Worst PC of all time - Which one gets your vote?

Worst PC of all time - Which one gets your vote?

Summary: The Washington Post has an article by Dan Tynan of PC World listing the top 10 worst PCs of all time.  I think that you'll agree that it's a pretty accurate list and contains some real lemons.


The Washington Post has an article by Dan Tynan of PC World listing the top 10 worst PCs of all time.  I think that you'll agree that it's a pretty accurate list and contains some real lemons.

Here's the list:

  • #10. Dell Dimension 4600 (2003)
  • #9. New Internet Computer (2000)
  • #8. eMachines eTower 366c (1999)
  • #7. Commodore VIC 20 (1981)
  • #6. Texas Instruments TI-99/4 (1979)
  • #5. IBM PS/1 (1990-1994)
  • #4. Apple III (1980-1984)
  • #3. Coleco Adam (1983)
  • #2. Mattel Barbie PC (1999-2000)
  • #1. Packard Bell PCs (1986-1996)

I think that overall the list is pretty accurate.  I might have out the New Internet Computer much higher up (maybe at #2, between the Packard Bell PCs and the Barbie PC - the NIC really was a terrible idea) and I would have been forced to put the Dell Dimension 4600 higher up the list (in my opinion the Dimension 4600 was the point at which Dell's downward spiral really started to accelerate).

[poll id=113]

Topic: PCs

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  • Gateway E-3400

    We bought dozens of these pigs at work about 5-6 years ago, and are just getting rid of the last few.

    * They had a motherboard/daughterboard design, and the motherboard would have to be reseated into the daughterboard on several of the machines. Doing this was not easy.

    * Due to the motherboard daughterboard/design, the case was huge. It was about 4 inches wider than a normal PC, and the case was pure steel with thick plastic shell covering it. The result was a PC that weighed in at around 40Lbs, and would not fit inside of cages we had bought to hold PC's under tables.

    * The power supply was at the bottom of the case and was modular. It would plug in directly to the bottom of the daughterboard. Sometimes it would get loose, or it contacts would just become corroded and you would have to re-seat it to get the machine to power on.

    * Despite the fact that just about all new PCS has ata66 HD controllers on board, this one didn't. because of this, gateway shipped them with PCI based promise ATA66 controllers. Besides it's performance being well below that of an on-board controller, the shipping drivers with this card would bluescreen Windows 2000 when you installed SP3. As a result we had to go out and update the drivers to all of these machines by hand.

    * The e3400 came in 733mhz models and later 1000mhz models. In both models, every single component seemed to be the same - but the motherboard was slightly different. because of this the ghost image we had for one model would bluescreen on the other. The only way we could tell them apart was to turn them on and look at the BIOS ID on the screen. Thus we had to maintain two ghost images labeled with the BIOS ID.

    * The power supplies, mother/daughter boards, and hard drives all failed at a very high rate. The hard drives (Quantum fireballs) were the worst with a failure rate of about 50% in the first three years.

    As far as Gateway, the E3400 was the last straw for us. We stopped buying gateway shortly after buying these machines. Gateway's other models took a similar nosedive in quality around the same time.
    • Quantum furball drives...

      Where I used to work we got about 15 of those infernal robot droppings - 10,000 RPM 40 GB Ultra SCSI as I recall. After 5 failures in 2 months we yanked 'em all out. Quantum would not take them back and they sat around until finally the company offered them to the employees, for free. No takers.

      They also got very hot and tended to make horrible high-pitched noises.
      Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!
  • PC Jr?

    What about the short-lived IBM PC Jr. with its "Chiclet" keyboard? Ugh.
  • Hey

    Do not say nasty things about my Packard Hell.
    Yamust B. Kiddingme
    • Okay.

      I promise I won't refer to it as "Backward Smell".

      Lord, those were lousy computers!
      M.R. Kennedy
  • How about the CBM PC Clone circa 1990?

    I was the unfortunate fool to get to use the last PC available in the company when I started there...a CBM PC Clone. Commodore knew nothing about PC standards and their PC Clone was a dog and a half.
  • Too many to name

    Almost all propriety (big name) ones for starters, though admittedly some are a lot worse than others. And ANY where part of the case is directly RIVETED to the frame, making backdoor access virtually impossible without drilling (HELLooo GQPC).
  • Which are ineligible?

    I can't believe the "PC Jr" isn't on the list. . .how can that be? At one point in the mid 80s, people were trying to sell rooms full of them--GTE even did a "test market" plan for a community-wide network in which they gave pcjrs away to anyone willing to participate in the study.

    And what about some of the early contenders? The Sinclair, the Osborne (probably the most case-studied computer-related flop ever)? Those on this list are mere amateur flops!
    • I discount . . .

      both the VIC-20 and the PCjr. You have to remember that when these two came out, Manufacturers were basically those things against the wall to see what would stick, er, sell. A TRUE dog is one where, when there is a functional, competitive sales model, acutally bucks common sense. And that was the Packard Bell. My dad actually had one of these, 'things'. They took proprietary design to new levels of absurdity. I can't tell you the number of times that I had to tell Dad that there was no way to get the horse droppings to run any faster, or more reliably . . .
  • Why is the Commodore VIC 20 in the list?

    At the time, there was no other computer as affordable as the Vic 20, had a real keyboard... That was the computer where I learned (?) computing...
    Roque Mocan
    • Here's why...

      Quoting from the Post article:

      "But the VIC 20 was a special case. It offered only 3.5KB of usable memory; most machines back then offered at least 16KB. It displayed only 22 characters of text per line (or less than half the length of the line you're reading right now), and its graphics were chunky and cheesy-looking even by 1981 standards."

      I seem to recall that the VIC-20 had 4k RAM, but, therein lies a tale.

      Back in the day, a good friend of mine had a VIC-20, when the rest of us had Apples or TRS-80s. It was all he could afford at the time, but as he went along, he continually upgraded it until it had a whopping 20k RAM (via an external 16K RAM module.) By that time, he was disillusioned by all the money he'd spent and was so disgusted with Commodore that when the C=64 came out, he was in no mood to abandon all the hardware he'd purchased in favor of the C=64. He struggled on until, after I'd acquired my first (of two) Apple ][gs computer, I sold him my still-capable
      Apple //e (128k RAM, plus 80-column monitor, dual 5.25" FDDs and 10Mb external HDD). I don't recall what I got for it, but my friend was happy as a clam.

      Not only could he play (and save) games on it (if only in green monochrome), but he actually had productivity software (AppleWorks--I let my copy go with the machine.) He used that Apple for several years, until his wife got it as part of their divorce settlement. And *she* used it for at least three more years after that. I think she may still have it.
      M.R. Kennedy
      • Sorry, but Apple didn't have a chance then either...

        Comparing the Vic-20 and C64 against anything that Apple had to offer is ridiculous. The Vic-20 and C64 blew everything else away that existed at the time of their reign.

        [i]"According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Commodore 64 is the best-selling computer of all time. About 30 million were sold between its launch in 1982 and its "commercial decline" in 1993, when it was discontinued."[/i]

        [i]"...The VIC-20 was the first microcomputer to sell one million units..."[/i]

        which, unsurprisingly was ahead of Apple's first million sales of the Apple II.

        Only two words are really needed to describe why Apple machines sucked so hard compared to Commodore's offerings, and they are VIC and SID.
  • Why Apple III?

    It was well before its time. It took IBM compatible PCs years to catch up with the RAM (512K) hard drive (5MB up to 32MB vs. none), graphics (full color built in), speed (4 instruction per 2MHz cycle vs. 1 per 4.7MHz cycle) etc. The real problem is that it just didn't sell.

    Around the same era (late in the Apple III lifecycle), you could have included the Lisa for many of the same reasons as the Apple III, but the Apple III (Sara) was more successful than the Lisa.

      Quick, someone, somewhere, is saying something less than "Every product Apple has ever released is perfect in every way." Better go find them and correct them!!!

      Your cheque is waiting at Apple headquarters. :)
    • Reliability problems

      The system over heated causing the motherboard to warp and chips to come loose in
      their sockets.
  • Does anyone know ...

    The price difference between an "unlabeled" desktop and a brand named one, like HP, Dell or Gateway.
    I can go to Walmart web site and the only brand other than HP is eMachines.

    But how much does it cost in the US a desktop that is say built by order in a small corner shop or acquired part by part and assembled at home.

    How does that price compare with equivalent equipment from Brand names?
    Is there a big difference? If so by how much?

    • Price difference should not be the overriding factor

      The Price difference should not be the overriding factor, because generally speaking you get what you pay for. The difference is in the quality of the parts used, right down to the mainboard and capacitors. Custom PC builders (shops) generally use higher quality parts and allow for system-wide customization, often to include incorporating certain components from their client's previous builds to cut down on costs. The client generally has a pretty big say in the end result.

      If you want to go cheap, and money is the key (or only) consideration, then bargain basement, big name systems - perhaps with rebates included in the package - are hard to beat. It's a cookie cutter approach, but works for lots of people. If on the other hand you want a machine that will probably last longer and be more dependable overall, is highly configurable to your specific needs, and offers personalized (local) support, most corner shops are the way to go. Often when you pay a little more up front (a la custom units), you pay less later in regards to ROI, to include support issues and the accompanying headaches. Also back before MS got serious with OS activations, it was not impossible to find an OEM or VLK copy of Windows thrown in at little to no charge with custom builds. Not always in perfect accordance with the EULA, but that's the way it was.
      • We agree ...

        I understand you arguments as I always build my PC's.
        I tend to go for a bit bellow top Specs, in the sweet spot of buying not the latest greatest but a bit less with a more price/performance advantage.
        Lower end is not my game (although I have some machines that I like a lot in this range) and I think in this lower range that HP's and the like have not competition.
        What I notice at least going online to tigerdirect as the other etailers for example is that equivalent top of the line PC's from HP/Dell/Gateway/whatever cost more than if one buys directly the part, just like I usually do.
        (apart from some PC's given to me in some projects I worked ...)

        Of course as you mentioned the issue is far more complex ... there are many other parameters to consider.
        As for OS license ... I use Linux mainly.
        And that is an advantage for buying in the corner shop. They can sell with no attached OS.

    • Actually Yes I do know.

      Hi Pedro. That is an excellent question. Not an easy one but an excellent one. I am an independent builder, and the first point I have to make is, with all parts equal the cost is the same. However, I won't use lowest bidder parts like the large corporations do. Think about it, HP makes optical drives and other various components, but they do not put them in their own machines. Sony is the same way. The last real PC was made by IBM. They used their own components and purchased the ones they didn't make from a quality vendor. There is not a single PC on the market today that I would purchase because of the poor quality parts that they are made from. Ever wonder why there is so much junk on a large name PC. It is advertising. Most of the large name PCs are already paid for by the advertisers before you even buy them. When you compare a custom to a mass produced machine, the quality is 1000 fold. They price is about 30 to 40 percent higher but is configured and secured properly without a bunch of junk on the hard drive. They have superior components and for practical purposes the upgrades to these systems are far less expensive than from a large manufacturer. Our society accepts this junk because it is attached to a name that they are familiar with, however the product they are buying is only assembled by them and not manufactured by them. Kind of a false representation of quality if you ask me. People buy according to price, not quality. This is a change brought about by the fast pace of our world today. The cheapest is also the easiest to buy. However the headaches that come from that type of purchase (in my opinion) cost far more than the dollars spent. The world should do themselves a favor and start buying from a quality manufacturer. It is far less expensive in the long run.
      • My feelings exactly.

        It seems for what I have seen online that the branded machines are competitive priced on the lower segment only.
        But they do not even have top PC segment products.
        By this I mean a Thermaltake/Antec or other "gaming" top case and Power supply.
        A top of the line Asus/Intel/Gigabyte or whatever good branded MB with latest RAM speed support and CPU overclocking functionalities.
        Top SLI video cards and the like ...
        They are also tend to have higher prices on middle segment when compared to custom build/home build PC's ...
        Interesting ...