15 Amazing Computing Rarities of the 1990s

Fascinating machines of an underappreciated era--from an Apple that wasn't a Mac to a ThinkPad that wasn't a PC.

Posted by  | Sunday, April 17, 2011

1 of 17  |  NEXT»


There’s a certain false assumption among computer history enthusiasts that the age of rare and interesting machines ended around the time the IBM PC-compatible platform gained almost total dominance of the PC market. As a result, you’ll see endless celebrations of vintage PCs of the 1970s and 80s. But what about the decade after that?

While Windows’ pervasiveness did limit computer diversity in the 1990s, it by no means stamped it out. Here are 15 amazing and unusual machines that dared to swim against the tide of conformity–albeit with limited success that leaves most of these systems extremely hard to find today. Let’s pay tribute, at long last, to these rare computers of the 1990s.



1 of 17  |  NEXT»

Slides: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

24 Comments For This Post

  1. Richard Chase Says:

    I have a machine made by AMI which contains a 6502 processor and a Zilog Z80 processor. Which is used would depend on whether you booted the machine using and Apple DOS or CP/M boot disk. Do you have any info on this machine?

  2. Steven Weyhrich Says:

    The Tiger Learning Computer was released in 1997, and was based on the Apple IIe / IIc. Those computers were released in the early 1980s. AppleWorks 4.3 was released in 1993. So there was not THAT much dust on the version of AppleWorks that was included with this device. "What happened in the 90s stays in the 90s"? I'm not sure I get that. Did you mean 80s?

  3. Dave Barnes Says:

    VAX 9000 is not mentioned.
    Pretty rare.

  4. Mel Krewall Says:

    I had one of the HP Omnibooks with the attached, pop-out mouse, and it was a fantastic road warrior portable. Carried it literally around the world.

  5. bhtooefr Says:

    Not a full computer, but there's always the Apple IIe card for the Mac LC.

    The Acorn RiscPC isn't rare in the UK, but it's incredibly rare outside of the UK (I know of three here in the US, I'm sure there's more, but most likely double digits), and certainly an interesting one, as far as its architecture goes. (And the OS makes some interesting UI decisions, too.)

    Other interesting platforms to consider:

    PC-GEOS-based systems, ranging from the Brother GeoBook (a predecessor of today's low-cost netbook) to the Nokia 9000 and 9100 Communicator smartphones
    Speaking of smartphone platforms, the IBM/BellSouth Simon, the first smartphone
    Sharp X68000 and X68030, Japan-only platforms that received some of the best arcade ports out there

  6. Richard Says:

    I still have one of these EOs in my desk drawer.

  7. Down with monopolies Says:

    BeOS didn’t die only because of Next.
    It died because MS strong-armed any hardware vendor that tried to include BeOS with their pc’s.

    At one point, BeOS was free to hardware manufacturers and I’m not talking of BeOS PE (personal edition).

  8. Stilgar Says:

    I loved BeOS, I even bought a copy of v4 and 5. You Be fans know about HaikuOS right? Google it. Binary compatible BeOS clone (not a Be GUI based on the Linux kernel).

  9. Benj Edwards Says:

    Those are some amazing machines, indeed! I considered mentioning the X68000 and the RiscPC series, but they aren't exceedingly rare in their countries of origin. Still, they are fascinating alternative platforms that deserve further attention.

  10. dholyer Says:

    The Atari Falcon was a nice re-boxing of the Atari 1030ST, except for the mouse. In my words it was fugly. Even the Apple one button mouse looked better. But I did see some mid to late 80's mice just were just as bad. Even a road kill mouse might have looked better.

  11. Herro Says:

    i have a gateway 2000 destination tv in mint condition… are they rare to the point that they're worth money? or just rare and unwanted?

  12. dinogeek1 Says:

    I remember a TV Ad in the 1980's where Steve Jobs told us that "The LISA would Change Computing Forever!" This was the first of Many Empty Claims uttered by Mr. Jobs, while coaxing us to purchase his Over-Priced Products, over the past few decades.

    My Amiga with it's "Video-Toaster" changed TV Production, My DEC Rainbow 2000 works great as a Front-End Terminal for my NASA Surplus Moon Mission DEC PDP 11/27 which did Change Computing Forever. My Lisa, well It DOES make an Excellent Boat-Anchor. iPhones work well as Door-Stops as well.

  13. Collins Says:

    I think you should add hyperlink to wikipedia article for 'floppy drive'. Many kids these days aren't familiar with that mostly ancient relic.

  14. Malcolm Says:

    The biggest issue with the Falcon though was that is was still in effect an ST architecture. Full 32 bit processor on a 16 bit data bus and a 24 bit address bus, plus none of the 68030 lines taken to the internal expansion ports (So it was no better than the expansion slot in the original Mega ST), the machine was effectively crippled.

    Much as I like my Atari collection, the Falcon is in effect not that much faster than the Mega STe, which is a shame as it could have been a much better machine than it actually is (Havign said that though, it is still a brilliant piece of technology)

    More info here – http://www.atarimusic.net/component/content/artic

  15. Mark Miller Says:

    Interesting about the Sega TeraDrive. I vaguely remember hearing the name "TeraDrive," but didn't know what it was. After Atari released their Falcon030 computer in 1992 I remember a computer dealer telling me that Atari was thinking about creating a personal computer that included hardware from their 64-bit Jaguar video game console platform. They never went through with it. Atari stopped producing personal computers the following year.

  16. Eric Says:

    What a great article, I found this to be quite an enjoyable read.
    San Jose chiropractor

  17. Eric Says:

    What a great read, this was truly an entertaining article.
    Las Vegas chiropractor

  18. Alen Coder Says:

    Thanks for sharing this powerful article with us. I've been doing some research for my own link building service business, and I found your article by accident.

  19. Jim Jarrett Says:

    I programmed the Commodore CDTV for multimedia apps back in 1991/92, mostly using AmigaVision. I even wrote a technical writing paper in my senior year of college saying why choosing the CDTV as the platform was a bad decision.

  20. larzze Says:

    I'm sure there's more, but most likely double digits), and certainly an interesting one, as far as its architecture goes. (And the OS makes some interesting UI decisions, too.)
    Jacksonville Roofing l Roofing Jacksonville

  21. zahidpro Says:

    AppleWorks 4.3 was released in 1993. So there was not THAT much dust on the version of AppleWorks that was included with this device.
    Autofellatio l Fellatio

  22. zahidpro Says:

    Really informative appreciate it, There’s no doubt that your trusty visitors choice likely like far extra content such like this…Roofing Miami l Miami roofers

  23. zahidpro Says:

    Really informative appreciate it, There’s no doubt that your trusty visitors choice likely like far extra content such like this…Roofing Miami l Miami roofers

  24. houstonplumber Says:

    changed TV Production, My DEC Rainbow 2000 works great as a Front-End Terminal for my NASA Surplus Moon Mission DEC PDP 11/27 which did Change Computing Forever. My Lisa, well It DOES make an Excellent Boat-Anchor. iPhones work well as Door-Stops as well. roofer jacksonville