Readers Report: The Products You Miss Most

Hankering for Hardware

The Tungsten T3 Palm-based PDA.
Now here's someone whose style I like: Messinger, who says I got it "almost right" by writing up the Palm Tungsten T (most people describe me as "totally off my nut"). Messinger insists that the Tungsten T3 was even better than the T, citing the T3's vibrating alarm, metal case, voice recorder, stereo audio, and great memory heap. Though I must point out that the original T had all of those features except for the memory, I'll concede the point, and add that I probably would have appreciated the T3's faster processor and higher resolution, too, if I'd had one. Of course, both the T and the T3 owed a lot to the Palm Vx nominated by rpa52; The V and its Vx variant were Palm's first attempts to produce a sleek-looking PDA, rather than a boxy-but-functional one.

Iomega's Zip Drive trumped the old-fashioned floppy disk drive when it debuted.
Iomega's Zip Drive trumped the old-fashioned floppy disk drive when it debuted.
I may also concede that Iomega's Zip Drive served some worthwhile purpose, as apecor says, but only early in its lifespan when the competition was floppy disks. "Holding a hundred megabytes on one disk just seemed huge back then," he recalls. Yes it did, but I also remember the tribulations of copying files onto a 100MB Zip Disk parked in a 250MB Zip Drive; not only did the operation take forever, but it brought my system to a screeching halt. Thank goodness for thumb drives.

A big-screen CRT to die for: The 22-inch ViewSonic P220f.
A big-screen CRT to die for: The 22-inch ViewSonic P220f.
Apecor--who seems to miss quite a lot of stuff from the past--puts "huge, heavy CRTs" on his list, too. I felt a similar lust for the giant screens afforded by these behemoths, and I remain convinced that CRTs display video better than most LCDs do. When we last tested them (almost three years ago) you could snap up a 22-inch CRT for less than $600. Today, you have to search hard to find a brand-new one, and it won't cost much less then its compeers did back then.

Tandy computers, including the TRS-80 Model 100 shown here, benefited from the accessible Tandy Deskmate GUI.
Photograph: Ira Goldklang (trs-80.com)
Ricklw says that he misses old Tandy 100/200 laptops, and AceofdataBase puts in a kind word for the Tandy Deskmate, the graphical user interface that ran on those Radio Shack relics. We're in agreement on this one--PC World voted the 3.4-pound Model 100 one of our 25 Greatest PCs of All Time.

Likewise, the Amiga 500 personal computer that nvnusman nominated--or more precisely its predecessor, the Amiga 1000--also made our Top 25 PCs list. "Millions of colors!" Nvnusman gushes. "A true graphically oriented computer you could buy through the J.C. Penney catalog!" Too bad Penney couldn't draw inspiration from those Amigas to design some flashier clothes. Fancy color printing didn't catch on until the mid-1990s; but long before it did, you could swap wheels in your daisy-wheel printer and print in a whole new font, according to nvnusman. Think of the possibilities!

Grayson Peddie conjures memories of two IBM Aptiva desktop computers and the IBM Home Director home automation software that came with them. Home Director, which worked with X-10 home automation modules, was popular for a few years but faded away when IBM went all corporate again.

Motorola's clamshell breakthrough: the StarTAC mobile phone.
The Motorola StarTAC mobile phone mentioned by rpa52 deserves credit for being the first clamshell phone. Think Razrs and Chocolate phones are cool? Imagine casually flipping open a StarTAC back in 1996, when everyone else was lugging around huge phones that looked like surplus Korean War walkie-talkies and had all the sveltness of a brick. You were Captain Kirk, whether you were requesting a beam-up or simply ordering a pizza.

Never Forget

Drag one of these products out of the garage now and people will look at you funny. But back then, you'd have won admiring glances for being the person with the best toys. Perhaps in some instances we don't miss the actual products so much as the coolness factor they commanded in the prime (though this theory probably doesn't apply to database utilities).

And of course, if you remember other favorite products of the past, share them with the rest of us in the comments section below.

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