I'm a technology enthusiast. I like gadgets, electronics, and just about anything "high tech". As such, I've been exposed to several models of computers over the years. A recent slashdot poll asks what the most reliable computer you've ever had was. For me, it would have to be my original Gateway P100. Surprising answer, I know. After all, Gateway is infamous for making machines built to fail. They don't have quite the noteriety of the embarassingly poor PackardBell machines that disgraced so many desktops.

Growing up, we had an Atari 1040 ST. My dad and I would sing along with it as it would boot up. You would think this machine was stamping out license plates for as much noise as it made booting up. We had another PC prior to the Atari (Trash 80? I can't remember), but the first one I remember using extensively was the Atari. I even made a science fair project out of it. The color display on it was pretty high end for the time, and we could play a couple of games on it. I'm not really sure what my dad used it for, but it was a fun toy in the house.

When the Atari finally expired, our next PC was an Macintosh IIsi. This is definitely the hardiest machine I've ever seen, as it still works to this day. I remember playing Warlords on that machine for hours at a time. This was the first machine I was able to access the web on as well. We had a 9600 baud modem. We had AOL as our service provider, but there were also a series of BBS numbers we could dial. This was when the web was still an unfriendly, pioneering place where Gofer was the tool of choice for finding information. And forget anything as cushy as Netscape or Internet Explorer. This old PC is currently at my grandmother's place, collecting some dust. I'm sure it would still power on and run though.

The first PC I actually purchased on my own wa a Gateway P100. This was Gateway's first offering that included the new Intel Pentium 100 MHz processor. It was a blazing fast machine at the time. A lot of folks have had trouble with Gateway, but I must have received the one good one. This is the PC that got me through college, and I seriously abused it. It travelled with me back and forth to school in what could only be called "loose" packaging (aka, all of my clothes in a pile around it). It was ripped apart, put back together, tinkered with, and developed on. The old Intel chip has been replaced with an Evergreen AMD K6-II 400MHz upgrade chip. It has a bastardized assortment of RAM to total 96MB. It's run a variety of operating systems, both open and proprietary. Yet it lives on, currently tasked at running the arcade cabinet in my basement.

I got kind of cocky after my first year at school. I had a bit more knowledge on the major components of a PC. I had heard several of the folks in my dorm talk about building their own home-brew computers. I thought, no sweat! I can do this. I somehow talked my dad into letting me purchase all of the components and put it together. I sold him on the fact that I could build it for half the price he would pay buying one. It was a AMD K6 based machine. Unfortunately, I never really understood the intricacies of setting the voltage switches on the motherboard to match the processor. The machine worked well for a while, but I kept getting calls from my dad about strange noises coming from the machine. I assumed it was just the hard drive read head moving around as it swapped out memory pages. This wasn't the right diagnosis, and eventually all of the smoke was let out. I tried to do a frankenstein job on it later, but there was no reviving this boat anchor.

In college, I used Sun SPARCstation 5s. These were pretty much a staple for the labs in college. I got really familiar with these over my four years. They all seemed pretty bulletproof, but I never really did anything to stress it out. Still, surviving the abuse that only college students can apply is a pretty good testament to their reliability.

Since working at Flexware, I've used several Dell Inspiron laptops. The graphics are nice, but these are not great machines. Each has arrived with some form of paralysis: unable to access DVD-ROM, bad RAM, dead pixels on the screen, useless Wi-Fi card, etc. Dell is good about getting replacements in, but I'd rather have a machine that works out of the box.

Due to our issues with the Dells, we ordered a set of Toshiba Satellite laptops in bulk once. Big mistake. The machine shuts down when the internal temperature gets too hot. We could reliably cause shutdown by installing Oracle 9i client. It would get to 80% and take a nap. We'll never make that mistake again.

The latest machine I've used is a Fujitsu Lifebook, a laptop I received for my MBA program. I've been pleasantly surprised by this one. It has a nice hard metal shell, and it's taken some abuse in home. After a drop, the laptop is bent, but it still works fine. As far as reliability goes, it's been a great machine. I accidentally cut the power cable in our recliner one night, but I was able to patch that up. It has received a lot of abuse, but it keeps on ticking.

Based on my past experience, I'm still not married to any particular brand of PC vendor. Even though I got great mileage out of the Gateway, I'm not sure I could count on it happening again. I'm too much of a video game enthusiast to use a Mac (not a slight on macs, they are great machines, but they tend to be last in line for the games I play). I'm not sure where I'll go for my next PC purchase. Fortunately, that's a long way down the road. The Dell PC we purchased is running great, and will stick with us for some time. We may consider getting a laptop when we have to give the Fujitsu back to the university. The next thing I'm thinking about is a new video card for the Dell so I can get the most out of Half-Life 2!


Jade Mason