Jump to content
Frozone212

What was the worst computer you ever bought and why?

Recommended Posts

54 minutes ago, Keatah said:

I'll second recent WD reliability having been very good in past 10-15 years.

 

I do have a couple of Caviars from the early 1990's that are still fully functional. And a couple of 120GB drives that have been bonked and exposed to whump-thucks while operating. And aside from expected SMART errors due to interruption, they's be in great shape.

 

Another WD survived my amateurish installation of a clear window made from a fast-food takeout box.

Ah Yes..  the Caviars.   Those are the ones I had problems with back then.   It could be that my friends and I got units with manufacturing defects,  but when you see more than one hard drive of the same type die too soon without warning, it's hard to trust that brand 😉

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, 5-11under said:

I'll agree, but...  a) it was a computer, b) when we first got it (the ZX80 at least), I didn't know anyone else who had a computer, c) it was all we had, and d) it was all we (my brother) could afford, so... it was awesome at the same time.

Yeah, at the time it came out you'd be paying two or three times the price for a VIC-20, and probably ten times as much for anything that might be considered a real computer.

 

You certainly could have done a lot worse too. Imagine spending thousands of dollars on an Apple III at around the same time, only to get something that was barely any more functional.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As for Packard-Bell hell - worked for a company in '98 where all the offices were independently franchised. They had ISDN lines to the central site.  The owners of each office would just buy the cheapest machines they could, so they would go to Best Buy or CompUSA and get a Packard-Bell.   I was in charge of getting them online.  I basically had to get a rule created that they also had to buy a 3Com network card, because that was the only way to get those things connected.  The on-board or included cheap network cards would just not work most of the time.

 

 

  • Like 2
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IIRC, the Desktop Packard Bell units of that era had an integrated (and VASTLY nonstandard) 14.4 data fax modem, but no ethernet.  I DO remember that they were so cranky that configuring anything in them was a crapshoot. Even quality merch might not work right.  (Memories of putting 3Com cards in... Known working cards... and experiencing strange, and not-consistent issues)

 

They were getting better by the pentium era, which was indeed in the late 90s, but still not the greatest.  Their worst era was in the 486 era. Disabled caches, shit versions of phoenix bios, razor sharp edges inside, etc.

 

Dell desktops were leaps and beyond superior in basically every way, as I recall.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My worst computer was the Macintosh Performa 5215.  I was a dedicated Mac-head in those college days, and when my mother discovered a deal through her job for an all-in-one Mac with decent-seeming specs and a lot of extra software, we went for it.  But soon its limitations became apparent.  Some sort of hardware bug required an extended warranty (they didn't dare call it a recall) to fix the monitor.  Sound was limited to 22kHz sampling, far less than CD quality.  Broadband Internet was just starting to be a thing, and the 5215 was wired for it, provided you bought an expensive adapter to convert the proprietary network port to RJ-45.  And, most baffling of all, network speeds were hampered but could be improved by attaching a terminator to the external SCSI port, even if you didn't have any SCSI devices attached.  Imagine being told by your car mechanic that you can get faster acceleration by leaving your left turn signal on.  This made about as much sense.

 

Fortunately, I followed that one with a Power Macintosh 7300, which was still an overpriced Apple thing but also one of the very best PowerPC-based Macs ever released, surprisingly well equipped and even more surprisingly, very expandable.  I joked it would be my computer for the next 10 years.  To one degree or another, it just about did last that long.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The piecemeal upgradability and versatility and pervasiveness of the PC were among many things that swayed me toward the platform. Not to mention it having all sorts of cool sciencey and astronomy stuff.

 

In thinking about the MAC - I always wondered if it really was greener on the other side of the proverbial fence because its interface looked so simple - too simple even. So there must be "something" there that I wasn't grown up enough to understand. Some sort of enlightened experience reserved for the rich and smart. Not some asshole kid wanting to play games. You know? All I could do was keep an eye on MAC from a distance because of money. Way out of my league.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really liked the quality of the 286 era Packard Bells. Nice manuals covering most everything. Solid reliable parts. Maybe not the fastest of the fast, but good and stable. Not many, if any, unstuffed parts. Cases didn't creak and rattle when moved around.. and other near-intangible but desirable features. Features you didn't know were important till they were implemented wrong or totally missing on future models.

 

I always wonder why computers (of the later 1990's) would drift away from established standards. All it does is create annoyed customers and eventually lots of tech support calls. Unless they really really wanted to save that dollar with cheaper parts?

 

4 hours ago, wierd_w said:

They were getting better by the pentium era, which was indeed in the late 90s, but still not the greatest.  Their worst era was in the 486 era. Disabled caches, shit versions of phoenix bios, razor sharp edges inside, etc.

All-around I always thought stuff in general from the late 386 and most of the 486 era was el'cheapo crap. Not just PB. I can tell you that 486s are one of the most tedious and tactically intensive computers to configure if you're running a no-name motherboard. All sorts exceptions and tricks and if-this then-do-this scenarios.

 

Bigger disks were being introduced, And BIOS didn't always keep up. 486 spanned many bus types, ISA, EISA, VL-BUS, PCI, MCA, and proprietary stuff. Fake cache was becoming a thing. Cheap chipsets were on the horizon, if not already in use. Multiple types of memory sockets were in use. Custom/proprietary memory cards still a thing. "MultiMedia" was introduced. Confusing OverDrive upgrades. 4 types of sockets with 3.3, 3.45, and 5V specs.

 

I guess I got lucky with GW2K. Great documentation. Lots of slots. Everything all setup at the factory. Quality motherboard. Quality parts. Good phone support.

 

4 hours ago, wierd_w said:

Dell desktops were leaps and beyond superior in basically every way, as I recall.

I guess.. I never played much with Dell hardware - not till I got sucked into the corporate rat race. Then it was grinding through databases on underpowered hardware anyway. Because cheapo company X didn't want to properly spec a machine. It's a rotten experience working with software you don't fully have a handle on, that uses multiple nested (but too similar) templates in a database with weird rules for saving entries. All the while paging to disk is in full effect. Because going from 512MB to 1GB is too expensive for a multi-billion-dollar company.. Fuck'em all!!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the late '90s, I visited a swap meet where I traded a crumpled five dollar bill for a box containing two Mattel Aquarius machines + mini expander + cassette player + some cartridges... and a vintage screwdriver [?]. The guy who sold it to me actually asked if I was absolutely sure I wanted it. Quite the salesman, eh? 😐

 

Anyway I got it home and... well, if you're not familiar with the Aquarius: it's trash. The end.

 

 

 

 


Wait! Not the end. That 5 bucks was well spent because it allowed me my first and (thankfully) only experience saving & loading programs from cassette tape. I instantly had MAX RESPECT for everyone out there in computerland who had to suffer with cassettes over the years, for lack of a floppy drive. Wowzers!

Edited by DeathAdderSF
  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a good experience with a desktop gaming rig from a company called IBuyPower in2002. So in 2011 when I was looking for a laptop, I saw they were still around and ordered from them. Everything about it felt cheap, and the thing would shut itself off without warning after a short amount of time, so I sent it in. Didn't hear anything for a while and I had to contact them to get them to look at it. Finally after a couple of weeks I get it back, and the same problem is still happening. I looked at the Event Viewer and saw that the last time it had been powered on was when I had it before I sent it in. It was probably just a bad PSU but no one even looked at it. What a bunch of shitweasels. So I got a refund and bought an HP, which is still going strong.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, wierd_w said:

IIRC, the Desktop Packard Bell units of that era had an integrated (and VASTLY nonstandard) 14.4 data fax modem, but no ethernet.  I DO remember that they were so cranky that configuring anything in them was a crapshoot. Even quality merch might not work right.  (Memories of putting 3Com cards in... Known working cards... and experiencing strange, and not-consistent issues)

 

They were getting better by the pentium era, which was indeed in the late 90s, but still not the greatest.  Their worst era was in the 486 era. Disabled caches, shit versions of phoenix bios, razor sharp edges inside, etc.

 

Dell desktops were leaps and beyond superior in basically every way, as I recall.

It was pretty common for PCs designed for home use in the 90s to have modems and no ethernet.   Most people just didn't need it yet until broadband showed up at the end of the 90s.   Also 10-base-2 COAX ethernet was still a thing in the 90s.  The industry hadn't quite standardized on the ethernet connections we know today, so that would have made setting up home networks even more confusing.   

 

The main issue I remember with 3COM cards was they switched to a completely new MAC range because 3COM ran out of MAC addresses.   I recall this caused issues for software that tried to detect the card mfg by their MAC address and failed because they didn't know about the new range.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Keatah said:

Bigger disks were being introduced, And BIOS didn't always keep up.

Even when BIOS did keep up, you were given like three options on how to configure it:  "Normal", "Large", "LBA", and this was just before internet was widespread so it wasn't easy to find out what the difference was.  I remember picking one and hoping it worked out.

 

7 hours ago, Keatah said:

"MultiMedia" was introduced.

CD-ROM drives, with something like five different interface standards.   Panasonic, Mitsumi, Sony, SCSI and later IDE/ATAPI.   And the Panasonic and Mitsumi drives used the exact same type of 40-pin connector as IDE, so it was very easy to hook your drive up to the wrong interface.   Not sure if it was possible to damage it that way though.

 

Speaking of,  many connectors in general were not "keyed" in the 486 era,  and many cables/pins did not have pin 1 clearly marked,  so it was very easy to hook things up the wrong way, creating more headaches.   And almost everything was on a ribbon cable that could be difficult to position the way you needed it to, so you'd get yourself a longer one.   And there'd be so much ribbon cable that it was sometimes difficult to close your PC case...    Yeah not a good hardware era in retrospect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, The Usotsuki said:

The 386 era was peak Vartabomb era, not?

I'd still say 486 was peak. Maybe biased however because I had more exposure to PCs starting then.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, zzip said:

Even when BIOS did keep up, you were given like three options on how to configure it:  "Normal", "Large", "LBA", and this was just before internet was widespread so it wasn't easy to find out what the difference was.  I remember picking one and hoping it worked out.

I remember trying to figure out what those meant by looking through any documentation I had laying around. At the time I was surprised that those big-boxed WD kits didn't fully explain the situation. Because documentation was good and covered everything you needed to know otherwise.

 

WD would even send you a quarter-inch thick technical manual of the HDD. Broke down the firmware and command flowchart. Listed all the IDE commands. Physical and environmental specs. Respectable theory of ops. Discussion of the cache logic too.

 

In retrospect, however, Normal, Large, & LBA were terms that (I believe) entered the PC world at different times. Eventually documentation would bring them all together. But yes the internet has (then & now) been a total boon for documentation.

 

1 hour ago, zzip said:

CD-ROM drives, with something like five different interface standards.   Panasonic, Mitsumi, Sony, SCSI and later IDE/ATAPI.   And the Panasonic and Mitsumi drives used the exact same type of 40-pin connector as IDE, so it was very easy to hook your drive up to the wrong interface.   Not sure if it was possible to damage it that way though.

Ahh yes I forgot about all those myriad connectors. Some iterations of the SB soundcards supported 4 different types. Seemed like a waste, because, a user would only need one. Sometimes two if they were upgrading or replacing a drive.

 

1 hour ago, zzip said:

Speaking of,  many connectors in general were not "keyed" in the 486 era,  and many cables/pins did not have pin 1 clearly marked,  so it was very easy to hook things up the wrong way, creating more headaches.

I hated those stake connectors. Always had to pull out a flashlight to look for pin 1. Then match it to the cable. Always looking for odd shaped markings or something. Even had to use a DMM to check for 5V or Ground as keying sometimes. Not consumer friendly at all.

 

1 hour ago, zzip said:

And almost everything was on a ribbon cable that could be difficult to position the way you needed it to, so you'd get yourself a longer one.

I experienced this even in Pentium II/III epoch. Was especially limiting when you had to share 1 of 2 channels between a CD-ROM and an HDD. Cables always seemed too short.

 

BTW, thinking about my old PIII,  is is better to have 2 HDDs on IDE1 and 2 CD-ROMS on IDE2? OR HDD + CD-ROM on IDE1 and HDD + CD-ROM on IDE2?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, FujiSkunk said:

Imagine being told by your car mechanic that you can get faster acceleration by leaving your left turn signal on.  This made about as much sense.

My grandfather swore by this trick.  You probably saw him on the road.

  • Like 1
  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Keatah said:

I remember trying to figure out what those meant by looking through any documentation I had laying around. At the time I was surprised that those big-boxed WD kits didn't fully explain the situation. Because documentation was good and covered everything you needed to know otherwise.

I think WD shipped their own software they wanted you to use on >500Mb drives, instead of relying on the BIOS settings.  

 

20 hours ago, Keatah said:

In retrospect, however, Normal, Large, & LBA were terms that (I believe) entered the PC world at different times. Eventually documentation would bring them all together. But yes the internet has (then & now) been a total boon for documentation.

I finally learned the difference last year after pulling out my old 486 and reviving it.     "Large" is more hacky,  it's the one that reports fake drive geometry in order to get past the limits.     Since I was used to seeing fake geometry in my BIOS, this must be the one I used back in the day.

 

LBA is a cleaner implementation, and sometimes faster, but not supported by all drives.

 

20 hours ago, Keatah said:

BTW, thinking about my old PIII,  is is better to have 2 HDDs on IDE1 and 2 CD-ROMS on IDE2? OR HDD + CD-ROM on IDE1 and HDD + CD-ROM on IDE2?

It depends on your IDE controller.   Some lacked the DMA on the second IDE connector, in which case it was better to put the hard drives on IDE1.   Otherwise it seemed to work better to make the drives the master on each IDE and the CD-ROM The slave.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, zzip said:

I think WD shipped their own software they wanted you to use on >500Mb drives, instead of relying on the BIOS settings. 

Yes. WD distributed DISK MANAGER from OnTrack Systems. The 540MB and 1.6GB I got going in my 486 are using version v6.03, FWIW. WD also distro'd EZ-Drive from MicroHouse.

 

At the time all this felt like being on the frontier. Intricate & sophisticated even. Important gotta-know info brought center-stage by the included drive settings charts and tutorials. I remember making a big deal out of all this. Broadcasting it to all PC-users I knew, befuddling and blinding them with what would soon become tedious unnecessarium. Especially when when BIOS began supporting big disks. It was suddenly a kludge.

 

I clearly recall some initial frustration with it all. But persevered through it because, after all, it was being sold at bigbox appliance shops and other consummery stores. Being marketed to the average schmuck. Today none of that would fly. Crap, today, if something doesn't work with 1-single-connection or 1 attempt via some wireless scheme, then it's a marketing failure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Keatah said:

Yes. WD distributed DISK MANAGER from OnTrack Systems. The 540MB and 1.6GB I got going in my 486 are using version v6.03, FWIW. WD also distro'd EZ-Drive from MicroHouse.

 

At the time all this felt like being on the frontier. Intricate & sophisticated even. Important gotta-know info brought center-stage by the included drive settings charts and tutorials. I remember making a big deal out of all this. Broadcasting it to all PC-users I knew, befuddling and blinding them with what would soon become tedious unnecessarium. Especially when when BIOS began supporting big disks. It was suddenly a kludge.

I remember being suspicious of that software.   I was already into partitioning and dual booting multiple OSes and wasn't sure if software like that would play nice.    I think I may have installed it for friends who were ever only going to run DOS on a single partition.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was suspicious because I was told to be suspicious about it. Likely by some self-important geek trying to feel powerful or something. IDK. IDR.

 

I clearly recall I had a nebulous understanding of it all. There was so much to learn. But my experiences with DDO software seemed good enough. Installed it high up in memory. Forgot about it. Worked with all my tools and utilities. Even worked with DoubleSpace and SmartDrive. Still consider it robust. And it still remains on my vintage system. But of course I mainly used my drives for games, and pictures, and general storage. Didn't do much multiple or dual-booting OSes or customized MBRs. DOS 6.22 & Windows 3.1 was about it for a long while. I did add dual-boot to Windows 95 late in the game however.

 

DDO software worked fine across multiple partitions per drive. Maybe that's magic I should've been appreciative of back then. But I took it for granted.

 

All this messing around should make PCs seem to be the worst. But no! It was exciting experiencing all this evolving tech and watching how the industry worked itself out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Keatah said:

I clearly recall I had a nebulous understanding of it all. There was so much to learn. But my experiences with DDO software seemed good enough. Installed it high up in memory. Forgot about it. Worked with all my tools and utilities. Even worked with DoubleSpace and SmartDrive. Still consider it robust. And it still remains on my vintage system. But of course I mainly used my drives for games, and pictures, and general storage. Didn't do much multiple or dual-booting OSes or customized MBRs. DOS 6.22 & Windows 3.1 was about it for a long while. I did add dual-boot to Windows 95 late in the game however.

 

DDO software worked fine across multiple partitions per drive. Maybe that's magic I should've been appreciative of back then. But I took it for granted.

Yeah, There just wasn't enough information about how it all worked.   I just reasoned that whatever the software was doing to allow DOS to access the higher disk capacities would probably not work in another OS where that software wasn't available.  And I didn't want to put data at risk,  so to me BIOS seemed safer, luckily my first BIOS supported large disks.

 

22 minutes ago, Keatah said:

All this messing around should make PCs seem to be the worst. But no! It was exciting experiencing all this evolving tech and watching how the industry worked itself out.

I guess worst compared to what?  I also had hard drives running on an Atari ST.    I think the fact that PC BIOS could detect your drive gave me the reassurance that I hooked everything up right, jumpered things right, and the drive was working.. or at least working well enough to report it's geometry.

 

On the ST it was more archaic.  No BIOS to help you, you had to enter the drive geometry manually, install some hard drive driver and partitioning software, and had to know what you needed and where to get it.   Maybe it was because I got my hard drive controller second hand and didn't have a manual.  Luckily I had a friend who knew what he was doing and set it up for me (and I was afraid to touch it after)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
28 minutes ago, zzip said:

On the ST it was more archaic.  No BIOS to help you, you had to enter the drive geometry manually, install some hard drive driver and partitioning software, and had to know what you needed and where to get it.   Maybe it was because I got my hard drive controller second hand and didn't have a manual.  Luckily I had a friend who knew what he was doing and set it up for me (and I was afraid to touch it after)

I briefly had a hard drive for my ST and it was a nightmare!  Setting anything up with AHDD was a PITA but I was lucky the used drive someone sold me was already set up with ICD drivers.

 

After a few weeks the drive motor drive and I only got $40 out of the $60 I paid back.  I swore right then and there to buy a new 486 PC than to do any more upgrades to my STe (though the SIMM memory chips I got afterwards worked great).

 

Even now with ST emulators I'd rather mount a Windows subdirectory as a GEMDOS drive instead of muck about with AHDD disks and HD images... :P

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DM at least told you how it works..

 

(If you dug around in manual mode)

 

It occupies sector 0 of the disk, loads a new INT13 disk handler which knows how to read 32bit LBA, takes the max LBA number the drive reports, subtracts one sector from it, and then reports a disk size appropriate for that.

 

The extended bios overlay is called XBIOS.  Iirc, it also knows how to do some adv disk io modes, if the controller can handle it. (With adv options you can set at install time, for things like multiword disk io mode, etc)

 

It really was made for DOS and WIN9X, but was also useful for some XP/WIN2K systems that only did 24bit LBA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, MrMaddog said:

I briefly had a hard drive for my ST and it was a nightmare!  Setting anything up with AHDD was a PITA but I was lucky the used drive someone sold me was already set up with ICD drivers.

Once mine was working, it really breathed new life into my STe!   I/O was much faster (even though the drive was pretty slow by today's standards- had something like  a 27ms seek time),  but as I mentioned I was afraid to reconfigure it in any way.

 

22 hours ago, MrMaddog said:

Even now with ST emulators I'd rather mount a Windows subdirectory as a GEMDOS drive instead of muck about with AHDD disks and HD images...

I was the same way for the longest time,  but I did finally bite the bullet a couple years back and set up an HD image in hatari.  I followed the instructions hatari provides and it wasn't too bad.  And now I understand the process much better than I did back in the day.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm probably going to offend some CoCo people here and as a disclaimer I want to apologize in advance. I found love for that computer (well, the CoCo 3) many years later if that is any consolation :)

 

But, on to the "worse computer I ever bought". Well, the year was 1983 and I was 8 years old. A friend from school invited me over and I was able to play around with his home computer. That was the Commodore Vic-20. I worked with the PET in school but never saw a home computer before...and it was in color!

 

I wanted this badly and begged my folks. They said "no". Then I begged my Grandmother. She said "ok"! So we went to Toys R US and I finally had the machine.

 

But I did not know how to hook it up! My eight year old mind did not understand hooking up the TV/Game switchbox. My Grandmother had no idea how to do it. My parents knew nothing about hooking things up either other than plugging stuff into walls.

 

So we went back to TRU and returned the Vic! I was so upset.

 

My Grandmother suggested that we go to Radio Shack. Maybe they had something. And we did.

 

The sales guy heard our story about the Vic and in typical sales guy rhetoric said (and I clearly remember this): "That is the problem with the other computers on the market. They are just too difficult to hook up...but ours..." etc. He then sold us on the CoCo 2. 

 

He started showing me how to hook it up and that is when I had realized that the Vic-20 hooked up the same damn way. We were already in sold mode however and my Grandma had invested so much time at this store with me that I did not have the heart to tell her that I got it now and I know what I did not understand in hooking up that Vic.

 

 

So, after buying that CoCo 2 and a copy of "poltergeist" I went on home and hooked it up. And, it sucked. Sorry CoCo folks. I just did not like it. My friend was like "why didn't you keep the Vic?". Ugh. He was playing "piss on rats" (our name for Radar Rat Race) and I was stuck with this crappy poltergeist game.

 

 

So, yeah, that was the worst computer I ever bought. Even though some nearly 40 years later I have a different outlook on the CoCo 2, there still exists a little part of me that really hates that machine.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMac G3. Picked it up for around 50 dollars back in 2008, got OS9 and OSX Tiger for it. Set everything up in dual boot. Had the graphite color so se the color scheme to match in OS. Then just sat there thinking "what now?". This is definatly a style over substance computer. Every other computer I owned I could find something to do with. But this one was just useless. Wound up giving it away. Around the same time I was handed a 100MHZ pentium that was over twice as old and had too many options on that one. Think if I picked up an Apple II I would have found more to do on it. 

 

Sorry to all the fans of these computers. I seriously wonder though if anyone uses them. Lots of videos on YouTube of people working on Macs and talking about how great they are. But honestly never see them actually use them for anything? Maybe I'm just watching the wrong videos.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...