The 30 Products and Services We Miss Most

1 2 3 4 Page 3
Page 3 of 4

Software

Mac OS 9
I was an expert Mac OS 9 user--as many people were, because it was so incredibly easy to use and (more important) to fix. Most Windows applications bury a gazillion files deep in the bowels of the operating system, where you can never get rid of them all. But on the Mac, you typically had a single application file and a single Preferences file to worry about. In many cases, if something wasn't working, you could drag the relevant Preferences file to the trash and restart. I don't deny that it was a primitive operating system, but sometimes I long for the simpler days of computing.
--Alan Stafford, Senior Writer

DOS
I miss DOS: "copy *.* prn", "cd\", "mkdir"--you name it.
--Dennis O'Reilly, Senior Associate Editor

XTree File Manager

The XTree file manager.
The XTree file manager.
Though its time in the sun has come and gone, I miss the innovation that XTree brought to the now mostly mundane field of file management. Back in 1985, when PC users had to be command-line commandos just to view files, XTree 1.0 provided easy access to Microsoft DOS 2.0 file commands, and it showed a hierarchical view of directory and file structures on hard disks or floppies. I preferred it to Norton Commander and Microsoft's own DOS Shell, introduced in 1986 and 1988, respectively. In 1993, XTree was purchased by Central Point Software, which became a division of Symantec; it released the final XTree Gold 4.0 for Windows in 1994.
--Danny Allen, Associate Editor

Borland Sidekick

The Borland Sidekick personal information manager.
The Borland Sidekick personal information manager.
In the early 1980s, Borland's handy little Sidekick program established the Personal Information Manager category, and it remained slick, simple, and wonderfully useful well into the Windows era. (Borland founder Philippe Kahn must have been partial to it: When he left Borland and founded Starfish Software, Sidekick came along.) By the time Starfish released the final version of the program, Sidekick 99, Kahn's obsession with "slimware" had yielded a Sidekick that felt a little defeatured. Even so, I'd take it over the bloat of Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes any day.
--Harry McCracken, Editor in Chief

Apps Without Installations
There's not much to miss about DOS apps; Windows programs are better in almost every way. But I miss the way most DOS apps installed: You copied them to a new folder (excuse me, subdirectory) on your hard drive. And if a program caused problems (which it could do only while it was running), you removed it by deleting the subdirectory it occupied. With Windows programs, you run an installation program while keeping your fingers crossed, hoping that the newcomer won't mess up Windows too much. And inevitably, running an uninstaller doesn't fully correct the problems caused by the installer.
--Lincoln Spector, Contributing Editor

PC-Write

PC-Write word-processing shareware.
PC-Write word-processing shareware.
When I get nostalgic about software, I think of PC-Write, the simplest, most straightforward word processor anyone could ask for--and the first shareware I ever used. Did I ever get around to paying for it? I can't remember.
--Dennis O'Reilly, Senior Associate Editor

WordStar

The WordStar word-processing program.
The WordStar word-processing program.
For a trained touch typist (like yours truly), WordStar was the most efficient text editor ever. Using the <Ctrl> key and a multitude of key combinations, I could open, edit, navigate, and save with remarkable efficiency--and no need to reach for a mouse. Unfortunately, WordStar never made the transition to the modern era: Its kludgey Windows version omitted most of the keyboard combinations that were its lifeblood. I finally gave up on on WordStar in the mid-1990s, when using a DOS-only product that couldn't share information elegantly with other programs became too much of a liability. But I still have WordStar's diamond shortcuts programmed into Word as macros.
--Rex Farrance, Senior Technical Editor

Word Basic
Microsoft Word used to come with a simple, easy-to-use macro language called Word Basic. I'm not a professional-level programmer, but I loved automating all sorts of things in that language. Then Microsoft replaced it with Visual Basic for Applications, a much more powerful development environment. I never got the hang of VBA, though, and I never really wanted to take the time to do so.
--Lincoln Spector, Contributing Editor

Lotus 1-2-3 Version 2.0 for DOS

Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS.
Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS.
First released in 1983, the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet application was fast and easy to work with, and it had great tools--including charting and graphing software--long before Excel came along. The 2.0 version introduced what I believe are still the best, most intuitive macro tools of any spreadsheet ever. All of these features helped reduce archrival VisiCalc into an also-ran. But Lotus moved slowly on releasing a Windows version, and when it did, the product simply couldn't match Microsoft's Excel.
--Ramon G. McLeod, Editor, PC World.com

Norton Utilities for DOS
Once upon a time, Peter Norton wasn't a photo on a software box; he was a programmer (and incidentally, a PC World contributor) who wrote essential disk utilities that, almost from the start, helped make the IBM PC useful. Even after Symantec bought out Norton in 1990, the DOS version of the package remained invaluable--a geek's Swiss army knife that could undo almost any computing disaster if you knew how to use it. The Windows version, which lives on as part of Norton SystemWorks, may be the same product in principle, but it never matched the DOS edition's relentless focus on functionality over frills.
--Harry McCracken, Editor in Chief

Super Star Trek

Super Star Trek DOS game.
Super Star Trek DOS game.
I inherited a Leading Edge computer (which used the same 8088 CPU as the original IBM PC) in the late 1980s. Because my machine came with CGA graphics, I couldn't use it to play the cutting-edge VGA-resolution games of the time. But it also came with a great DOS game, Super Star Trek, which had no graphics whatsoever. Instead it required players to enter text commands to navigate an unseen galaxial grid in search of rampaging Klingons. You never saw enemies on your screen, of course, so to fire photon torpedoes at them, you had to type in a command and coordinates such as "PHOTONS 2 3 4." I loved the game because it was the best thing I could get to run on that PC; but in hindsight I realize that the game made me think instead of zoning out, as I so often do with modern games. You can still find ports of the game online; this one is all of 113KB.
--Alan Stafford, Senior Writer

Civilization

The original Civilization.
The demise of the floppy disk drive on modern PCs means that I can't load my legitimate copy of Civilization, the greatest game ever (with the possible exception of Civilization II). Running the original Civ on my ancient Whole Earth computer system, with its amber monochrome monitor, posed some difficulties not necessarily anticipated by Sid Meier--like who does that postage-stamp-size cavalry unit near my weakly defended frontier outpost belong to, anyway? But I loved the oddly ambiguous icons such as the close-up visage of a pillowy mantis that under improved viewing conditions turned out to be a covered wagon. Also, as an unreconstructed platehead, I appreciated having my guys return to full strength immediately after surviving a ferocious enemy assault: That which did not kill me left no lingering aftereffects. And who can forget the multiple-choice pop quiz that would come up just as you were settling in to a promising campaign ("What civilization advances are required for Construction?"), presumably to confirm that you weren't running a pirated copy of the game? Better have your cheat sheet ready.
--Steven Gray, Copy Editor

Tempest 2000

Tempest 2000 console and PC game.
Tempest 2000 console and PC game.
Along with millions of other teenagers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was a huge fan of video arcades--storefronts or even large buildings that housed multiple rows of video game machines and blared REO Speedwagon and Journey over big speakers. One of my arcade favorites was Tempest--a game in which you spun a rotary controller with one hand to navigate special playing fields and fired at enemies with your other hand. In the mid 1990s, ports carrying the Tempest 2000 name started appearing for consoles, PCs, and even for the Mac. It was nostalgic, it didn't siphon quarters out of my pockets, and--just as I did a decade earlier--I played the hell out of it. You can download a game that works much like the original Tempest, or you can wait for a new version that is supposed to appear on Xbox Live Arcade next year.
--Alan Stafford, Senior Writer

1 2 3 4 Page 3
Page 3 of 4
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon