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back to article The ten SEXIEST computers of ALL TIME

Does a computer need to look sexy? You might say that the looks of such a pragmatic gadget don’t matter. After all, most of us have, at one time or another, had to make do with bland, beige boxes almost exactly like everyone else’s bland, beige box, and it didn't hinder us from getting the job done, or made play any the less …

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Of all of those

I only found the cray research, and the PS3 to be sexy. And I'm honestly surprised you missed off the Piston Steambox.

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Re: Of all of those

No Memotech MTX500/512 either.

Elegant brusched aluminium design, it was a real piece of art.

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WTF?

Re: Of all of those

Where's the 20th Century Mac ?

Really don't understand why the Sinclair crap is in there, or the PS3 either

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Re: Of all of those

that's because your taste is obviously in your mouth.

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Yag

Matter of tastes...

But you should at least include the good ol' glowing eyed HAL-9000.

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Coffee/keyboard

WHAT!

No Archimedes!

And the inclusion of the PS3 is laughable, as that's not even a computer in the most traditional sense.

But the Cray is sexy, very very sexy. At the same time as the cray all IBM could manage was the system 36's and towards the end of the 80's the as400 (although I do have a soft spot for the 36's).

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Re: WHAT!

Was the Cray the only computer to have upholstery?

I'm not so sure about the Archimedes. All the designs ended up being a bit too redolent of beige box syndrome. The A400 case with the slanted front section for the floppy drive was excellent in terms of ease-of-use, but made the box look a bit squint. Likewise, the RISC PC design was great for access and modularity but was incredibly fussy --- too many angles and weird lumpy bits --- and those semicircular shutters were definitely weird.

I'll admit to having a soft spot for the ZX80. It's just so incredibly ugly and cheap you have to love it. And the ZX Spectrum *is* a masterpiece, even by today's standards; it's a computer stripped down to its very essence, with nothing left to take away. Shame the keyboard was nigh unusable.

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Go

Re: WHAT!

Oh, speaking of the Spectrum:

http://zxspectrum48.i-demo.pl/clones.html

...is a photo gallery of some of the wacky Spectrum clones from around the world, including some of the insane Russian ones. Well worth your time!

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Windows

Re: WHAT!

The Spectrum looks like an iShiny compared to some of those designs which really do follow the 'form follows function' school of design.

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Re: WHAT!

Seeing those funky clones reminded me of all the adverts I used to see in the computer rags of the time, featuring replacement cases for the Spectrums and similar. Giving them hard keys, better angles, all the works really while largely just moving the internals from one case to another.

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Re: WHAT!

quote: "And the inclusion of the PS3 is laughable, as that's not even a computer in the most traditional sense."

I'd have to disagree, it has all the same bits, doing the same functions (CPU, GPU, IO, volatile and non-volatile storage). It runs a base operating system with a GUI, from which you can start seperate programs based on the task you wish to perform. You are, I'd hazard, equating the OS with "not computer" rather than the hardware, in response to an article about hardware design.

Even then, console OSs these days have web browsers, IM clients, streaming media services and many other applications that grace the default "computer" OSs. They don't have productivity suites, however that's because nobody [i]has[/i] written one, not because nobody could; the PS3 will recognise USB keyboards ok, and the controller has analogue input that can mimic a mouse / trackpad ;)

Also before Sony nerfed it, you could install Linux on a PS3. I'm pretty sure most people would agree that "hardware running Linux" = computer in that sense ;)

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Re: WHAT!

The PS3 also accepts mouse input quite well (though very few games support it) and supports network printers, even without OtherOS.

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Upholstery

"Was the Cray the only computer to have upholstery?"

Wasn't it the XMP and YMP that had the upholstery with the chairs all around the outside rather than the Cray 2 ?

I don't think the XMP and YMP had so many windows into the workings though.

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Spectrum Clones...

Oh, I do like the look of the white Slovakian one...

http://zxspectrum48.i-demo.pl/clones_pliki/Didaktik_M.jpg

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Happy

Re: Upholstery

The XMP had upholstered seats - actually they covered up the boxes that housed the power supplies etc. The YMP still had the same approach but didn't have nice comfy upholstery on the "seats" just painted metal.

Little know fact (urban myth perhaps) about the immersion cooling systems is the flurocarbon could in theory decompose at high temerature to form PFIBs, which were supposedly toxic by inhallation in ppb concentrations. So in principle a short circuit in all those old circuit boards could cause this to happen. This was one reason Cray moved to the use of "cold plates" between the circuit boards on the YMP.

Still a really sexy design though.

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Devil

Re: WHAT!

Having had experience with the 4361, I would say that anyone with a soft spot for IBM should reevaluate their senses.

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Re: Upholstery

They all had seating around them. I worked on a Cray 1 and used to sleep on it on night shift!

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Another design feature of the Crays

The C-shaped design was all to do with making the signal paths shorter, so they could run quicker. Very interesting guy and it's a real shame he isn't still around.

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FAIL

Bah

The C128 is just one of those many system-in-a-large-keyboard home micros, albeit slightly flatter than most.

If you want sexy, this is one: the Holborn

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WTF?

Re: Bah

Oh, wow. That's... uh... very... um...

Why am I getting Dr. Seuss flashbacks?

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Happy

Re: Bah

Nice. All you need is Gerry Anderson and his wife to get up the operators in silver costumes, and you've got a set for UFO.

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WTF?

Re: Bah

Looking at that, I had to do a double take and wonder if I was seeing a still of Martin Landau in Space: 1999

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Re: Bah

And the ad just happens to feature a young Helen Mirren at the keyboard. That IS sexy.

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Re: Bah

Oh god, I want one

Is that Lady Di?

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Megaphone

Talking about keyboards .... How about the IBM 701C

Although it looked alot like other early Thinkpads, the 701 had the Butterfly keyboard that folded up when closed so you got a full sized keyboard in a 10 inch horizontal clamshell. Very useful and unique .... a precursor to the netbook in a way.

Of course when the color screens got larger and less expensive, the laptops grew to a larger size anyway, but the 701C was a great small laptop.

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Re: Bah

I followed your link and now I won't be able to have an erection for a month! If my mother-in-law was a computer, she'd be a Holborn.

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Re: Bah

Wow!, how awsome, THAT is how to design a sweet looking computer. It looks way cooler than anything Apple`s ever done.

Imagine retrofitting that case with modern components.

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The PS3 Slim is far better than the PS3 bargain bucket version IMO. Mainly for the cheap quality. If this is about looks, then the quality of the build has a definite value (less wobble and peeling of trim).

The original PS3 was not too bad, just far to over the top.

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I own a slim but I've always wanted the full fat version with the PS2 compatibility since my PS2 crapped out a couple of years ago.

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Thinking Machines

Enough of the cheap, plasticky tat. A real computer is too heavy to lift. Although there's a Cray in the list, nothing beats a Thinking Machines Corp. product for sheer cool.

(Except maybe, watching a StorageTek tape robot doing its thing at full whack.)

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Re: Thinking Machines

One site I occasionally visited to kick their hardware had a StorageTek setup consisting of two (octogonal) silos, with tapes being passed between them through a hatch (only one of the silos had tape drives installed, the other was just expansion space). Tape barcodes were read using video cams on the gripper mechanism, and for amusement value they had monitors connected to them. Seeing the grippers pass a tape between them was fascinating.

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Re: Thinking Machines

Oh yes! We had a CM-5 in our computer centre. That was seriously cool. The Cray J-932 right next to it mainly had an ultra-cool power led (rectangular, 1 x 10 cm or so affair), but the CM-5 looked like it would fit in in the higher budget class of SF movie.

The Elan Enterprise brings back memories, I used to have an Enterprise 128 as a kid. These had a nifty expansion slot at the side which allowed all sorts of people (students too) to build their own extensions (I once saw a working (!!) home-brew 4MB hard drive attached to one). It was a lot easier to get on with than the CDC-6600 (aka Cyber 74) on which I did my first computer practicals.

Is there no nostalgia icon?

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Re: Thinking Machines

"It was a lot easier to get on with than the CDC-6600 (aka Cyber 74) on which I did my first computer practicals."

My (required) assembly language course would normally have been on PDP-11s in the Computer Science lab. As EE students, we were guests, which meant we would get secondary access (i.e.: early morning) to the machines. But the semester I was to take the course, we had a one-time opportunity to use the newly installed Cyber-74. The course was taught by a guest lecturer, a CDC software engineer we got as part of the machine purchase (actually, I think we go it used when someone else upgraded).

Anyhow, I learned assembly programming on a machine with a 60 bit word, hardware floating point and was introduced to the "count bits" instruction. Totally useless to me in my future career, but fun, nonetheless. As was watching the vector graphics operator's console and distributing the contents of the card punch chad box among the underwear of a particularly obnoxious neighbour in my residence hall.

As a graduate student, I was able to take the PDP-11 assembly language course during a summer job at Digital, so I didn't miss out.

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PS3? The George Foreman Grill?

Yeah, I wouldn't put that in there.

What about some Sun kit? Some SGI kit? When everything had crazy designs.

The one that really gets me going in this line up is the Cray stuff - they had mental looking designs, fluid immersion, a real monolithic look and feel.

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Re: PS3? The George Foreman Grill?

I'd forgotten about all those Cray advertisements that were in the piles of old National Geographic magazines I was bought up with. The adverts stated that they were supercomputers, but they always looked like modernist furniture.

There are a range of products and brands I'll always associate with that magazine and era: Rolex, SLRs (usually pictured next to a marble chess set and a whisky glass), Seiko digital watches, Datsun, Betamax VCRs, Wildlife as Canon sees it, BMW, various airlines...

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Joke

Some of these inclusions are...

...all fur-coat and no floating point coprocessor! You should have included the motherboards so we could judge them on their inner beauty too!

Chauvinist pigs!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some of these inclusions are...

You are the ghost of Steve Jobs and I claim my £5!

:o)

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Gimp

Re: Some of these inclusions are...

You've got me worried now that I might be possessed by him - no wonder I was considering buying a black polo neck the other day!

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PET/CBM

1970s futurism at its finest!

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Re: PET/CBM

The PET has always been my favourite case design, right up to the present day. There was something innately "Buck Rogers-ish" about the trapezoidal shape of the monitor housing, and it was all angles and lines and chunky solid shapes. Remove the green-screen CRT and replace it with a modern flat-screen and it still wouldn't look out of place in any sci-fi show you'd care to name!

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Motorola PowerStack

Little known but damn sexy, looking like a high end 80's hi-fi system. PowerPC 604 processors too! What;s not to like.

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Wot no SGI?

Can't beleive you're including stuff like the PS3 (just another black box under the TV alongside everything else with a Sony badge on it) and not including SGI gems like the Indigo, Indy, Onyx, etc. In a time still dominated by the beige box, they were anything but.

I especially liked the Indy, since the case split and opened along the main diagonal slice. It was form and function in harmony vs. the usual process of asking a collague to kneel on a cheap pressed steel case so that you could align the screw-holes and put it back together.

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Re: Wot no SGI?

I used an Indigo back in about '94 - it even looked better on screen.

It always made me wonder when this amazing system was sat in the same office as a brace of early 486 PCs that it got mostly ignored in favour of Windows 3.11, even for some of the more intense QSAR and modelling stuff for which it was bought.

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Re: Wot no SGI?

PS3 did look "wife friendly" though. She wasnt too chuffed about the big beige fan ridden XBMC to being with either so I needed a proper case.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wot no SGI?

I was thinking the same. We used to have loads of Indigo's and Onyx back in the late 90's, really cool looking. Started to phase out SGI and replaced them with Sun Ultra 10 and 60's which has since been replaced by DELL Precision workstations run Linux. Also rememeber going to UWE to see Silicon Graphics demo the SGI Visual worksation running NT4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SGI_Visual_Workstation

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Re: Wot no SGI?

'I especially liked the Indy, since the case split and opened along the main diagonal slice'

Did it? I never saw one that did...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wot no SGI?

we had a few indy's a bright blue/green colour desktop design if I rememebr right

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wot no SGI?

we also had an SGI O2 just the one I think

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Re: Wot no SGI?

Have a working Indigo on my desk.

Had been used as a footrest for 10 yrs before I resurrected it.

//adapters for VGA, Ethernet and PC keyboard/mouse

//missing the disk bay door, though

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Re: Wot no SGI?

No it doesn't, at least the 3 I have don't. Doesn't stop them looking damn good though!

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