Forget Bob–Let’s Talk About Packard Bell Navigator

By  |  Monday, March 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Thinking back to my youth, my dad suffered from deal myopia. He was always looking for one, and couldn’t pass up buying whatever appeared to be the best value for our family. Sometimes those deals turned into ordeals– like the time when he purchased a PC that was preloaded with Packard Bell’s Microsoft Bob-like front end. I thought about it as I read our coverage of Microsoft Bob‘s fifteenth anniversary today.

The Packard Bell that was rigged to boot into an interface called Packard Bell Navigator, an alternative shell for Windows that was designed to make using a PC easier. It presented the user with a virtual study instead of the Windows desktop and had a brief and unremarkable existence during the mid-1990s. But it predated Bob, and surely reached far more people–Packard Bells may have been famously shoddy, but they were also the era’s best-selling home PCs.

Our prior family PC had run Windows 3.x, and we had a great collection of shareware games. I became proficient at booting into games from DOS, and prior to that, a Commodore 128. The Packard Bell and its virtual room interface befuddled me. It was difficult to determine which objects had any function or not. My greatest discovery was learning how to turn it off.

In all fairness to my dad, he did make some good buys from time to time. The Commodore was incredibly fun, and prior to that, my siblings and I played on a Magnavox Odyssey. (There weren’t any deals on Ataris.)

The Odyssey still sits in my mother’s basement, and I may attempt to get it running again at some point in the future. Thanks dad–let’s just forget about that Packard Bell…Sears riding mower, fiberglass pool lining, and the Didi Seven.

 
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  1. Paul Says:

    I remember not only having a Packard Bell, but actually using this particular GUI interface. Terrible….

  2. ecco6t9 Says:

    I will give Packard Bell this, the casings and keyboards are built like tanks.

  3. Stilgar Says:

    Haha, when I was in college I had a Gateway 2000 and a couple of my roomates had Packard Bells. We all had some multimedia class where we had to make a presentation (pre-PowerPoint). Their presentation was “Gateway 2000 vs Packard Bell.” One of their bullet points in their presentation always made me LOL and I’ve never forgotten it. “Packard Bell: Quality is kept low to keep prices low.”

  4. Chris Donahue Says:

    I had the misfortune of selling computers in Lechmere with this software back in 1993-4. Computers weren’t as prevalent as they are today. Remember computers were expensive back then. If I remember correctly, a 486SX/25 with 4MB RAM and a 210MB hard drive was about $1299 without a monitor. But this was not a good way to make them easier to use, it sucked bad.

  5. Marc Says:

    Yup I had that on a Windows 98 PC. It also had Packard Bell Softbar, a sidebar – which predated Google sidebar(!) (although it was simply application shortcuts, no widgets here!)

  6. bp Says:

    That was one of the best things about my first computer. I feel like that interface helped open up my imagination to the possibility’s of the computer. I would love to use it again but I can’t find a download anywhere. If anyone knows where to get it please post here. Thanks.

  7. tony Says:

    i have it

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