Microsoft's Strangest Hits (and Misses)


Speed Up Your PC with Microsoft? Yes!

With Microsoft Windows having the well-deserved reputation of slowing down even the fastest systems, it's hard to believe that Redmond once produced not one, but two hardware acceleration products:

  • - The Microsoft Mach 10 daughter board. This hardware accelerator board for IBM PCs used the NEC V20 processor, a processor similar to (but faster) than the IBM PC's 8088 CPU. Mach 10 plugged into an 8-bit ISA slot.
  • - The Microsoft Mach 20 daughter board. This hardware accelerator board for IBM PCs brought the processor power of the IBM AT (namely, its 80286 processor) to its predecessor. It also plugged into an 8-bit ISA slot.

Both the Mach 10 and Mach 20 were short-lived; once you could buy a real IBM AT (or an AT clone) with a 16-bit memory bus and other improvements (or a 286 motherboard that would fit into your old IBM PC or clone), 8-bit daughtercards like the Mach twins were history. The only mention of them on the Microsoft web site is in its list of obsolete products .

To learn a bit more about the Mach 20 and similar products, take a trip through Google groups or check out this 1987 New York Times article or this 1987 Lotus Magazine article (registration required).

Microsoft also jumped into the very crowded multifunction card market for IBM PCs with its Microsoft Systemcard product. Systemcard offered up to 256KB of RAM, a serial port, a parallel port, a real-time clock/calendar, and RAMdisk and print spooler software. Keep in mind that standard IBM PCs and PC clones didn't have any standard expansion ports, and that IBM expansion cards featured only one port. Unfortunately, Systemcard was just an also-ran compared to the market-dominating AST SixPackPlus and other cards. Read this 1985 Zenith Data Systems bulletin to learn more about Systemcard and other long-lost products.

Speed Up a PCjr with Microsoft? Yes!

Not only did Microsoft speed up IBM PCs, but its Microsoft Booster sidecar expansion for the PC's unlovable younger sibling, the IBM PCjr, cranked up both performance and convenience. Microsoft Booster added a bus mouse (along with drivers for the most popular MS-DOS programs), a realtime clock/calendar, and (in its deluxe version) 128KB of RAM, doubling the paltry 128KB of RAM in the standard PCjr. See one in action in this vintage Microsoft ad .

Slow Down Your PC with Microsoft? Double Yes!

You might think that Windows couldn't be any slower or clunkier, but if you do, you've forgotten all about Microsoft Bob, which was introduced just before Windows 95 in 1995 as a front-end to both Windows 3.1 and Windows 95.

Bob introduced a very annoying dog helper named Rover, a terminally cutesy (and Early Nerd Rustic) desktop littered with silly icons (other annoying room styles were also available), and more mouse clicks to get less done than with any standard version of Windows.

Bob required 8MB of RAM, 30MB of hard disk space, and 256-color graphics (quite steep at the time). Bob was doomed by both its hardware requirements and by the easier to use (and far less annoying) Windows 95 when it arrived later.

Enjoy (or endure) a demo of Bob on YouTube , or spare yourself the sound effects and read ToastyTech's writeup.

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