25 Greatest PCs of All Time

The editors of PC World have chosen The 25 Greatest PCs of All Time based on four criteria:

  • Innovation: Did the PC do anything that was genuinely new? Did it incorporate the latest technology?
  • Impact: Was it widely imitated? Did it become part of the cultural zeitgeist?
  • Industrial design: Was it a looker? Did it have clever features that made using it a pleasure?
  • Intangibles: Was there anything else about it that set it apart from the same ol’ same ol’?

I never owned any of the honorees, being a late adopter to both the PC (I didn’t get my first one until 1989) and the laptop (2004). Further, I tend to buy one-off-leading-edge technology to save money. Still, the story is an interesting read. I’m glad someone is doing the innovation; I’m just not willing to pay top dollar for it when it hits the streets.

The fill list below the fold.

The results:

    * 1977 Apple II
    * 1986 Compaq Deskpro 386
    * 1981 Xerox 8010 Information System
    * 1986 Apple Macintosh Plus
    * 1992 IBM ThinkPad 700C
    * 1981 IBM Personal Computer, Model 5150
    * 1985 Commodore Amiga 1000
    * 1983 Tandy TRS-80 Model 100
    * 1982 Columbia Data Products MPC 1600-1
    * 1991 Apple PowerBook 100
    * 1998 Sony VAIO 505GX
    * 1975 MITS Altair 8800
    * 1984 IBM Personal Computer/AT Model 5170
    * 1979 Atari 800
    * 2001 Shuttle SV24 Barebone System
    * 1977 Tandy TRS-80 Model I
    * 1987 Toshiba T1000
    * 1993 Hewlett-Packard OmniBook 300
    * 2002 Apple iMac, second generation
    * 1996 Gateway 2000 Destination
    * 1998 Alienware Area-51
    * 1993 Hewlett-Packard 100LX
    * 1997 Apple eMate 300
    * 2006 Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV650
    * 1982 Non-Linear Systems Kaypro II

Read the story for discussion of why each of these machines was important.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology, Uncategorized, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Herb says:

    My first PC was a Compaq. I used it for 6 years and then it burned up. My next was a Dell. It was OK but was very underpowered. When It want belly up, I had one made for me at a local PC shop. This thing has everything and plenty of power for many years to come. The good thing was that It cost me only $800.00. A like PC from Dell, Gateway or most other manufacturers would have cost me at least 1500.00

  2. chris says:

    What, no Commodore 64? Come on guys, when I was in seventh grade, those little babies were GREAT! You could do all kinds of stuff with them. I remember having a statistical football game for the 64 that was as good as any you could play even today (stats-wise, not graphics-wise).

    I now own a Dell I’ve had for about seven years. And without trying to sound like a paid endorsement, I’ve never had much trouble with the thing in all this time. A couple of hard disk wipes through the years, and I’ve been in good shape (knock wood). I wonder if they’re making PCs TOO GOOD, or if I just got a solid one.

  3. James Joyner says:


    I had a Dell for just under four years and had the motherboard overheat after about two. They replaced almost the entire inards of the machine, thankfully free of charge since it was still under warranty. My hard drive died on me a little over a week ago without warning.

    We decided that it was time just to suck it up and buy a new machine and, against my better judgment, we went with another Dell. They’re essentially disposable machines but for a life span of three-four years, you just can’t beat them at the price.

  4. DC Loser says:

    The C64 is counted as a “near great.” But where’s the Timex Sinclair 1000? I remember seeing an ad for that in Scientific American in 1978 and wanted one. I belive it had 1k in RAM at the time.

    I buy the cheapest computer I can. I’m using a Gateway Celeron I bought for about $299 with free shipping in 2002. It’s still humming. I’ll wait till Vista is out to upgrade. I time my purchases with Microsoft’s OS releases to save money 🙂 I’d love to get a Mac Mini as a second surfing machine, though.

  5. I had the 1996 Gateway 2000 Destination. Although I now own a Dell Inspiron 9200, I still think Gateway makes some of the best PCs out there.

  6. DC Loser says:

    Gateway has a better software bundle. At least they give you Microsoft Works as standard, which comes with Word and the map program is pretty useful. Dell’s standard Coral Wordperfect package is better than nothing, but just a bit better.

  7. DL says:

    My first computer was an Osborne -was portable had a 5 inch screen and used one sided 5 1/4 inch floppy discs with only 64k to run the entire show. I carried it from client’s house to client’s house to illustrate how option selling against a stock purchase would reward you without undue risk. It made the sale for me over and over. It took three weeks for me to learn how to make the program on a spreadsheet -as I neared the end of this ardous task, lightning took out my power supply. I learned then how to save! They missed this computer because few had one!

  8. Herb says:

    Dell is an OK computer if you don’t mind talking to someone you can’t understand for technical support.

    Dells customer support/service has sank to the level of Compaq/HP. A cheap computer is not so cheap if you can’t get customer support or understand what they are saying to you.