fact it's sitting here buried in a lot of shit) and it had an AMD 80286 processor, soldered to the motherboard. Luckily the RAM wasn't soldered to the motherboard as well.
  • Finally, after raping the public for nearly billions of dollars and providing work for thousand of temp workers, Packard Bell has succumbed to the ultimate power: consumers.

    Speaking from his sixty foot yacht somewhere in the south Pacific, former CEO Alain Couder expressed regret and repentance, and having learned his lesson, his next company would fare much better. He also expressed sincere regret for the thousands who are now out of work, and the millions of customers who are "shit out of luck, suckaz!".

    • Packard Bell has been losing money ever since NEC bought them, years ago. They've never been a profitable division of NEC.

    You make it sound like NEC ran Packard Bell into the ground.

    I seem to remember at the time of the NEC buy-in to Packard Bell that Packard Bell was going through some very bad times already.

    I don't have any inside information, but I always thought the NEC-America/PB merger was a marriage made by Intel, who had huge cash (multi-Billion dollar) loans out to Packard Bell. Packard Bell had gotten stuck with an unbelievable number of Pentium 90s and 100s when the market had already turned to buying faster models. Intel turned Packard Bell's debt into a loan, which probably upset a lot of other computer manufacturers. From what I read at the time, Packard Bell would have gone under had it not been for that loan.

    I think NEC paid off a lot on that loan and otherwise got their interest in Packard Bell for next to nothing, while at the same time boosting NEC's relationship with Intel considerably, which had been strained for a long time over the V series chips.

  • A friend of mine was looking to buy a computer, and so we headed into a local electronics retailer to check out the offerings. They had a counter lined with Packard Smell PCs. My friend walked up to the first one to take a look. I was starting to warn him off when a salesdroid spotted us and zipped right over. He is getting ready to begin his pitch, and puts his hand on top of the monitor in a "This baby..." gesture. The speakers promptly fell off the sides of the monitor. Watching the salesweasle melt was rather fun.
  • i could be wrong on this, but isn't Packard Bell owned by Tandy. i seem to remember this after having my old pb sent off to get fixed a number of times (before i had the knowledge to do it myself), and it having to be sent to tandy...like i said, i could be wrong.

  • I agree about your comments about PB's but the thing is - there was/is a market for these things because consumers dont want a beige huge tower in their room - they want it all nicely (not) set up - look nice with curves (why do you think the Imacs are popular - for their upgrade potential ?) and be dumbed down for people who dont know anything about them. I know his as a former salesperson of a UK Large Retail group(No names mentioned).

    I also always grinned evilly whilst taking customers to the packard bells :>

    If you want any serious PC you would know not to buy a packard bell anyway
  • I used to be one of those salesmen - and I enjoyed spinning those types of stories for customers - makes the job more fun if they are gullible :)
  • Integrated video, Integrated audio, Bottom of the line Winmodems, Non-intel CPUs, Non-intel chipsets

    I have never had a problem with any of these other then being unsupported in Linux. But a month later there was support for it and when it was working it worked great. Expect for winmodems which will allways be the son of satan.

    My problems has been a intel cheap chip on a 66 mhx and no cache. Or designs that come with horriable bottle necks on the PCI bus near the IDE and/or video port. Or the little cache for the memory. Or not being able to upgrade. Or the crap breaking, rebooting, or gerneral doing wierd stuff on me.

    The non-intel bit show how sucked into the intel mind set people are. "Intel inside" Or nothing huh? BS. I rather have an AMD, PPC, MIPS, Alpha, or Sparc way before I buy a intel!!! I won't buy a Intel anymore. Oh winchip? Yeah they suck. =)

    Packard Bell went under becuase every packard smell I have ever seen was slow, did wierd stuff, and broke when the warrety ran out. The product service was rude and you could easly expect to spend a hour and a haft to find out there's nothing that could be done becuase the memory crtl was shot. Then they would tell you take to bubba so you did and they end up screwing you out of 300 bucks and you still got the same old motherboard!! That's why I would NEVER buy a packard bell again or let my friends buy one.

    People want to use their systems. If it cost 600 bucks, it works, works well, and last for a long time, they will love it, tell thier friends, and buy it again one. No one but geeks and nerds care if there is sound, video, NIC, or winmodems on the board or not. If it works well for what it was designed to do (Run windows, AOL, Quicken, and some Games) it will sell.
  • First, I express my sympathies for the employees that are losing jobs. Good luck, and I hope you find decent employers. Now, as for the NEC/P.B. and the (lack-of-)brains behind the operation:

    It's touching to see these bastards get blasted on the pages of /. Not only do they suck in all the ways people have mentioned, but they were the driving force behind the pointless purchase and closure of the PC maker I worked for.

    Swan Technologies assembled decent PC's, and a few years ago P.B. acquired us (according to them) to service the build-to-order market for them. Then they changed their tune. It was as if they said 'Oh, never mind' and 'Oops - too bad'. Oh, sure, they said they had decided to 'move our operation' to California, but all they took was a bunch of old equipment they could have gotten anywhere (and that was put on trucks bound for Canada, not CA); they didn't take any of the people that made the place work. It was just a business exercise with no real point that we could see. If we had been a large competitor or were interfering in a market they were already in, it would've made some sense, but not in this case.

    Bah, I could probably rant for a while longer, but I need to go rinse the bad taste from my mouth...

    Thanks to /. for letting me vent.
  • I remember a couple of years ago the south of Holland had a bad flooding. Fortunately, nobody was killed but thousands of people were evacuated. The European distribution centre of PB had to be closed as well, temporarily of course.

    The PB management took the "opportunity" to close the entire facility, and fire everyone!

    I understand why a company might want to close down a "bleeder", but closing down while a major part of the employees is going through a natural disaster seems especially cold hearted to me!

    I mention this incident everytime the name PB comes up, e.g. when people express intentions to buy one at the local Dixon's. Suits them right!
  • Several people have said this, but a little less succinctly...

    AMD chips are fine! I've run an AMD K6 of one kind or another for a long time now and have had no problems, except when I tried to use to 686 version of SETI@Home.

    In fact, when the whole, stupid Slot 1 fiasco proved to me that Intel intended to crush their competition via marketing instead of compete in the technical arena, I stopped buying them. I think my choice has finally been amply justified now that the Athlon is clearly better than any Intel offering.

  • My girlfriend gave me her old Packard Bell "Multimedia D131" Pentium 133 computer. Yeah, it sucked, but I installed OpenBSD on it, and it's been my firewall / sendmail / apache server ever since, and holding up quite nicely, considering. I've upgraded it for a little money too, installing two nice PCI networking cards and more RAM. I'm probably going to slap a SCSI card and CD burner in there before too long.
  • I'm not upset at all to see the brand go. The first Pentium 60 that I played with was a Packard Bell. Always thought that the machines were 'OK', until I realized what a cheaply built piece of crap that machine was. The keyboard was dropped once off the desk and the '3' key popped out and never quite sat properly again.

    I was quite amused about a year or so later when I saw that they were selling machines that fit in the corner of a desk; yes, diagonal if you will. Interesting idea, but what was strange was that this model (along with several other models at the time) were boasting 2 CD-ROM drives. Double-speed, of course. I guess this was around the time when 2x drives were obsolete (quad and 6x were cheap), so they must have been trying to dump their stock of 2x. Two things of interest to a Windows world here: first off, which one could you use with the audio card to play CDs? Secondly, and more appropriate, have you EVER seen a program which could recognize that there was more than one CD-ROM on the machine? Since we're talking a consumer model machine, server applications are not considered.


  • Few years back I used to work for GE TechTeam, under a project called Computer Support Plus. We covered extended warranties from varying manufacturoers and stores, and Circuit City was one of em. Just so happened CC used to push PB's hard, so we had ALOT of calls about em. Approx 80% of our buisness was dealing with broken PBs. We hated those computers too, almost anything wrong with it and you needed a new motherboard, because everything was soldered onto it. They also used that combo modem/soundcard , so if one went out either the other one went out right after it, or you had to replace the whole thing anyway. As much as we hated PB, they paid our checks in a sense, because without em we wouldnt of been as busy. BTW, as I tink about it, I got offered a job at Packard Bell about a year ago, very tempting offer, glad I didnt take it.

  • Naw. The market for hardware and components manufacturers is a lot larger than market penetration. The problem is just that profit margins are very low now -- so companies have to achieve very good commodities of scale.

    As well, there isn't much room for product differentiation, so the fact that Packard Bell's products and support were inferior doesn't really help. In other words, they didn't react to changing market conditions. This situation is vastly different than it was 3-7 years ago.
  • Funny thing . . . I thought Compaq was all right. I have a seven year old 486 DX-33 Prolinea that has worked almost flawlessly--even on Windows 95. Though it was a pain to install CD-ROM drives and extra memory, b/c of the proprietary design of the case and the motherboard. As a result, after that I never bought a branded computer again, aside from my Dell laptop (which seems to crash with distressing regularity.) I don't know the quality of Compaq's machines now--have they become like Packard Bell? I remember all the way from 1993 Packard Bell already had a terrible reputation.
    Michael Huang
    "A spirit with a vision
    Is a dream with a mission." -Rush
  • Wow... so this means the days when my dad had to take power tools to our PB case to install a new hard drive are now distant memories? And those silly "Modem-and-Soundcard in one" cards?

    And to think... My Linux machine is running on what used to be a Packard Bell...


  • by Anonymous Coward
    I assume that 2 people were on the assembly line, and the other 2298 were tech support reps to help the geniuses who bought PBs :)
  • I used to work at Best Buy, and we had a saying:

    "Friends don't let friends buy Packard Bell."

    We also had a few other sayings that usually went back to building the thing yourself, but management didn't like that very much. ;)

  • The best thing my old packard bell did was become a cat box... Just the right dimensions....
  • My first computer was a Slackard Hell. It was a Pentium 60 (yes kiddies, the very first Pentium). I went through 3 hard drives and 2 modems during that crappy computer's life span. The only good thing I can say about it was I went from 400MB to 1.2GB of space for free.

    Good riddance, Packard Bell. May your innocent employees find good jobs, and may you die a slow, painful, rot-in-hell death.


  • I wasn't part of the class action suit (even in the drug induced hazy days of my youth I had enough sense not to buy a PB :) but I seem to remember reading that PB was putting used/refurbed parts into their PC's while representing them as new.
  • Acer-America is not doing so well, but I have some insider information about Acer in general (someone I know very well works for Acer in Taiwan) and Acer is here to stay baby! That company is kicking ass big time eventhough US sales are not really good due to the dominance of the US manufacturer.

    But here is the beautiful thing - even if Acer did not produce any more PC/laptops with its name on it, it's no big deal. Acer makes computers and laptops for several companies including IBM. They used to make all Texas Instrument notebook before Acer simply bought TI's notebook division. I won't even mantion the AOpen line, and they make a shitload of royalties off ASUS (Asus was created by a bunch of ex-acer engineers).

    Life is beautiful over there, *unlike* some of the so-called successful American manufacturers Acer is actually making lots of money. In fact - I have a standing job offer if I want to move to Taiwan :)
  • Yeah, I think that was what it was all about. I was too young to have enough sense when we got our first Packard Bell, being 10 (down at Sears, of course), but I stand alone to blame for not convincing my dad to buy our second Packard Bell, being 14.
  • Uninformative? Sure. Uninventitive. Ok.... Off-Topic. Even Possible... But Troll???
  • This death is not painful enough for them. I was hoping that NEC would demand that all the "Suits" in charge if Packard Bell commit seppku. The ensuing bloodbath should be enough to appease any tech support rep who ever had to talk to a Packard Bell customer who was trying to install Non-Packard Bell hardware or software on his system.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    For all of you who are wondering, The Packard Bell name was actually bought by an old Radio Manufacturing company. I am a current employee of Packard Bell NEC under the PriorityONE Team (We pull 123 % profit unlike the rest of the schmucks.) All employee's have seen this coming for ages, Upper Management has been jumping ship like they're running out of water to swim in. If you think their computers suck, try working for them. The demise comes to no suprise to me as they would have to be the most dis-organized company in existance. In fact, I don't see how they've managed to stay afloat since they started losing ground in '96.

    In truth, the computers themselves are not that bad. They were targeted to new computer users and meant to sell at lower prices. They at one point held 85 % of the computer industry. I can honestly say I've seen the same problems with Packard Bell computers as I have with the old propietary Gateways, ASTs, and Compaqs.

    I know I'll have no problem finding a job, but I wish the rest of the employee's luck in new careers.
  • Pot. Kettle. Black.

    "Friends don't let friends shop at Best Buy."
  • I had heard that it was originaly a venture between HP and Bell.

  • Hey-- me too! I have a Presario 486DX2-66 without a monitor that I keep in a corner of the basement running Linux, and use it for trying new things-- it even runs q3test server sometimes. I also have a PB 486DX2-66 that does the same things-- but it has useless SIMM sockets, a soldered 486 chip so that it can't be upgraded, and an overdesigned case that makes it hell to change anything in it...

  • It surprises me that so many former PB owners seem to have actually reached their tech support. I tried calling dozens of times and never got thru....just busy signals and useless messages. Once I called their sales line in Canada, just to see if they could help me get thru to US tech support..she told me the tech support center was desroyed in an earthquake. I am not making this up.
  • For a company that makes such nice server stuff and decent corporate desktops, it's a shame that Compaq insists on putting so much cheap consumer crap.

    Compaq should do what IBM did and drop their retail computer line. You see comments like guacamole's, and you realize that they are just dragging their once well regarded brand name through the mud with those ugly and cheap Presario computers. If it's impossible to make a good consumer machine and a profit, leave the market to eMachines or whoever.

    The current generation of IT purchasing people think of the well built Compaqs going back to the original luggable, the Deskpro 386, and the early Proliant servers which were way beyond any other PC server. Eventually, however, burned home users are going to get these purchasing jobs, and they are just going think of Compaq as just another Packard Bell. It's going to be hard to sell a $100,000 Alpha system to that crowd.
  • I know packard bells are crap - In working for a large UK retail group (who i will not mention) ive seen the inside of many retai machines - but in all fairness - a lot of the machines on the market at the moment are very similar - for example compaq presario computers - which have exactly the same problems - unknown video cards, integrated setup, cheap components and wierd cases.

    Packard Bell may have died but the problems are still there in the forms of other manufacturers. Towards the end though, Packard bell did start producing more decent machines, Large Tower cases, Intel chips, intel motherboards, voodoo cards and more (admittedly you always had to spend about twice what the computer was actuall worth to get it).

    Thats my 2 cents worth
  • I hear you. I just resurrected my old Legend P-90, and slapped NetBSD on it, so as long as the thing doesn't spontaneously combust, I expect it will damn near live forever. Someday when I get DSL, I expect it will do just fine as a firewall.
  • I have a PB 486sx 20MHZ with 8MB ram and a 350MB hard drive running Linux as my Firewall/NAT/Masq box. It's been doing this job faithfully now for over a year. It was running Linux for about 2 years prior to that as well.

    It is my dhcp server, caching only dns server and apache proxy server(filtering for the kids) as well.

    Although when I purchased it new the motherboard died in the first two months and it took them 4 weeks to get out and fix it. But that was in 1992 or 1993.

    by by PB.
  • *Secondly, and more appropriate, have you EVER seen a program which could recognize that there was more than one CD-ROM on the machine? Since we're talking a consumer model machine, server applications are not considered.*

    I've yet to see a program on my boss's computer that does not recognize any one of his cd drives. He has a 5x disc changer and a single cd drive. Every program he uses (a mixed bag of various scientific programs. he's the scientific director of a medical research place.) recognizes each of the cds.
  • ah...

    bye bye PB. He he...sorry to waste space.
  • My first computer, a PB Legend 486/66 DX2 (bought literally one week before Intel dropped the Pentium's on us, yay me). I must have reloaded Win 95 on there about 50 times because the system would go to hell about once a week. I kept getting COM address conflicts for no reason (oh look mommy, my modem no longer works...). I upgraded the 4MB of onboard RAM (yay) to 20 MB and the problems stopped. Too damned bad I bought those SIMMS at the peak of memory prices at the time. And then what did I do? I off course bought the Intel 83 Mghtz Overdrive processor for some ungodly price. Oh, what was that, you need a "Packard Bell Interposer" between the chip and the board for it to work! NO!!! Four weeks later, I finally get the part and the machine running. Now, six years later, the machine is sitting, dead. I've scavenged the piece of crap because I couldn't even try to use one of those PCI processor solutions (no PCI slot, only three ISA slots) to upgrade it.

    I *HATE* PB.

    Die fsckers Die.

    -"We control the horizontal, the vertical..."

  • I remember buying my first PC. I didnt know any better so i got a Digital Starion P-75. While shopping at CompUSA I remember the salesman telling me that Hewlett Packard adnd Packard Bell were all owned b7y Pacific Bell (the telco) and that Pacific Bell was in fact just AT&T... some kind of attempt to give credibility to these crappy machines. Anything fo a sale i suppose. I would have preferred if the salesman took the time to explain that these were all based on proprietary-2 piece motherboards that would bite me in the ass if i ever tried to upgrade. incidentally, my DEC starion performed fine with 3.1 until i ruined it by attempting to overclock to 90mhz.
  • My friends also said that nobody who worked for PB would ever actually own a PB computer.

    And who can blame 'em? We (at work) own a ton of Gateway's and Dell's and when you talk to tech support (usually for Windows) they are quick to brag about the [Dell/Gateway] model they have at home. (After you start bragging about the one you bought.) If an employee of a PC company is willing to purchase one from their employer, you know the quality is high (or maybe the price was right...). Hmmm.

  • I worked tech support for PB for about a year. A more unethical company I have never encountered in my life.

    We had people call us up and threaten us with physical violence on a daily basis. Some people waited on parts for 6 months or more.

    One time there was a suspected fire in the Magna, UT building (there was smoke) but our higher-ups made us stay on the phone while they called the fire department.

    We had 2 bomb threats.

    They gave us techs good training. They just actively discouraged us from helping customers.
  • Hey the Trash80's (a la TRS-80) were a great series of computers.

    I don't know about anyone else, but a TRS-80 Model I Level II 4K RAM or Model III (running Asylum [hands down one of the best pre-DOOM 3D first-person games out there]) was fantastic.

    Anyone remember Big-5 software and their Targ-clones and asteroids clones?

    Ah, the joys of Z80 assembly, TRSDOS 1.3, LDOS, NewDOS...

    Ah well. This is far off topic...

  • Well, now that SGI is making Wintel clones, who's got room for Packard Bell?

    (disclaimer - I will stop ragging on SGI when they stop selling NT systems, and go all Unix, or even back to Irix. Anything's better than NT)

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".
  • Acer.... Well they already closed their doors and sent their employees home. :)
  • The refurbished PB monitor I had died, and I waited 6 months for a replacement. I got sick of waiting and just went and got a new Viewsonic.
    'Couple weeks later, the PB home tech came to appartment during the day, for some reason the door wasn't locked, he came inside (!!!), took my new Viewsonic and replaced it with a yellowing PB monitor that also didn't work.

    I managed to catch my monitor at the Denver airport and get it back...
  • My stubborn mother in law has bought THREE Packard Hell computers, despite my attempts to steer her away from that brand. Guess who has to field "tech support" calls 24 hrs a day?

    Thank GOD they're not around anymore. I was thinking I'd have to build and GIVE her a computer just to get her off my back.

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".
  • I must have had this same model (I don't remember the model number) but I also had a Packard Bell 486 and I also had to rip out my modem.
  • And if anybody's going to go first, it's going to
    be the weak companies that don't have their s

    Compaq, HP, and Dell are all in trouble, their
    earnings just aren't growing the way they used
    to. They have succeeded in "managing expectations" on their earnings, but this
    can't last forever. You guys should read Bill Fleckenstein and his concept of "nuclear winter".

    Fleck's column [siliconinvestor.com]
  • Yeah, Packard Smell sure did suck hard. Hehe, although my first two computers were Packard Bells: a Legend IV (286, 12 Mhz, 1 MB RAM, 40 MB HD) and then a 486 DX/2, 4 MB RAM! :).

    Anyway, you know that it's crappy when it becomes Wal-Mart's official computer brand. I lived my high school years in a small town, and the only place that sold computers was Wal-Mart. So, if you wanted to go see the newest computers, you had to go to Wal-Mart and look at their out-of-date, over-priced Packard Bells. Egad.

    Finally, just curious if anyone else out there was part of the Packard Bell class-action suit. It was quite a few years ago, but we received a couple bucks through the mail because we had purchased our first Packard Bell during a specific date span and Packard Bell had done something bad then, so some lawyers decided to sue the company and redistrubute about $5 to us Packard Bell suckers... wonder how much the lawyers made...

  • In 1986, as the story goes, Beny Alagem (Founder and Ex-CEO) bought the PB name. It was a defunct Electronics (radios, etc) from ~1930 (I think). He started his company with this purchased name. It is not at all related to HP (obviously)
  • This (to me) is somewhat saddening in a twisted way, for my first 'puter was a Packard Bell Legened 20 CD. 486. DX2. Play Doom? Boot w/ the left shift key held (or was it the right, since 4 megs of ram wasn't enough). One thing I must congratulate Packard Bell in is there design. Or rather lack of, I mean come on, I bought a new Hard Drive for this sucker, only to find out that while it had an open ide channel as well as an extra power cable, nowhere was there a place to mount another Hard Drive. And when the CD-Rom broke it took the tech guys 3 weeks to fix it. Although this lil puter does serve a nice job as router / masquerading in the closet. And I made a neato case for it too, fiber glass neon lights etc. etc. Just to make it look purty. Ah well. For what it's worth, they made me realize that home built is the way to go. You get the parts you want and can rely on, no exactly what brand everything is and where it is, and you can pick and choose. Cheers.
  • My uncle got a used Packard Bell 486 several years ago. After a while, the internal modem died. So he opened up the case to replace the modem, and the modem was RIVETED to the motherboard with what looked like regular airplane rivets. He had to break the old modem off with a pair of pliers in order to install a new one.

    Frankly, I'm amazed that Packard Bell made it as far as it has.

    Take care,

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The "Packard" is an allusion to the Packard Saw-Mill of Twin Peaks fame. Gordon Shumway, the founder of Packard Bell, was a huge David Lynch fan and for years had wanted to pay tribute to the master (even though Eraserhead sucked ass, trendiness aside). Unfortunately, being a poor snapple-truck-driver, he could scarce afford any elaborate ventures. So he sought funding from Peter Bell(stein), a rakish entrepreneur (and self-hating Jew) from Arkansas. Mr. Bell(stein) had some quirky ideas that poor Mr. Shumway was forced to follow along with, namely that a) customers love it when you're rude to them (some get an erotic thrill out of bitchy phone support) and b) computers that break easily generate repeat customers. Somehow this strategy didn't work out, which brings us to the present day situation. Due to poverty, Mr. Shumway has been forced to sell his milk collection. From what I hear Mr. Bell(stein) is dabbling in archery. I wish them both well in whatever future ventures they undertake.
  • I used to be into Atari 8-Bits, and quite a while after it became obvious that that platform was dead, my mother bought me a Packard Bell as a sort of graduation present. Man, did it suck.

    • The hard drive was constantly developing bad sectors. I ended up placing read-only files over the areas where the bad sectors tended to accumulate so that the real files wouldn't become corrupted. Eventually I put in a new drive.
    • The monitor desynced at anything better than 640x480x256 unless I specified really weird refresh rates.
    • I was never able to use more than one IDE device with the (single) on-board port.
    • Let's not even get into the funny-shaped motherboard and case.
    Let's face it, Packard Bell sucks, and the company deserves to die a painful death.

  • by pb ( 1020 )
    Oh. What a sad loss. This is almost as bad as loosing Tandy. :)

    (at least Radio Shack had a history, let's hear it for the TRaSh-80, yeah!)

    But seriously, I've seen many Packard Bell computers, and I've never wanted one. My first computers were from Commodore, Tandy and Emerson, and the other three have been generic, put together by local computer places.

    Dell and Compaq can make good machines, but of course they're overpriced. Micron was pretty cool before they got more publicity. But by and large, figure out what you want, get the parts, and assemble it or have someone else do it for you. It's cheaper, and generally works out better that way.
    pb Reply rather than vaguely moderate me.
  • No offense, but you're full of it - right?

    1. Twin Peaks was, if I remember, well after Packard Bell was formed.

    2. 'Gordon Shumway'? Wasn't that the name of the alien in 'Alf'?

    ...Regardless, I'm sure the layoff of Packard Bell employees will do wonders for the hardware industry. Just when you thought that eMachines couldn't get any worse...

    - Darchmare
    - Axis Mutatis, http://www.axismutatis.net
  • I feel a little sad anytime a computer company closes. Even this, b/c I know there are going to be some geeks and other people unemployed. But OTOH hand, freaking good riddance. I mean, packard bell made the _worst_ brand of computers. No other was so recognized even by non-computer geeks as a bad brand. Horrible stuff.
    I've worked at both Best Buy, a place that sold those horrible machines, and at an independent computer store, and servicing those mchines was horrible. The machines were always built bass-ackwards, cases done weirdly, bios that were weird, crappy sound and modem cards. Poor software installed by default. Never running like they should. Being the number one machine likely to come back b/c of a broken part.

    Exceedingly Craptacular.
  • Well, goodbye Packard Bell. Good riddance.

    I can only hope that Gateway is next, regardless of their ownership of the Amiga name (the Amiga is never coming back, get over it).

    Anyone remember that Packard Bell knockoff called the Pack-n-Tell? I never played with one of those, but anyone who feels the need to rip off the name of a third-stringer probably produces absolute crap!

    And speaking of Tandy, as someone above was, Tandy is one of the _FEW_ computer companies to lisence IBM's MCA bus, and the _ONLY_ company I know of to produce a PC built on the 80186 processor.
  • I worked for their parent/sister? company CalAbco who disappeared several years ago. I'm amazed that Benny (if he's even still there) kept that place running for so long.
  • by sigma ( 53086 ) on Tuesday November 02, 1999 @11:02PM (#1568082)
    While we may not have to deal with Packard Bell systems anymore there will always be a market, and a large one at that, for low end systems that sacrifice quality for price.

    Let's take a look at the current trends in the cheap hardware arena:

    Integrated video

    Integrated audio

    Bottom of the line Winmodems

    Non-intel CPUs

    Non-intel chipsets

    How much do these cost cutting measures save? I would say about half over a "real" PC, with the big savings coming from the latter three items.

    Most consumers will just compare MHz ratings, memory size, storage, and make a decision from that. At half the price for what appears to be the same system, they are not going to pass it up.

  • No no no...Windows is enough to drive a man to linux...windows on a PB is enough to drive a man to drink...heavily...

    On a serious note, 2800 people is a good-sized workforce...good luck to them on finding jobs...
  • Let's take a look at the current trends in the cheap hardware arena:
    • Integrated video
    • Integrated audio
    • Bottom of the line Winmodems

    It's agreed that these are sub-optimal choices (especially the Winmodems), but...

    • Non-intel CPUs
    • Non-intel chipsets

    ...but what's wrong with these? I have several AMD- and Cyrix-based systems here (all homebrew, of course), and I've had fewer problems with them than I've had with many systems I've run across (some brand-name, some of the screwdriver-shop variety) that had that annoying "Intel Inside" sticker on 'em. They all run Linux pretty well, too. :-) (Can't say I've ever tried making a Beowulf out of 'em, though. :-) )

    Besides, let's not forget that the fastest x86-compatible processor you can buy isn't from Intel anymore.

  • furrfu. Comparing PB to Macs is absurd. If you seriously believe that, why not put your money where your mouth is and set yourself up as a Mac (better yet- iMac!) hardware technician! Go ahead, there ought to be _tons_ of money in it if they are so much like Packard Bells ;)
    Heavily proprietary != Packard Bell. PB is what you get when you _combine_ heavily proprietary with absolute crap :) Macs are what you get when you combine heavily proprietary with usually not crap :)
  • I feel sorry for all those laid-off workers, but I will have to say that Packard Bell pretty much brought their demise upon themselves by selling inferior systems with limited upgradability, poor components, and little regard to customer satisfaction. It is good that the market is finally bringing companies to realize that they won't get away with cost-cutting and selling poor quality products to the consumer.

    However, what concerns me is whether this incident is isolated, or whether it may be the harbinger of a potentially bad trend for the computer industry. The whole industry has been booming like crazy for the past few years, and judging by the current interest in comp sci and electrical engineering, will be bombarded with potential workers.

    In the hardware level, at least, Packard Bell's downfall may signal that the big boom in the computer industry is finite, and may be leading up to a collapse at some point. And this means that with all those up-and-coming comp sci wizards, it could be very difficult to find and maintain a stable job in the industry, because competition is becoming cutthroat as ever these days. Natural selection is showing its face in the business world, and those who weren't lucky enough to work for the "fittest" may find themselves in hard times.

    I'm not saying that the computer business is starting to cave in violently, nor am I implying that Packard Bell is typical of the industry, but you do have to realize that the computer sector won't be thriving forever, and will fall at some point, be it gradual or sudden. And that could be devestating to a lot of people in the industry. Just something to keep your eyes on.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."