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Designers gone wild: most bizarre functioning computers


Throughout the history of computing, computer manufacturers released quite a few oddities to the public. Take a look at some of the strangest computer design ideas that were turned into genuine products.

If anything, computers changed in unforeseen ways over the five decades. Machines got more powerful every year, PC industry titans came and went, software makers won and lost wars over market dominance.

One thing, however, seems to have remained the same - desire to be noticed. We’ve compiled a list of bizarre computer designs that are rare oddities, to say the least. 

Holborn 9100 (1981)

Holborn 9120 terminal. Image source.

There was still no formula for computer design to follow during the dawn of personal computers in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The machines were still a novelty, and imaginations ran wild. A device made by the Dutch company Holborn (‘born in Holland’)is precisely something out of that creative era.

Released in 1981, the 9100 looks like something out of a retro-futuristic movie. The monitor attached to the case with a long arm resembles an eye of an alien. The machine was different from what contemporary PC market leaders like Commodore, Apple, or TRS were offering to customers.

Equipped with a Z80 processor housing 64 KB of address space, the 9100 and its bigger brother, the 9200, did not stand out of the crowd. Holborn sold only 200 units, and the company went bust in 1983.

IASIS ia-7301 (1976)

IASIS ia-7301. Image posted by u/adx.

One of the most significant changes to the computer industry is fewer attempts to cross breed books and machines. In the late ’70s, however, that was not the case. Thus IASIS ia-7301, or ‘computer in a book’ as it was better known, was born in 1976.

The ia-7301 was a training computer equipped with an Intel 8080 microprocessor, 1 Kb of ROM, and the same amount of RAM and programs were saved through a tape recorder.

Most interestingly, though, IASIS delivered the device with 250 pages of a programming course. The computer was fitted inside the book.

SEIKO UC-2000 (1984)

SEIKO UC-2000. Image posted by u/redruM69.

Long before smartwatches became something so ordinary, Japanese watch and electronics maker Seiko introduced a hybrid: something between a calculator, computer, and a watch. The device resembled something straight out of a James Bond film.

Seiko created a pocket-sized keyboard that was meant to be used to communicate with the device. The watch operated via a terminal called UC-2200 equipped with specially made ‘Transmission Circuit’ that offered a spool-fed printer, 4K of RAM, and 26K of ROM via a plug-in Application ROM Pack.

The watch served as a monitor for the ‘Transmission Circuit,’ making the device resemble a computer more than a watch.

Packard Bell Corner Computer (1995)

Released in 1995, the Packard Bell Corner Computer is precisely what its name tells. It’s a PC that’s meant to stand in a corner.

Equipped with a Pentium CPU, 64 MB RAM, floppy, and CD drives in each corner, the Corner Computer was a typical mid-90s machine. The device was not among the cheapest ones, with the basic version costing over $2,000 at the time of its release.

The design and not the insides were the main selling point, though, with Packard Bell stating that it is ‘the first desktop designed to fit into a corner. A neat idea that Packard Bell executed rather poorly.

Unsurprisingly, to avoid all the cords sticking out of the front of the device, all slots were put in the back of the computer. That meant there was no way to fit it neatly in the corner of the table as designers intended to. Unless that table is in the middle of the room with no walls close by.

Compaq Presario 3020 (1995)

Compaq Presario 3020. Image source.

Released around the same time as the ‘Corner Computer’, designers of the 3020 seemingly tried to achieve the same goal – cut through the monotonous beige designs of the 90’s PCs. Instead of making the computer fit inside the corner, it was designed to fit everything on itself.

The PC case, monitor, and the sound system were all cramped into a very ’90s looking device. The computer came with a 166MHz Intel Pentium processor, preinstalled Windows 95 operating system, and an expandable RAM of up to 128 MB.

Intel Ottoman PC (1999)

Intel Ottoman PC. Image source.

Trying to merge furniture and computers without making them ‘smart’ might seem an odd idea. At the turn of the century, Intel developed the Ottoman PC, a computer that also served as a piece of house furniture with a soft bottom to rest your legs.

Strangely enough, designers of the device did not foresee that once the ottoman is opened, it resembles a different house item. One that’s meant to be sat on in a specialized part of the house. Made hoping that the new century will bring revolutionary changes to PC designs, Intel meant the Ottoman PC to serve as a multimedia system for every corner of the house.

The insides were equipped with an Intel Pentium III PC, 15-inch monitor, wireless keyboard, DVD, video camera, and other gadgets.

“We are naturally very excited about the creative implementation of our revolutionary Pentium III processor in the world’s first Furniture PC,” Intel’s Vice President for Desktop products group said at the time of Ottoman’s release.

Maingear Prysma (2006)

Maingear Prysma. Image source.

Released only 15 years ago, Maingear Prysma falls into a category of devices meant to be a definite eye-catcher. Since we’re talking about it all this time later, the machine has succeeded to some respect.

At the time of its release, Prysma was compared to a shiny Las Vegas hotel. The design statement of the time had a Pentium D 940 Dual Core processor inside with a GeForce 7600GT, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, and a 400GB SATA hard drive.

Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds (2009)

Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds. Image posted by u/BeansNG.

Lenovo’s attempt at standing out of the crow was somewhat unique. But with the raging battle over the larger or better foldable screen of the modern-day, who can blame them.

The W700ds had a retractable screen to accompany the default 17-inch screen. The second display was a generous 10.6-inch with a resolution of 768x1280. Even though that makes up an impressive screen for a laptop, the display added several pounds of additional weight to the computer.

The device came with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400, 512 MB to 4GB of RAM.


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