Bitch all you want about the computer you're using now, about how it's short on RAM and infected with spyware and Windows Vista, but that machine stands on the shoulders of giants. Retarded giants.
What we're trying to say is that in order to get you the machine that functions at the level it does, the PC industry went through many, many horrible designs and ill-conceived products. So you can bitch about the cheap Gateway laptop you've been using for five years, but at least it's not...
#5. The 3com Audrey (2000)
A good sign that something unfortunate is afoot at your technology company is when someone proposes naming your new computer after a dead actress. Say Audrey Hepburn for instance. Also cause for concern is when they decide to market it as an Internet appliance instead of a computer, as Internet appliance sounds a bit like a dildo that checks your stocks for you.
Launched in 2000, the makers of the Audrey designed their tool specifically for the kitchen and to do far, far less than a normal PC would do, because trendy, on the go internet users of the new millennium had no time to walk back to the living room or bedroom, they needed to see what eBay had to offer while they frosted their toaster strudel.
"And after the frosting, we'll search Craigslist for some sexually creative serving suggestions!"
In an attempt to make the Audrey unique, which is marketing talk for "incompatible with anything and grossly inconvenient to use" the Audrey came in such technologically exciting shades as "linen" and "sunshine." It had a whopping eight-inch screen--probably enough to read the first half of this sentence--and subscribers got to have access to "channels" specifically designed and optimized for the Tiny Tim-sized screen.
As a fun bonus, channels could be changed by turning a knob, kind of the same way you do on your TV, if you haven't bought a TV since the 1970s.
Look, you can see what was going on here. Somebody at 3Com said, "Let's design a computer for 'the kitchen'" using air quotes to mark the last two words, with everyone in the room knowing that it meant "for women."
"So what do computer users in 'the kitchen' want? A computer seemingly designed for a toddler, that's what! Without all those scary buttons and programs to boggle their simple, woman minds!"
Dismayed that the world was not in fact populated by housewives from 1955 sitcoms, the $500 device was yanked from shelves less than a year after it debuted.
#4. The Coleco Adam (1983)
We understand that personal computers were still pretty primitive in the 80s. Basically, a machine sold back then had to satisfy two requirements: entering the wrong command wouldn't cause the Reds to launch nukes at Nebraska, and the computer wouldn't spontaneously erase whatever program you were trying to run. The Coleco Adam only satisfied one of those.
As you probably guessed, this was made by the Coleco company, the creators of Colecovision. That system was destined to drown in the shadow of the Atari 2600, and so this machine was attempt to horn in on the home computer market. And sure, there were minor issues, like the fact that the power supply ran through the printer (that is, if the printer broke, your computer was a paperweight).
But inexplicably more ridiculous than that, however, was that the Adam, like any good supervillain, released a a surge of magnetism when turned on. And its software was stored on cassette tapes. If you don't see the problem with this, you're too young to know what magnets did to cassettes (hint: It's the same thing that a big wave does to a sand castle).
So thousands of customers found out that after starting the machine a few times, tapes kept nearby would wind up blank. For added kicks, the instruction manual that was circulated with the Adam told users to have the software tapes inside the computer before startup, ensuring they would always be right there in the line of fire.
Unsurprisingly, despite their efforts to fix the problem (which included putting a sticker on new computers warning that it will fry your shit), customers were less than enthused and, within two years, the Adam was gone from the marketplace.
#3. The Timex Sinclair 1000 (1982)
KAPOW! Look at that shit up there! That computer is so smart it's shooting out holy beams of computer light!
And what's that? It's only $99.95? Holy crap, why were there any other computer companies still in business after the Timex Sinclair 1000 hit the market? Sure, that's $99.95 in 1982 dollars, but that's also a 1982 computer, back when super computers were still the size of office buildings and had to be cooled with blocks of ice.
Needless to say, people couldn't resist. Ads had to be taken out in newspapers all over the country just to let people know where they could fine one. It was like the Nintendo Wii that first Christmas it was out. And really, the only difference between the Sinclair 1000 and the competing systems that could cost up to 100 times as much, was that they actually functioned.
With its totally hardcore 2KB of RAM and ability to display 32 columns and 24 lines in sleek, sexy, early 80s black and white, the TS1000 did nothing. We're not exaggerating; you could fill those lines and columns with some text, then presumably erase it and type more. Notice that you could do much the same with an Etch-A-Sketch. It had no ability to save your work (though you could hook a tape recorder up to it if you had one).
If you wanted your computer to, you know, actually run programs and stuff, you needed to buy a $200 memory expansion that gave you the 16KB of memory that programs at the time required. Yes, the expansion you needed to use the machine cost twice as much as the machine itself. Oh, and they couldn't make enough of the expansions for everybody who needed them. So the rest were stuck with a $100 notepad.
Did we mention the keyboard? The keyboard had problems. Specifically, the fact that it didn't have keys. It used a membrane style keypad so that you couldn't actually feel the keys under your fingers as you typed.
Despite selling a shitload of these, Timex bailed out on the home computer market just two years later, presumably chased away by a crowd carrying torches and pitchforks.