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Fifteen Classic PC Design Mistakes

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the i've-made-seven-so-far-today dept.

Hardware 806

Harry writes "Once upon a time, it wasn't a given that PC owners should be able to format their own floppy disks. Or that ports should be standard, not proprietary. Or that it was a lousy idea to hardwire a PC's AC adapter, or to put the power supply in the printer so that a printer failure rendered the PC unusable, too. Over at Technologizer, Benj Edwards has taken a look at some of the worst design decisions from personal computing's early years — including ones involving famous flops such as the PCJr, obscure failures such as Mattel's Aquarius, and machines that succeeded despite flaws, like the first Mac. In most instances — but not all — their bad decisions taught the rest of the industry not to make the same errors again."

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Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (5, Insightful)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335195)

Patents and proprietary, closed standards -- Open standards lead to innovation and better hardware for consumers. Look at some of the junk in that article... Engineers need the challenge of having other people improve upon their ideas. Open standards and open-source *will* win because people work best working together. Capitalism certainly won't die but it needs to learn this lesson.

Honourable Mention: Keyboards -- Most computer keyboards are designed for some other lifeform -- one with a single arm bearing 10 or more fingers. Consumers accept the familiar "conventional" keyboard because it's familiar and conventional. The keyboards that are best for human beings have a "split" or curve in the centre. There are many horrible keyboards, so I'd like to mention some excellent ones:
Adesso Ergonomic
original Microsoft Natural (not the later rubbish that claimed to be "ergonomic" just because it had a fake leather wrist support -- while maintaining the straight-row key configuration that is bad for wrists)

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (5, Insightful)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335501)

> original Microsoft Natural

That was a great keyboard back in 96! I would demonstrate a simple proof to others to show the benefit of its ergonomics:

* Stand up. Put your hands by your sides. Notice the angle of your hands.
* Now raise your hands up, keeping your biceps in place, and making an L, as if you were shaking hands.
* Now roll both of your hands inward, as if you were to play a wide piano. Seem how comfortable that is?
* Now slide your hands together so your thumbs are touching. Notice how awkward that is?

Took me a little while to get used to it, but it was good. My only problem was that the Y,H,and N keys (quite logically) were put on the right side. I'm a pretty hard-core gamer that uses most of the left side + partial right side of the keyboard, and found those keys "missing." (I used the right hand on the mouse.)

I wish someone would bring it back, duplicating the TY, GH, NM keys on both the left and right side.

"Necessity is the mother of invention,
but Curiosity is the Father."
  -- Michaelangel007

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (4, Insightful)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335519)

You forgot Apple :P *ducks fanboys*. Seriously though, I just bought a Mac Mini and I was extremely disappointed to find that it uses a proprietary mini-displayport connector. If you want to use dual link DVI to power a 30" monitor you have to buy a $100 adapter that doesn't even work. Standards are standard for a reason Apple!

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335665)

Nevermind the display port.

They are back to the "no user serviceable parts" mantra.

Sure you can upgrade a mini if you are sufficiently stubborn.
However, it's a process where you will find yourself applying
a putty knife to your pretty little Mac.

Frankly I don't think most Apple users are up to that sort of

The thing is a glorified headless laptop anyways. Why didn't they
just take that idea to it's logical conclusion and have expansion
panels like real laptops do?

This is especially problematic since minis historically came with
too little memory as Mac in general have. This is why I personally
know the joys of upgrading a mini.

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (2, Interesting)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335923)

Sadly I went through the exact same process. RAM from NewEgg is less than half the price of RAM from Apple. The installation process is frustrating to the say the least. Like you said, using a putty knife on your brand new toy (almost inevitably marring the surface in the process) is not fun.

My new Mini is actually my first Apple ever. So far, I have not been impressed.

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (3, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335681)

Actually Mini-Displayport is actually rather open, and while not a standard (yet) you can get the specs from Apple for nothing.

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (0)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335833)

That doesn't really help. It's a niche machine made by a niche PC maker. I'm not holding my breath that there will be a reasonably priced adapter that actually works anytime soon. It's all ridiculous anyway because it shouldn't even be necessary.

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (0, Flamebait)

docbrody (1159409) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335893)

shit, i just modded you offtopic by mistake... meant to hit 'interesting.' So that means I have to reply in here just so it will undo my mod.

anyway, totally agree about the mini-display port.

Apple's fascination with single button mice (4, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335523)

Having to press a key on the keyboard and click has got to be the most entertaining solution I have seen as 'good' in a long time.

I think it is funny the genius bar people practically tell people to get a microsoft mouse.

multiple cable speaker systems, its about time we had a single cable solution for attached speakers that provided easy to implement separation of channels. USB for everything please, or something similar.

Re:Apple's fascination with single button mice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335661)

Uhhhh, the mice that Apple's been shipping with machines for what, 4 or 5 years now, are fully capable of doing a right click on their own. No extra hands/fingers needed.

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (1)

shog9 (154858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335685)

Keyboards... Heh. You missed all of my favorite keyboard mistakes:

  • Over-sized Enter keys that displace the \ key
  • Regrouping and/or repositioning the function keys (particularly common on "ergonomic" keyboards)
  • Failing to provide any tactile feedback
  • Failing to provide sufficient resistance (think unsplit keyboards are bad? Try hammering on a laptop keyboard where each key bottoms out after .5cm.)
  • Too small (also common on laptops, but frequently seen on desktop keyboards as well)

IMHO, the crazy "ergonomic" bastardizations would be far less necessary if it wasn't for the last three...

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (3, Interesting)

Sensible Clod (771142) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335809)

I have a Microsoft Natural. I got it from a computer repair/migration client. Despite having other keyboards with nicer features or quieter mechanisms, I use it exclusively. It and my Microsoft Sound System 80 are two of the nicest pieces of hardware I own.

Why doesn't Microsoft just forget software and go into hardware?

Re:Worst Mistake That Still Needs Fixing (4, Insightful)

jo42 (227475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335897)

I must be that "some other lifeform". I can't stand or use curved or "Ergonomic" keyboards such as the Microsoft un-Natural keyboard.

I'd rather have my wrists rest flat on the table since I find that far more comfortable than having my hands rotated slightly, thus resting my wrists at an angle (which starts to hurt after awhile).

Flamebait: Bundling the Mircosoft OS (0, Flamebait)

nysus (162232) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335215)

Yeah, mod me down, I dare ya!

Re:Flamebait: Bundling the Mircosoft OS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335261)

Mod him down to blatant karma whoring.
Or mod him up with +1 funny.

Re:Flamebait: Bundling the Mircosoft OS (1, Troll)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335361)

One day I dream of having a post that's accumulated both -5 troll, and +5 insightful on the same post.

Re:Flamebait: Bundling the Mircosoft OS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335671)

Word to the wise: Next time, lead with +5 insightful.

Re:Flamebait: Bundling the Mircosoft OS (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335505)

Yea maybe, flamebait. Maybe not every but most store bought, including mail orders, included an OS. About the only ones that didn't were the Homebrews [] .


One classic web design mistake (5, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335233)

Well... at least it wasn't spread out over 15 pages.

Re:One classic web design mistake (1)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335389)

It's not a mistake. The more pages people have to load up increases the number of times their ads are shown.

Re:One classic web design mistake (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335601)

It's not a mistake. The more pages people have to load up increases the number of times their ads are shown.

That only works if ads are paid for by impressions not clicks and don't drive visitors away.

Falcon least it wasn't spread out over 15 pages (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335541)

There's still twice as many pages as needed.


Low powered Windows Vista machines... (2, Insightful)

NervousNerd (1190935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335239)

Those machines that had 512MB of RAM that ran Vista is surely a mistakes that hopefully won't happen with Windows 7.

Re:Low powered Windows Vista machines... (1)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335377)

Good lord, are computers with 512MB of RAM even capable of running Vista? My laptop with 2GB could barely hack that... it was more like walking Vista, not running it.

Windows 7 is much, much better.

Re:Low powered Windows Vista machines... (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335449)

Good lord, are computers with 512MB of RAM even capable of running Vista? My laptop with 2GB could barely hack that... it was more like walking Vista, not running it. Windows 7 is much, much better.

Compared to your description of Vista I'd say that being better isn't exactly an achievement.

The 15 problems (5, Informative)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335243)

Problem #1: No Power Supply Fan
Problem #2: Limited Apple II Compatibility
Problem #3: No Way to Format Disks
Problem #4: EM Pulse Erases Tapes
Problem #5: Printer Required
Problem #6: Rubber Keyboard
Problem #7: Non-Detachable AC Adapter
Problem #8: Miserable Keyboard
Problem #10: Sidecar Expansion
Problem #11: No User Expandability
Problem #12: Slow BASIC
Problem #13: Sidecar Expansion
Problem #14: Bulky Expansion Modules
Problem #15: Unreliable Proprietary Disk Drives

Re:The 15 problems (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335417)

The best one from the Mac was putting the power button right next to the floppy drive. Removing the eject button was a good idea; it prevented you from ejecting a disk without unmounting it and ending up with corrupted date. Unfortunately, when the Mac came out, most users were accustomed to manual floppy drives with a mechanical eject button underneath. The natural way of getting a a disk back was to press the button under the floppy drive, which turned off the machine (typically losing data). Putting the power button on the other side, and a soft eject button under the floppy drive would have saved a lot of data.

Re:The 15 problems (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335475)

This looks to me like 10 actual problems, with multiple examples of crappy keyboards and bulky shit stuck to your computer.

Re:The 15 problems (4, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335895)

And to be honest, were those bulky expansions really design mistakes or do they just seem that way now that we have the benefit of a couple of decades of experience and design put into the problems they were meant to address?

I'd have a hard time seeing USB coming out back in the era being described, and not just because every company was doing it's best to lock people into their own platform.

Re:The 15 problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335485)

Problem #4: EM Pulse Erases Tapes

Hardly a design mistake. Its more a lack of testing mistake.

Problem #7: Non-Detachable AC Adapter

How is that any different to the Ipod coming without a user replacable battery?

Problem #6: Rubber Keyboard

It didn't hurt the Sinclair ZX Spectrum's sales too much. I'd say the same thing about most PC keyboards sold today but it comes down to money. $6 for a cheap rubbery key keyboard or $75 for a clicky microswitch keyboard.. most people aren't prepared to pay the extra.

Problem #15: Unreliable Proprietary Disk Drives

I'd say all disk drives are proprietary until they become a standard. If the machine had been a success i'm sure everyone would have licensed it.

Re:The 15 problems (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335765)

Problem #7: Non-Detachable AC Adapter - How is that any different to the Ipod coming without a user replacable battery?

Because the iPod battery is internal. Could you imagine the iPod's battery hanging off of it, permanently attached with a 3-inch cable? Apple'd be selling a helluva lot less of them if that were so.

Re:The 15 problems (1, Insightful)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335555)

I want the list of examples and how the problem manifested itself and the results, with perhaps some humour and trivia too (i.e. an entertaining article), not a literal list of 15 design mistakes verbatim. But thanks for the effort.

Re:The 15 problems (2, Informative)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335693)

Where's #9?
Oh, instead of releasing their own GUI based PC, Xerox PARC [] had Apple do it.


And a summary (3, Informative)

Chas (5144) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335785)

A: No PSU fan (leading to thermal warping of internal components)
B: Limited Apple II Compatibility (Limited Compatibility)
C: No way to format disks
D: EM Pulse Erases tapes (unreliable media)
E: Printer required
F: Lousy Keyboard (#6 and #8)
G: Non-detachable AC adapter
H: Ridiculous external expansion options (10, 13, and technically 14)
I: No user expandability
K: Unreliable disk drives

General trend (1, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335301)

The general trend from the article seems to be when you try to make things "easier" for your users, you end up failing. And even though its not classic, I think the "underpowered" Vista machines deserve at least a mention.

Re:General trend (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335403)

And even though its not classic, I think the "underpowered" Vista machines deserve at least a mention.

Can we stop with the knee-jerk microsoft bashing? The article is literally titled "Fifteen _Classic_ PC Design Mistake." There's nothing in the article that would make a vista reference even relevent. Posting as AC to avoid karma whoring like the parent.

Re:General trend (-1, Offtopic)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335513)

It could be the fact that Microsoft is a pretty large and widely used producer of software that it's a common example. The topic at hand was about epic IT failures, and the parent presented an example from Microsoft. You however are fanboying under the AC sig simply because he referred to an MS product with critisism. It seems like you're the douche here, but then again you knew that before you clicked "Post as anonymous."

Not really (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335921)

Well, way I see it, not really. At _least_ half the mistakes there are about cutting corners (e.g., the crappy cheap keyboards, an ultra-expensive computer shoved out the door with an unreliable floppy drive, etc), and most of the rest are about blatantly trying to nickel-and-dime the users (e.g., the lack of a format command so they have to buy their floppies from you only, or all the connectors on the PC Jr being incompatible with the standard PC ones, etc.)

Unfortunately both types of failures are standard stapples of capitalism, so don't expect them to go away any time soon. Even though those particular 15 manifestations of them might not happen again, we're just seeing new and innovative ways to do the same two things. E.g., when EA cuts costs on testing their new game, _and_ launches a new game with over half the content sold separately (check out The Sims 3: from day 1 there was more virtual furniture for sale for real money on their site than included with the game)... I'm sure you can see the same two things at work.

E.g., for hardware, when as you correctly mention a system that's waay underpowered for Vista is sold as Vista ready, you have the first failure mode in action: they wanted to sell a system as Vista ready, without actually including the expensive hardware needed to actually be ready. It's just cutting corners.

E.g., nickel-and-diming... well, let's just say HP's whole printer ink business is based on that. It recently even reached such absurdity as including chips to make the ink or toner cartridge artifficially "expire" after a while, even if there's actually plenty of ink left inside. For some users that already was the straw that broke the camel's back, but I expect some bright MBA to try something even more ham-fisted soon.

Big ISA bus flaw (4, Interesting)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335323)

IOCHRDY signal is active high instead of active low. Causes no end of problems.

Keyboard layout... (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335341)

Who else has been burned by less popular keyboard layout? I'll still occasionally be hunting for the ` and end up with a [ thanks to the TI-99 or click the bottom-left key expecting a \ thanks to my old Packard Bell keyboard. Maybe not a mistake, but definitely a massive frustration.

Re:Keyboard layout... (4, Insightful)

vintagepc (1388833) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335397)

This is the exact reason I went with a laptop that had a standard, full-size layout.
Nothing irks me more than having to go hunting for oft-used keys such as end, delete, etc. on every different laptop. I've seen them below shift, above enter, buried as an Fn-key... *continues on for another few minutes*.

Re:Keyboard layout... (4, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335409)

This is actually still a problem - why does Apple have a UK keyboard layout which is different to standard UK keyboard layouts? You have the option to choose 'UK Keyboard' specifically when speccing a new Apple system, but its different to the UK keyboard prevelent. Annoying.

Re:Keyboard layout... (2, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335747)

\ is in the bottom left on the UK keyboard layout. You were shipped a product for a different region, that's all.

I get no end of issues with " not being above 2, # being a \, and other non-UK keyboard layouts screwing up user experiences.

PCJr + Sid Mier = fun; Software owns Hardware (2, Funny)

mtyson (1573941) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335347)

First of all, we had a great time playing 7 cities of gold on the pcjr, so just back off. Second, the worst design decision ever is not hardware, its software: the path editing text box found on all windows systems.

Re:PCJr + Sid Mier = fun; Software owns Hardware (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335899)

Yeah. I remember the PC jr keyboard issue but it wasn't bothering me because I was a young'un playing games back then and I remember dad getting the sidebar expansion so we'd have 640K.

Those were the days... I remember playing Ghostbusters, Jumpman, Bar Tap, Spacewars, Kings Quest II, and countless other games I can't remember off the top of my head.

It was fun for the time at least for me and I'm sure plenty others. I really don't think you should have used a PCjr for business, but I think for most of us used it for gaming because our parents weren't going to buy the top of the line systems.

Then came the IBM PS/1 and PS/2.

Remember those?

Re: The 15 problems (5, Insightful)

SlashDotDotDot (1356809) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335375)

Problem #16: Blindingly intense blue LED on my new Dell that blinks when the computer is asleep.

All night long the computer constantly warns me: "I'm asleep. I'm asleep. I'm asleep." It's like Homer Simpson's "everything is OK" alarm.

Re: The 15 problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335439)

I feel for you. I read somewhere that blue LEDs are actually the worst for this task because they destroy night vision. They're very visible and annoying. See this link:

Low-tech solution (5, Insightful)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335509)

1 square inch of Scotch brand #33 electrical tape.

Re:Low-tech solution (2, Insightful)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335779)

What, no Duct Tape suggestion? :-)


(Electrical Tape is actually a good idea)

Re: The 15 problems (1)

Fzz (153115) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335581)

I had the same problem with the extremely bright LED on my Toshiba 1TB external disk. At least this problem is easily cured with black electrical tape.

Re: The 15 problems (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335587)

Yeah, my HP netbook has one of this, and it blinks away quite merrily and annoyingly, until you cover it with clothes. Even with your eyes closed looking away from the LED you can detect when it is blinking. It's far worse than sleeping in a room with a video record blinking "12:00" all night.

My old iBook has a pulsating white LED, it is far less annoying than the blinking blue LED though.

Standby LEDs are also annoying.

None of these are as annoying as background electronics hum when you have a less-than-perfect transformer in some product in the room doing that buzzy-hum.

Damn all of this, I'm going to live in a cave in the woods. Might get a good night's sleep finally!

Re: The 15 problems (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335763)

That has got to be one of the most annoying things I have ever seen on a laptop. Who ever thought this was a good idea at Dell should be forced to have 20 of these laptops asleep in his room at night while he tries to sleep.

Re: The 15 problems (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335789)

All night long the computer constantly warns me: "I'm asleep. I'm asleep. I'm asleep."

It's not saying "I'm asleep", it's saying "Fix me!"

If you don't want to disconnect the errant LEDs themselves, then just cover them up with your standard issue, which-side-of-the-force-are-you electrical tape. If you're particularly inventive you can even channel the light out side so that you can still see the LEDs without them lighting up the entire room.

Re: The 15 problems (3, Insightful)

jo42 (227475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335933)

More like blindingly intense blue LEDs period on all current hardware. Give me back my soft red LEDs...

CapsLock (3, Insightful)

jameson (54982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335391)

Sun got it right on their keyboard design, but everyone else kept the CapsLock key. I've been using computers for 21 years, and I use Ctrl constantly. I do not recall ever having used the CapsLock key (except out of curiousity to see whether it actually does anything.)

(Well, that's a bit of a lie. Of course I use it, after reassigning it to Ctrl. But the point is, having to take that step is a waste of time.)

CapsLock was useful once upon a time, when there was no \section{} or \textbf{}, and when pressing `shift' actually required strenght. But those days are gone.

Re:CapsLock (3, Insightful)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335643)

There are still limited instances when CapsLock is useful. I work in a hospital and our MediTech program requires all caps. (Don't ask me why.) Like you mentioned, you can get keyboard remapping programs to turn CapsLock into another key. Still, I can see your point and it would be nicer if the CapsLock functionality was incorporated without needing a whole key. Say, for example, by pressing the Shift key twice or three times in rapid succession.

And while we're on the subject, does anyone use Num Lock or Pause anymore?

Re:CapsLock (2, Insightful)

jbeale53 (1451655) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335683)

The NumLock has got to be more useless these days than the CapsLock ever has been.

In the defense industry... (1)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335753)

... you have to type a lot of acronyms (and not in TeX, either). Also, strength has nothing to do with the use of CapsLock... the point is having to avoid constantly shifting from the left Shift key to the right Shift key as you type a passage in all caps.

You can have my CAPSLOCK key when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!

Re:CapsLock (1)

theinvisibleguy (982464) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335791)

I whole heartedly agree, imagine a forum where there was no such thing as capslock, it would be beautiful.

Re:CapsLock (1)

vonhammer (992352) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335825)

Funnily enough, I found this useful exactly once - on a C64. A game I was playing (forget which one) used the shift key to pause. A way to pause for long time, while you got something to eat, etc, was to use the caps-lock.

CapsLock was useful once upon a time (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335851)

when there was no \section{} or \textbf{}, and when pressing `shift' actually required strenght. But those days are gone.

Don't you ever, no I won't do it that way, shout? If it only prevented people from shouting so much, I think getting rid of the caps lock would be great.


worst: sharp unfinished inside edges in cheap case (5, Interesting)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335399)

My personal list...

- 15 to 10 years ago, you had to be careful when installing drives, or RAM. You could almost slice your hand on a cheap case that had unfinished and sharp edges.

- Beige Only. You can pick any color, as long as it is beige. Why did it take so bloody long to offer any other color then beige? Critical mass?

- LOUD systems. Have to thank George for showing me just how nice a quiet system is.

- Power hunger systems. 2 molex connections for a GPU ?!

- Crap 3D Video cards in laptops, and almost no benchmarks from the "classic" hardware review sites so you know how bad it sucks compared to a "real" GPU. (Thankfully the S3 Virge is gone from desktops, but laptops are still stuck with poor performance unless you pay an arm and a leg.)

"World of Warcraft (TM) is the McDonalds (TM) of MMOs."
    -- Michaelangel007

If we started again, today (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335429)

I'd suggest

O/S in flash (possibly upgradable / patchable from BIOS)

Integral flat screen

no user accessible parts inside

LCD monitor form factor, not desktop box with screen on top

machine uniquely identified by MAC address, or something like it

This sounds a lot like a loptop - I wonder how many of these points would make 2019's list of greatest design mistakes?

Re:If we started again, today (2, Funny)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335599)

Sounds more like the last generation G5 iMac.

Re:If we started again, today (1)

Omniscient Lurker (1504701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335823)

"no user accessible parts inside"

That's on the current list.

"machine uniquely identified by MAC address, or something like it"

Why? I don't want my machine uniquely identifiable, I like being anonymous.

The worst-designed case component... (5, Funny)

PotatoFiend (1330299) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335437)

has always been the cup holder. That shit always snaps under the strain of my 48-oz. coffee.

Re:The worst-designed case component... (5, Funny)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335533)

Bah! You just have to spring for one of those "Dual Layer" Cold Drink/Refreshment Workspace (CD/RW) units. They hold up much better than the single layer ones.

Re:The worst-designed case component... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335891)

That's why I only use 24-oz foam cups.

Don't press that "Eject" button however. Instead of ejecting my foam cup, the holder slided back into the computer and cut my cup in half.

#1 failure... (5, Insightful)

master_p (608214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335445)

the choice of IBM to use the 8086 CPU. It set back the computer industry several years. The PC would now be at least 2 generations ahead if IBM did not use the retarded 8086 design.

Obviously, IBM did not believe in personal computers and thought they were gimmicks.

Re:#1 failure... (3, Interesting)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335521)

Why? What other processor(s) should have been used, and what would have been the benefits? No, not trolling. Just interested in what you said and would like more information.

Re:#1 failure... (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335869)

While something like the 68000 could have been used I don't think it was necessary.
Ultimately, the problem with the PC was the system software. It was thrown together
without any real thought or consideration for the future. It was the essence of how
things were NOT done at IBM at the time.

The problem wasn't so much that the 8086 sucked but that the OS was tied to it so much.

That clone with the problem serial port would have been in a better position if something
resembling a real OS was created for the PC to begin with.

80386's came around relatively quickly. A better OS would have been able to fully exploit
it immediately rather than running as a souped up 8086. PC's weren't really in the dark
ages for that long (at least in terms of hardware). People tend to forget that.

That's why Linux was created. The hardware was already there. The monopoly that owned the
operating system was just sandbagging. Finally some college kid got impatient and decided
to build his own.

Re:#1 failure... (5, Insightful)

vonhammer (992352) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335913)

Read the Motorola 68000 assembly language manual and marvel at its simplicity and elegance. I believe they had an 8-bit and 16-bit equivalent back then. That would be my choice. Advantages are the simple addressing scheme, many general purpose data registers, brilliantly simple assembly language.

Re:#1 failure... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335629)

apple went with the motorola 68000 chip and now macs and PCs are roughly equivalent. I guess PC's made up for that 2 generation gap by now.

Re:#1 failure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335705)

Actually it was the 8088 CPU which had an 8 bit I/O bus (the 8086 had a 16 bit I/O bus).

Re:#1 failure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335709)

IBM never used the 8086 CPU. It used the 8088 CPU because it was cheaper, then skipped the 8086 to go to the 80286.

Re:#1 failure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335733)

I wasn't around at the time - not in a position to buy computers anyway - but i spoke to some people who were buying hardware at the time. They decided to go with Intel and Microsoft because of their dedication to backwards compatibility. They didn't want systems they couldn't upgrade without having to rewrite the software for them. Very simple.

If Intel hadn't stuck to backwards compatibility, most of the problems we see with x86 today would have gone. Even more so with Windows.

I don't agree (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335749)

The 8088 (original version) was actually available and had reasonable memory access. The TI 9989 (another option) had a fast, interesting but weird architecture. By the time the 68000 was introduced, the 8086 had been around for a little time and, as a result, was always somewhat ahead down the price and reliability curves. It was also dead easy to lay out motherboards given its simple physical architecture, and important point at the time. From a manufacturing and volume point of view, the 8088 was a logical decision for IBM.

Also, the number of people with 68000 experience was limited. Many, many programmers were familiar with the base 8 bit architectures and could easily convert. This was important for a cheap product which, in its early years, was mainly doing 8-bit character based stuff, while the 68000 found a lot of early use in relatively high-end systems like workstations and laser printers where the more efficient 16-bit operations could shine.

To use the famous car analogy, Ford would not be two vehicle generations ahead had they decided from the outset to use 4 valve per cylinder DOHC fuel injected engines rather than cooking two valve carb engines. They would be a niche manufacturer.

Re:#1 failure... (1)

WeatherServo9 (1393327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335865)

The original PC used an 8088, not the 8086 (which first appeared in the XT I believe). Remember, this is 1981! What processor would you have preferred? The 4.77 Mhz 8088 was faster than the 1-2Mhz processors found in most (all?) other desktop computers at the time and could address up to 640K memory, also far more than most other desktops then. If I recall there were some better choices available but at a much higher cost. I always thought the 8088 to be a lower cost option that was still reasonably competitive with what was out there.

And how do you know we'd be so much farther ahead with another cpu? You don't think there'd be plenty of opportunity to slow down progress while trying to maintain bizarre backwards compatibility with the other cpu's available in 1981?

It is true that many at IBM didn't think desktop PC's would take off. But I think the PC was an overall solid machine, I'd say those early versions of DOS were a bigger problem than anything hardware wise.

Re:#1 failure... (2, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335901)

I think you're talking about the 8088. The 8086 was a true 16bit chip, the 8088 had an 8-bit bus. The chief reason was, as I understand it, that 16bit hardware was extremely expensive at the time, so IBM went with it to keep the price of the unit lower, and to make it less expensive for expansion hardware to be built.

And that's the real secret here of the success of the PCs and PC clones. They were never as good as a number of competitors; Apple had the better GUI, Amigas had the better graphics, the various *nix workstations beat it hands down, but none of them were as open or as easy to build hardware and peripherals for. The PC was, for all its flaws, a highly implementable open standard. That's why PCs still dominate, by a wide margin, the industry, and why a number of machines that were superior got left by the wayside.

What , you mean like the Mac , Amiga, Atari ST? (2, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335931)

The Mac started out on the 68K. Ok it was more advanced than the PC to start but I think its fair to say that the only thing (arguably) slightly more advanced about Macs these days (and certainly not 2 generations ahead) is the OS. The hardware is commodity PC.

As for commodore and atari, well, we know how well using the 68K panned out for them. Just proves that ultimately marketing wins and technological ingenuity comes a poor second.

Sony VAIO desktop problem... (5, Interesting)

Bagels (676159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335511)

Our family once owned an old Sony VAIO desktop. It came with a floppy drive, but as it was the year 2000, floppies were quickly becoming unfashionable. Because of this, Sony hid the floppy drive behind a small plastic hatch. The problem? The hatch attached to the case with a small but fairly powerful magnet... which corrupted every single disk inserted into the drive. To this day I'm wary of Sony products (and VAIOs in particular) because of that little screw-up.

The Amiga (3, Interesting)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335525)

It amazes me how advanced this system* was for it's time and that it didn't catch on better than it did. The graphics and sound (just for starters) was many years ahead of it's time; x86 was still in EGA and speaker beeps at the time.

[*] - []

Re:The Amiga (1)

hollywench (646205) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335853)

If C= hadn't had their heads up their collective asses.. sigh. I miss my Miggy.

Apple Lisa (4, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335575)

From the Fancy Article:

Still, Lisa OS sported a unique document management metaphor that has yet to be replicated in a mainstream OS. Had the Lisa been cheaper and faster, it might have set a new standard in computing.

Does anybody know what the "unique document management metaphor that has yet to be replicated in a mainstream OS" is, and why it might have set a new standard in computing? It sounds terribly intriguing. Might this be something that could/should be added to Linux?

Re:Apple Lisa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335795)

"Document-centric computing".

deja vue all over again in smart phones (3, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335585)

Smart phones are current decade's generation of personal computing like PDAs were in the 90s, and PCs in the 80s. We see some of the same trade-offs between of proprietary vs openess, short-cutting essential hardware features, clunky GUIs, etc we saw in the 80s. Will Apple's clean, but proprietary SDK win over the more portable, but clunky Android? Does a darkhouse OS like the new Pre, Windows ME, or micro-Java stand a chance? Will non-keyboard phones win over keyboard phones? And so on. Some of these debates have clear answers and others we are waiting for the market to decide.

Not the Age of Aquarius. (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335589)

I had one of those rubber-chiclet-keyboard Aquarius machines, as well as many add-ons. The expansion was not as bad as the "sidecar" models (PCjr and 99/4A), but it was still cartridge-based. This was fine if you only wanted one cartridge -- say, the 16k memory expansion -- but if you wanted more you needed an even bigger cartridge that allowed you to plug two cartridges into it (vertically). Ugly, ugly, ugly. The spreadsheet software came on a cartridge, so if you wanted to run that and have a reasonable amount of RAM (if you can call 20k reasonable), you HAD to use the expansion unit. This also is where you connected the Intellivision-style game controllers.

The printer was thermal and 40 columns, and it printed only in BLUE. Not black, blue. This made it absolutely useless for classwork.

I learned the rudiments of BASIC on this machine, and wrote a text-mode baseball game, but that's about all it was good for.


yoU fail it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335635)

it wiil be among

How about (1, Informative)

wytten (163159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335701)

Putting CAPS LOCK key next to 'A' on the keyboard? It was the first thing I thought of.

Re:How about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28335805)

Except for AOL users, is there even a need for a caps lock key?

Re:How about (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335871)

You know, I've tried switching Caps/Ctrl around and I just can't get used to it. I use Caps/Shift/Ctrl in almost all my games.

I just wish the OS would _natively_ support DISABLING the toggling of UPPERCASE, and just treat caps like any other key.

Great Article! (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335717)

I really love; there are some terrific articles on there, and lots of "top n lists". Quite nice to browse if you have downtime at work--you can learn a lot and get some laughs too. Another fun read from these guys, keep it up!

The single biggest mistake ever: (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335719)

The standard non-ergonomic keyboard.
You call that a keyboard? [] THIS is a keyboard! []

Second place: Point-and-click electronic-device-plus-finger-paradigm user-interfaces.
It's pretty hard to create something more inefficient... (as an UI. Even the command shell is faster.)

A20 Gate (1)

Vario (120611) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335737)

A dirty trick that is still around in even the newest X86 processors and causing problems for hardware engineers and has security implications. The first xbox was hacked partially because of the A20 gate (pdf description of vulnerability [] ) and maybe Intel will stop using the A20 gate in the upcoming Nehalem generation.

My favorite PC blunder (0, Troll)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335751)

Installing Windows on a PC with special hardware (like a raid controller) STILL requires a floppy drive to load the driver.

So, the one-button mouse didn't make the list? (3, Interesting)

gr3y (549124) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335783)

That was one of the most serious design mistakes of the last thirty years, but it's only really interesting because it's symptomatic of Apple's design philosophy, which is: "Do as I wilt".

The one-button mouse spanned multiple generations of Apple computers and underscored Apple's stubborn unwillingness to produce computers that do what their users want, and not what Jobs or Apple's HID team think they should do.

Really. Apple refuses to correct the annoyances of the UI that should not exist. Why doesn't OSX have a maximize window button? Why does clicking on "one hour before event" for an ical event reset the clock to one hour before the time you click the button, and not one hour before the event? Why doesn't finder support afp connections over ssh?

None of those things seem to be complex, every one of them is a failure of the UI, and yet none of them have been corrected.

biggest mistake: PC = 8088 not M68000!!! (3, Insightful)

basiles (626992) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335801)

I believe the biggest mistake was IBM using an Intel8088, instead of a Motorola68000.

Imagine for a moment what would have happened if IBM choose in the early 1980s a 32 bits processor for the first successful Personal Computer!

  • no infamous 640k memory limit
  • probably no MSDOS (or QDOS), and a real operating system instead
  • 32 bits computing would have become mainstream a decade earlier at least!
  • much less assembly written software

Re:biggest mistake: PC = 8088 not M68000!!! (1)

cdn-programmer (468978) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335839)

If IBM had used a 32 bit processor then Microsoft would likely have failed.

PCjr (4, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335803)

The biggest single problem with the PCjr was that it was late. In 1984 it was supposed to be on the shelf in the fall - October is the usual month when things are supposed to be shipped so they are stocked and on the shelf in November.

Didn't happen. Macy's had received $50,000 to hold shelf space for the PCjr and they left them empty.

The PCjr came out in February. A little late for Christmas. Everyone had created products for Christmas 84 specifically for the PCjr, but there wasn't anything to run them on. January 1985 CES was pretty dead - lots of PCJr games that nobody cared about. Parker Brothers closed down their electronic games division, as did lots of other companies right about then. It was a year or so later that the Nintendo finally started making inroads into the home game market but between the PCjr and Nintendo things were very, very dead.

You can say all you want about a poor design of the keyboard and limitations of the hardware. But it is even more difficult to use when it doesn't exist and cannot be purchased. Not having it in time killed it, not any stupid design decisions.

slashdotted after the first page (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28335875)

hmm, they must have been running the webserver on that Apple III and it burnt to a crisp
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