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Fifteen Classic PC Design Mistakes 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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Fifteen Classic PC Design Mistakes

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  • by Dystopian Rebel ( 714995 ) * on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:48AM (#28335195) Journal

    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)

  • by NervousNerd ( 1190935 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:51AM (#28335239) Journal
    Those machines that had 512MB of RAM that ran Vista is surely a mistakes that hopefully won't happen with Windows 7.
  • General trend (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:57AM (#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.
  • by SlashDotDotDot ( 1356809 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:03AM (#28335375) Journal

    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.

  • CapsLock (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jameson ( 54982 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:04AM (#28335391) Homepage

    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.

  • by vintagepc ( 1388833 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:05AM (#28335397) Journal
    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:General trend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:05AM (#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.

  • #1 failure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by master_p ( 608214 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:10AM (#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:The 15 problems (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:12AM (#28335475) Journal

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

  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:14AM (#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

  • Low-tech solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peter Simpson ( 112887 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:15AM (#28335509)

    1 square inch of Scotch brand #33 electrical tape.

  • by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:15AM (#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!
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:15AM (#28335523) Homepage Journal

    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:The 15 problems (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kestasjk ( 933987 ) * on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:18AM (#28335555) Homepage
    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.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:20AM (#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.
  • Re:#1 failure... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:23AM (#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:CapsLock (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:24AM (#28335643) Homepage

    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?

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:25AM (#28335665) Homepage

    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:CapsLock (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbeale53 ( 1451655 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:26AM (#28335683)
    The NumLock has got to be more useless these days than the CapsLock ever has been.
  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:30AM (#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.
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:32AM (#28335779)

    What, no Duct Tape suggestion? :-)


    (Electrical Tape is actually a good idea)

  • 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:#1 failure... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:37AM (#28335869) Homepage

    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:The 15 problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <> on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:39AM (#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.

  • by jo42 ( 227475 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:39AM (#28335897) Homepage

    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).

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

    by vonhammer ( 992352 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:40AM (#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.
  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:40AM (#28335921) Journal

    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.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:41AM (#28335931) Homepage

    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.

  • by jo42 ( 227475 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:41AM (#28335933) Homepage

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

  • by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:44AM (#28335969)
    Me too... Also, one hand typing (while mousing) is a PITA in a "natural" keyboard.
  • Re:The 15 problems (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:47AM (#28336009) Homepage Journal

    Problem #4: EM Pulse Erases Tapes

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

    It was a design mistake because the system's own power supply generated the EMP when the switch was flipped. More testing could have caught the issue, but it was a critical flaw in the component choices and board layout of the system.

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

    The iPod battery is lightweight and generally easy to forget about. The power bricks were heavier and bulkier than real bricks. Computers of the day were often stored when not in use (they had to be hooked up to a television), which made this mis-feature a real PITA.

    Problem #6: Rubber Keyboard

    It didn't hurt the Sinclair ZX Spectrum's sales too much.

    This one I agree with you on. Users of the day were willing to overlook issues like this if the system was otherwise solid. The problem with the Aquarius was not the keyboard, but rather that it was an uninspired machine. Mattel had failed to produce the promised keyboard expansion for the Intellivison, so they released the Aquarius instead. Support consisted of a few quick ports of older Intellivision software and that was it. There was no real reason for anyone to purchase the computer. So no one did.

    I'd say all disk drives are proprietary until they become a standard.

    It wasn't the proprietary part that was the problem, it was the unreliable part. Disks in the day were almost always tied to the computer that used them. But if they were unreliable and you couldn't even get a drive replacement, that made the machine outright useless. Think of it like your hard drive failing every few months. That's about what losing a floppy was like back then.

    It only got worse when you tried to keep disk backups. Since most machines had only one drive, you had to swap disks back and forth for every few KB of data transferred. An 800KB disk would take a LOT of swaps. In that time, you spent a lot of time praying that the original disk wouldn't fail during the backup.

  • Re:The 15 problems (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:01PM (#28336245) Journal

    Removing the eject button was a good idea

    No, it was a bad idea. A "good" idea would have been one of two things, as I see it:
    – Soft eject, emergency hard eject (e.g. like a CD-ROM drive). If it's off, I don't want to turn it on to get my disk.
    – Hard eject with soft disable (e.g. like CD-R/RW drives which physically lock closed while burning). Ensure that it unlocks when the power goes off!

  • by EMB Numbers ( 934125 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:03PM (#28336261)

    When the Mac came out, every software user's manual had to explain how to use a mouse. I witnessed early Mac users would couldn't grasp the idea that the pointer on screen was controlled by their hand on the mouse. People would watch their hand moving instead of watching the mouse pointer on screen. A single button was the right choice in 1984. Nothing stops you from connecting a multi-button mouse to your Mac, and all of the buttons and scroll wheel work swimmingly.

    People still don't understand double-click vs. single click. My father is brilliant, but he double clicks everything out of habit.

    And what is "maximize" good for. Isn't it ironic for someone who derides a one button mouse to want a one window GUI ?

  • by lee n. field ( 750817 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:12PM (#28336395)

    After a while, you see it all, repeated every few years.

    I've been in the field almost 20 years, and I've seen all-in-one computers be the latest wonderful idea, about every few years. Apple's the only company to really make it work.

    Ditto tablets. They're only really starting to be useful now.

    Oh, and how about this for a questionable design decision? Two common peripherals. They use the same plugs, they're not interchangeable, and not hot pluggable. And often not clearly labeled (only in recent years have they been color coded). Swapping them with the computer on, while it usually works, actually can damage the port. It's called PS/2.

  • Re:The Amiga (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mordaximus ( 566304 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:14PM (#28336415)

    As was the Atari ST. Not trying to draw comparisons between the two systems, each had strengths and weaknesses. The point is there were a few very advanced and powerful systems around back in the day, and they likely only died out because EGA and speaker beeps was in offices everywhere.

  • Re:#1 failure... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Megane ( 129182 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:15PM (#28336421) Homepage
    What other processor should have been used? Anything without those damn segment registers. The 8088's 64k segments were the legacy that set back the industry for so long. The 80286 was no help, either, since it still had that basic 64k limitation. It just added a couple more years to the setback.
  • Re:The Amiga (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:17PM (#28336455) Homepage Journal
    As was the case of many systems that were ahead of their time, they were competing with an established player that already had tons of lock in from software vendors, peripheral manufacturers, and the like. Worse, when a system is "ahead of it's time", that's often forgetting that it was considerably more expensive than the competition and quite possibly outside of the price range of most consumers. Good engineering isn't only about being the "best", but it's also about knowing what to cut to keep the price in line.
  • Re:CapsLock (Score:2, Insightful)

    by infamous_blah ( 1224522 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:22PM (#28336541)

    I do not recall ever having used the CapsLock key (except out of curiousity to see whether it actually does anything.) ... 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.

    As a programmer, I use it all the time. It's common convention in many programming languages for CONSTANT_VARIABLES to be in all caps. It may not take much for one press of the Shift key, but having to hold it down while typing words with letters from both sides of the keyboard multiplied by the number of times I need to do that in a day will cause strain in my hands.

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:37PM (#28336739)

    If the spec is open, isn't it, by definition, not proprietary?

    It's like claiming Linux is proprietary because you down have GCC? The Spec is open. No patents or licenses are preventing you from making your own display port. You just don't have the means necessary.

    Heck, by that 'definition' VGA, DVI, etc are all "proprietary" too. Just because you can't make it or buy it at best buy, doesn't mean that it's proprietary.

  • PCjr (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @12:48PM (#28336875)

    I don't understand why the PCjr is bashed so much. We had one and I thought it was pretty damn good. Granted I was quite young, but we did put that machine to good use for quite a few years. We did get the chiclet keyboard, but by that point IBM was already including a similar keyboard with conventional keys so it was a moot point. I actually thought the keyboard was pretty cool. It wasn't the best for typing, but I think it was more a consequence of the technology available at the time and the size of the buttons than anything else. I'd like to think that current Apple keyboards are a spiritual successor and show that the concept wasn't necessarily a bad one. As for the IR, certainly you had to be careful with anything getting in between the keyboard and the machine, but generally it was excellent and we never ran into problems. I must preferred that to having to deal with a cable.

    As for the sidecars, it's not like people at the time were upgrading machines anywhere near as frequently as they do now. And there were tons of clumsy upgrade solutions for many computers at the time. When a 128K memory card was as large, if not larger, than most video cards today there aren't many options for efficient packaging. Actually, the upgrade we got was from a company called Legacy and it pretty much was a whole other case, the size of the PCjr which added 512K of ram and added a second floppy drive. It doubled the size of the machine, but that's just how things were back then; it never bothered us.

    The PCjr was a better machine than pretty much anything else I encountered through much of elementary school. It was far superior than the crappy Apple IIs we had in school. It offered better resolution and 16 colors. What did suck, however, was that it was somewhat less powerful than the IBM PCs available then and later on. While it supported CGA, it's 16 color format was proprietary and not compatible at all with EGA. But regardless, for $1000 it was a great deal and generally compatible with most IBM PC applications.

    I haven't gone through all the "mistakes", but it seems like this article is written from a modern-day perspective which is inappropriate given the era when these machines were designed and manufactured.

  • Re:The 15 problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demonbug ( 309515 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @01:17PM (#28337233) Journal

    Removing the eject button was a good idea; it prevented you from ejecting a disk without unmounting it and ending up with corrupted date.

    Removing the eject button was an idiotic idea, and it illustrates one of the great failures of personal computer design philosophy - the idea that the system builder/designer knows better than the user how the user should use the system. If I want to eject a disk in the middle of an operation then I should be able to - maybe the possibility of corruption is preferable to the alternative of letting an operation continue. Maybe an electrical fire just started in the system power supply, and I want to get my floppy out NOW. Maybe a million things that the designer didn't think of. The assumption that the user is an idiot and doesn't know what they are doing, and that their control over the system must be severely limited for their own protection, is the single worst PC design mistake.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @01:21PM (#28337301)

    I was never discussing open versus closed standards. This is about proprietary versus standard.

    That's why he argued with you the whole time. You're using 'proprietary' to mean 'uncommon'.

    Your point's valid, you're just using the wrong term.

  • Actually, what he is pointing out is why the "Hackintosh" will continue to be a thorn in the side of Apple, and that is the fact that they have no mid priced towers. There are many like the above poster and myself who have NO need for yet another laptop, but with Apple your only choices are a laptop, the ridiculous mini, the stupid "throw away your monitor when you need to upgrade" Imac or the total overkill that is the Mac pro line. the reasons companies keep coming up with "Hackintoshes" is because it is pretty obvious there is a market for a mid priced Apple tower with a little expandability, yet Apple refuses to serve that market, hence "Hackintosh". Which is really fricking stupid when you think about it, as since they have switched to Intel it would be trivial for Apple to come up with a design to serve this market. oh well, one more reason for me to stick with XP X64.

    As a repair guy I'd like to add my own vote for worst design, and that is the HP/Compaq mini towers, or as we in the biz call them the "bloody knucklebusters". If you want you hands to look like you have been punching a concrete wall, just work on one of those bastards for a few hours. They are also some of the worst designs I have ever seen as far as cooling, and pretty much the ONLY way I have found to keep some of the Pavilion designs from overheating is what my former boss called "white trash cooling" which is yanking the side off and putting a $10 box fan beside it. They use proprietary connectors, proprietary drive cages, and are generally a giant royal PITA. A truly shitty design if ever I saw one.

  • by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <> on Monday June 15, 2009 @01:25PM (#28337359)

    IMO however, introducing a cable into the mix really doesn't solve the underlying issue that this purports to be. Now instead of a huge compact piece of equipment, you have a huge sprawling piece of equipment with a spiderweb of cords.

    If I were looking at the issues presented by these 'bulky expansions' I would look at a combination of issues that really weren't solvable at the time they came up.

    • Hotpluging

      It might be silly looking to have every exapansion plugged in at once, but consider the fact that you probably had to power down the whole system just to attached/detach an expansion, suddenly you might consider having them all plugged in all the time actually more feasible than booting up and powering down everytime your needs changed.

    • Equipment itself really is bulky.

      This was the era where 'mobile' phones were called bag phones because they still required a briefcase. Expansions, by the pure nature of the beast, were going to be bulky. You can buy an external usb powered floppy drive today that would fit comfortably in your back pocket, that's a result of technology advancing, not of the folk back in the days making mistakes in their designs.

    • Daisy Chaining sucks.

      There is a reason why Ethernet was such a revolution, ring based networks break the moment anything on the network breaks. I've got a computer at home with ~10 USB devices plugged into it (mostly eternal drives, a keyboard and a mouse) and if any of them fail, just that component fails.

      But the tech needed to make it possible to eschew daisy chaining (namely the ability to include a controller that ensures all the devices don't talk over each other) wasn't there yet. Hell even Ethernet was still struggling to make a dent at the time we are talking about (or in some of the cases, not around at all).

    If I were looking at the examples provided, I'd say that they weren't design failures so much as issues which were presented by the tech at the time and weren't solved until much later.

  • Re:The 15 problems (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @01:33PM (#28337465)

    Xerox's mistake was never releasing a low-cost version of their GUI based computers.

  • by ( 843637 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:03PM (#28337865)

    There's a reason for the crappy video in laptops as a general rule:


    I doubt you want that much heat energy in such a small space...unfortunately, that's reality. And even "fast" video in a laptop is slow.

    I think the beige thing was because historically they were business is far too radical. Maybe beige paint is cheap cheap...not a lot of dye...not a lot of bleach?

  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:12PM (#28337987)

    - 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?

    It took Steve Jobs returning to Apple after having been kicked out previously. The iMac was probably the first line of computers to have colors other than beige and black. You really need to thank Jobs for making people realize that it's nice to have a PC that looks decent.

    As well, normal people started using PC's, or perhaps PC's suddenly catered to normal people. While the technically inclined are purely interested in utility, normal people tend to factor in looks as well as utility.

  • Lights on standby (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mrt_2394871 ( 1174545 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @02:53PM (#28338539)

    I've a couple of devices that do that too (DVD player and TV).

    The rationale must be that you'll always know whether they are being supplied by mains power, since they're either working, or have a light on.

  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @03:22PM (#28339079)

    HP/Compaq econo-boxes do serve to illustrate a point: mass market desktop PCs are almost without exception a value price over quality or expandability proposition. In general, a PC will NOT enjoy the full advantages of expandability, flexibility, and range of upgrades that PCs are classically known for unless it is built from carefully selected after-market parts or assembled as a package deal by boutique PC builders who cater to that market. This does not have to be expensive provided that one is prepared to do some work oneself, I recently put together a very decent gaming PC for less than $1000, but it does require a little bit of expertise and sophistication. However, if one has to pay someone else to build it, then it starts to make the high-end Mac towers more attractive price-wise unless the computer is primarily intended for gaming.

    Apple is trying to preserve a certain "high-end" brand image and user experience which means selling higher spec machines that avoid the "my computer is slow and crappy" complaint that one often hears about "mid-market" PCs (which compromise too much and really don't satisfy anyone completely). Apple does offer a product in the value market because value buyers generally understand upfront that they are getting less computer fro less money and therefore don't have high expectations. Personally, I don't own any Apple computers (I do have an iPod shuffle that I won in a raffle), but I can see why they don't want to sell a mid-market tower that really wouldn't satisfy very many people (i.e. the value buyers think that it is too expensive and the high-end buyers looking for a bargain will be disappointed by the performance) yet would still harm the image of Apple as a quality, albeit expensive, computer brand. Also, if the Hackintoshes were officially allowed to sell these types of machines then it would still hurt the Apple brand because people would blame Apple, because the machine runs a version of Mac OS, when there are problems.

  • Why? Why should I spend $1,200 in a machine that can be bought for less than half?

    If you can find me a laptop machine that's just as usable as my Mac for $600, I'd call you nothing short of incredible. Such a beast doesn't exist. Part of the cost of Apple's hardware (which isn't nearly as inflated as you make it out to be) is a total-solution package that Just Works(TM). I close the lid, it sleeps. If the battery runs out, it hibernates. If I open the lid it wakes up. If I plug a device in, it just works. If I turn on Wifi, it just works. (I never knew that those "Free Public Wifi" nodes were actually mesh connections from a Windows misfeature until my Mac pointed out that they were mesh networks.) If I want to print, the Mac just finds the printers. If I want to use a Bluetooth headset, it just works. Plus the screen is gorgeous, the laptop is lightweight, and the battery life is excellent.

    PCs are cheaper, but they're more hassle. Worth the money savings? Depends on who you are and your personal preferences.

    Why is that I can buy an EEE that offers all I need when I want to travel light for under $300, weights ~1 kg, is very portable, and comes with 1M pixel camera,

    Let's turn that question on its head: Why do you think that Apple should offer a $300 PC when you already have an option available that meets your needs?

    Apple is not in the $300 market, nor do they want to compete there. If you don't want the products Apple sells, don't buy them. It really is that simple.

    Simple answer: Steve. He knows. He knows best. He wants you to do things HIS way. Control freak...

    This blind hate is just amazing. Apparently, if Apple doesn't give away hardware and solve world hunger, they suck.

    Apple is a business. If you want their products, buy their products. If you don't want their products, don't buy their products. If you're still not happy, deal with it. Life doesn't work your way just because you think it should.

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @04:36PM (#28340315)

    People who think the one-button mouse was a mistake seem to be unaware of what mice were like before Apple introduced the Macintosh. For example consider the Xerox Alto, which had three mouse buttons. Actions usually required multiple clicks with different buttons. Copying an object could be achieved by clicking it with the Red Button to select it and then clicking again with another (Yellow?) button to paste it. Clicking with the Blue button would delete an object. But clicking with the Red button then the Blue button would do something else, so you had to remember if you'd clicked or nor or you could screw things up.

    This is off of memory of a manual that I stumbled upon in the library years ago, the details may be off. I wish I could find a copy of it to give better examples, but the point is it was a mess. You had to use all three buttons just to do the same tasks that we can do today using just the first.

    The Macintosh team combined click-and-drag, click and double click in a way that enabled you to do all these things with a single mouse button, and more "intuitively" to boot. It was a genuine step forward in GUI development. In fact when Windows was released, it copied the Macintosh behavior for the left mouse button exactly. The second and third buttons were used sparingly and inconstantly at first and didn't add much to the experience - the main reason that most PC mice had three buttons at that time was for the DOS based CAD programs that needed them.

    It wasn't until Windows 95 was released that they had completely standardized on using the right mouse button for context menus, and that too was a genuine step forward. And in fact all of the UI folks that worked on the original Mac agree on this. They've also since realized that if they had used two buttons for the mouse - one solely for selection and another for acting on objects, the could have avoided many of the problems involved with drag-and-drop text, and accidentally moving objects when adding to the selection. Unfortunately, momentum makes it too difficult to change at this point in the game.

    The continued use of a one-button mouse is a mistake, but it's creation was not.

  • Re:The 15 problems (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 15, 2009 @05:31PM (#28341021)
    The emergency events you describe are not normal operation, and for most people hitting the eject button before the disk access is finished is much more likely to come up. I've used Macs for most of the last 25 years - including working in a college computer lab for two years - and never had a situation like you describe come up, whereas I always found that disconnect on a PC between floppy disks and the OS to be very awkward.

    There is room for sensible disagreement on this, though, as both methods have their own practical and philosophical advantages.
  • by ekhben ( 628371 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:45PM (#28344055)


    If you open two Word documents, and select File/Exit from the application menu in the document window of one, what happens?

    Now if you open your Outlook to have both a Calendar and an Inbox window, and you select File/Exit from the application menu in the document window of one, what happens?

    Something different!

    In both cases, your task bar shows a single application group with two sub-tasks. In both cases, the same menu is duplicated in both windows. In both cases, alt-tab will switch between windows. But the result of selecting File/Exit is different!

    How do you know what will happen when you select File/Exit for any application, in advance of trying it?

    You don't, and can't, know.

    Sure, if you spend years using the system, you'll feel like you instinctively know, but you don't, you've just trained yourself to remember what each one does.

    But, you're right, you won't be convinced that application menus in document windows is more confusing than one application menu per application, because for you, it's not true. You shouldn't conflate what makes sense with what is familiar, though :-)

The best defense against logic is ignorance.