Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 11, NO. 9 / SEPTEMBER 1985 / PAGE 88

The world's worst computers. (Perspective) David H. Ahl.

It started innocently enough. I was reading in a year end issue of some magazine one of those articles about the best and worst of 1984. We had just put together a "12 Best" article (December 1984) so I made a note to myself that sometime we should do a piece about the worst computers around. The note surfaced again in May, and I sent a memo to each editor asking for a list of the seven worst computers and 10 to 30 words on why each was selected.

John called, "Do you mean microcomputers still on the market?" Said I, "Anything goes." Despite the open nature of the requirements, 44 of the 51 nominations were for current or past microcomputers. No mainframes, no minis. There was one vote for a slide rule, one for cardboard computers, four (from one editor) for various computers on TV and in the movies, and one (from me) for Stonehenge.

About the 44 microcomputers, you might think, "Here are seven like-minded editors all working on the same magazine. Allowing for a few differences of opinion, there will be only 10 or 12 computers on the final list." Ha! On the list were 30 computers representing 24 manufacturers. Manufacturers receiving more than one vote included IBM (7), Commodore (4), Coleco (3), Mattel (3), Tandy (3), Sinclair (3), TI (2), Magic (2), and STM (2).

Enough, enough. Here is our list--edited and abbreviated. But don't use it to select your next computer. Quite a few computers on it ranked number one or two in our 12 Best list last December. It just goes to show that one editor's meat is another editor's poison.


A computer designed solely to dart and tag the micro market for eventual, inevitable domination by the Big Blue Behemoth.

This machine virtually defines the phrase "user-hostile" with its non-resident DOS, piecemeal expandability, and unintelligible documentation.

Moreover the first models misplaced a decimal point in certain calculations.

IBM PC Clones

Opportunistic manufacturers have perpetuated--indeed, institutionalized--an uninspired design by fearing to deviate from the "standard" set by Big Bully.


As Leonard Pinth-Garnell (Dan Ackroyd) used to say on "Bad Theater" (Saturday Night Live), the IBM PCjr is "truly bad, almost unbearably putrid."

An embarrassing faux pas that temporarily humbled Big Blue with its inexcusable wireless Chiclet keyboard.

It's heartening to see that even IBM can't get away with Chiclet keyboards, single disk drives, and memory limitations.

Apple Macintosh

Screen too small, disks too slow, architecture shut tight like a littleneck clam. (Macintosh is also number 1 on my "Seven Best Computers" list.)

Commodore Plus 4

A machine much less powerful than the Commodore 64 that sold for twice the price. Built-in software was an embarrassment, every I/O slot redesigned to ensure incompatibility.

The built-in integrated software catapulted you into the dark ages of computing.

Commodore 64 (with disk drive)

Waiting for Godot.

Original Commodore Pet

Its small gridlike keyboard and hardware-killing POKE combined to make this the perfect boat anchor.

Coleco Adam

Tape drive unreliable, printer worked only sporadically, software full of bugs and without documentation.

Too much new technology, too much hype, and not enough quality control resulted in a machine that rather than being all things to all people, turned many people against computers--perhaps forever.

I wouldn't give one to a Cabbage Patch Doll.

Mattel Intellivision/Aquarius

Intellivision was the earliest vaporware introduction in the industry. Finally the Aquarius showed up. A machine so cheesy, they should have supplied rubber gloves to wear while using it.

Another attempt to apply mass merchadising techniques to home computers--poor design, low quality, no support.

Worse keyboard than even the original CoCo, 99/4, or PCjr.


Like the Aquarius I, this shoddy import from Hong Kong came without a spacebar.

Sinclair ZX80

With an unusable keyboard and quirky keyword Basic, this machine discouraged millions of people from ever buying another computer.

Looks like a toy, keyboard designed for elfin fingers, much too slow.

Timex/Sinclair 2068

The keyboard can't be used for serious typing. Also, much of the excellent Spectrum software can't be used because Timex changed the original Sinclair ROM.

All Cassette-Based Computers

I'd rather enter Orwell's Room 101 and let rats gnaw on my face than attempt to load a program from cassette.

Tandy MC-10

A scaled down Color Computer. That's like saying a poor man's Volkswagon beetle.

The What?


With its Chiclet keyboard, not enough keys, and non-standard Basic, this machine soured millions of people on computers forever.

Not to mention its highly impractical 4' x 1' footprint (with peripherals).

Video Brain

Running APLS (a scaled down version of APL), the Video Brain required a degree in computer science to program it. It did have nice joysticks though.


With no support at all, APF released a machine that used a JOSS-type of language that was totally incomprehensible.

Epson QX-10

Nice hardware, but the Valdocs software is extremely slow, cumbersome, and frustrating.

Osborne I

An idea whose time had not yet come. Osborne applied to computers the principle that TV manufacturers have been using for years: if it has a handle, it's "portable." Not many people believed this, and those who did ended up with severe eyestrain.


Illegible full-screen LCD, but could not be powered by batteries. Printer: thermal; width, four inches; speed, 10 cps; legibility, low. Only review I ever wrote that said, "don't buy this."

The least compatible PC compatible ever.


The clone that wasn't. All snazz and little compatibility.

Data General/One

A portable computer whose screen you couldn't read and whose integral communications program wouldn't allow you to download to disk.

Morrow Pivot I

Though heralded as the ultimate IBM PC compatible portable, I couldn't even read its almost upright screen, nor was it particularly compatible.

Sord IS-11 (Lapsize)

The operating system was so difficult to learn that by the time you got it down, the batteries ran out.


The term vaporware is usually applied to software; Gavilan proved it could be applied to hardware as well.

Magic Computer

Manufactured in Taiwan, this was the shoddiest "modern" CP/M computer I ever tested.

One of three machines tied for having the worst names; the others are Pied Piper and Amcute.

Computer Devices DOT

Its 3.5" disk drives required that all software be converted before use. Printer used roll paper, unpopular ever since scrolls went out of style.


The hardware was solid--still is--but trying to debug the operating software wiped out the Druids.