Strong Bad: No, shut up! Look, I'm gonna need to borrow, like, $900.
Strong Sad: Well, I hope that's for a new computer. You could get one like yours at a garage sale for, like... (chuckling) $15.
It's a rusty old computer that takes over a minute to perform a simple operation. A beaten-up computer that restarts unexpectedly and at the last time you would like it to.
This is The Alleged Computer. This computer, to put it kindly, isn't the most viable to use to lollygag or search. In fact, you could probably benefit using an old mobile phone with internet capabilities over this type of "computer". Their best use is probably a novelty doorstop.
If it runs overly slowly or breaks with a single touch (or only works properly with a very strong touch), it definitely fits here. If a computer is actually much more efficient than it looks, see What a Piece of Junk.
Compare The Alleged Car, The Alleged House, and The Alleged Steed for severely underperforming automobiles, homes, and horses. Also see No Backwards Compatibility in the Future and Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future.
Walking Techbanes turn any computer around them into this trope.
- Downplayed in The Web Of The Spider Man. Peter got his laptop as a hand-me-down from his late father, making it really, really old by modern standards. Peter has been keeping it running and updated by buying whatever computer parts he could afford with his meager allowance, but it's held together with gum, paperclips, and toothpicks. While it can't compete with a modern computer, it still works fine for the most part.
- In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, K.E.L.E.X. believes every single computer on Earth is this, as it's all Stone Age tech compared to what he's equipped with. To be fair, he's justified in that he's lightyears ahead of any conventional computer on Earth, to the point that he can easily upgrade Izuku's phone to make it project a forcefield powerful enough to completely repel the toxic gas produced by Korusan Island. He takes every opportunity to rub this in.
K.E.L.E.X.: I HAVE LINKED MY PROGRAMMING TO YOUR TELECOMMUNICATIONS DEVICE IN THE FORM OF AN APPLICATION; BECAUSE OF THE PRIMITIVE NATURE OF THE TECHNOLOGY, THERE WAS NO DIFFICULTY INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS.
- Newton Pulsifer, in Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, has a singular knack for machinery. That is to say, he can make it stop working just by trying to make it work. And he always buys the worst. His computer is somehow always an early model with the hopelessly flawed chipset, or failing that, the early hideously bug-filled OS. And don't ask about his car.
- The Quark II computer produced by the original WayForward Technologies in Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, which Richard MacDuff advises police (who have a non-functioning model) would be best used as a giant paperweight. (At which point the policeman he's talking to admits they're already using it as a doorstop.) The same book also contains a very much defective example of the not-exactly-a-computer-in the-conventional-sense Electric Monk, which does all your believing for you.
- The first entry in the Jedi Academy Trilogy, Jedi Search, had Han Solo and Kyp Durron steal a ship that turned out to have a very old, very slow nav computer, which was a liability in a tense battle situation. As a result, they needed to brave the Maw, a dangerous black hole cluster, in order to evade pursuit. Thankfully this became a Suicidal "Gotcha!" thanks to the Force being with Kyp.
- Holly from Red Dwarf. Despite allegedly having an IQ of 6000, he (she in some of the later series) has gone very senile, and often blunderingly damages the people on the ship.
- In the Thunderbirds episode "Sun Probe", engineer "Brains" accidentally takes his experimental robot instead of a computer along on a rescue. When he's forced to ask the robot to make the calculations, it takes the robot a full 20 seconds (accompanied by obligatory clicks and whirrs) to make the calculation when (in spite of the pseudo-scientific nonsense-calculation used) it could have been solved on a pocket calculator as quickly as you could press the keys.
- Subverted in a Tales from the Darkside episode, "The Word Processor of the Gods", based on a Stephen King short story of the same title. Writer Richard Hagstrom receives a homemade word processor from his nephew Jonathan. The machine struggles with mundane text processing, but when it's commanded to rewrite Richard's life, the results are astounding.
- Vice Principal Crubbs' computer from Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide was so prone to freezing and crashing that it would often launch him into profanity-laced rants about how much he hated it, likely with his hand on the intercom button. At the end of an episode, he smashed it with a hammer in order to get a new one directly after telling a student not to do so.
- In the Arrow episode "Crossing Lines", Ollie, in prison, manages to sneak into an office to do a websearch on one of the guards. His cellmate looks sceptically at the clunky keyboard and CRT monitor, wondering if it even has the internet.
- Jen's work computer in The IT Crowd is so infected with malware that Roy says he'd Mercy Kill it if it were human.
- In Knights of the Dinner Table, B.A. had a Trash 80 nicknamed Molly, whose slowness made it the butt of many jokes.
- One of the Pigs In Space: Deep Dish Nine: The Next Generation skits on Muppets Tonight has Piggy unveil the ship's new computer, the A.L. 19.95 plus tax. Which then takes the rest of the sketch to calculate 2+2.
- Scummy Screen from The Trash Pack is a living one. He was dumped for his age (he's an old CRT monitor), and has poor pixels and gets computer viruses very easily...though in his case, these are colds for him.
- Any PC multiplayer game that requires all the participants to get matched up with each other ahead of time and then actually load into the game (think League of Legends) will cause accusations of this from faster loading players against the slowest. "Are you loading the game on a typewriter?" is a typical comment.
- One collection of comments from LOL's Tribunal (read: in-game chat) had an angry Lulu player denounce another gamer: "JESUS! Please upgrade your wooden PC powered by 8 hamsters on wheels who are digging for bitcoins in the wood chips!"
- In-universe, a couple of levels of TRON 2.0 invoke this. While the systems overrun by Z-lots aren't designed poorly, and the EN-1282 is a circa 1982 mainframe chugging along in 2003, other systems like the PDA and the Datawraith server are probably just as User-unfriendly on the outside as they are to Jet inside.
- Strong Bad from Homestar Runner apparently loves computers like this and uses them by choice. He mocks his friend The Cheat for using a modern Apple that doesn't have a text-based interface, he thinks a flat screen means someone cut half of the monitor away, and he thinks the Apple mouse is a bar of soap.
- His first computer, the Tandy, fits this trope after Strong Bad continues to use it after it explodes.
- The Compy doesn't show any negative qualities other than general obsolescence for its time.
- The Lappy features, according to Strong Bad, an "extremely portable" weight of 42 pounds and a battery life of "one-half of ten minutes."
- Averted with the Compé, which was current when the toons that featured it were made.
- The Lappier is presumably better than the Lappy, but it is unclear since it's only been in a few toons.
- In Leftover Soup Jamie had a "Linux clusterfuck" of three laptops that were supposed to act as one machine but in practice didn't work without all three active at once and was much less powerful than even one of them by itself. He apparently bought the mess for $50 and the original creator had died without leaving any documentation. Professional computer geek Ellen tries for a full day and night to make it work with one laptop, but eventually just scraps them and buys him a new laptop.
- General Protection Fault: The secret organization of the Brotherhood of the Twisted Pair seek a geek "like none other, whose skills are without equal. He (or she) will initiate a golden age of geekdom, and lead a revolution of ideas that will revolutionize the computerized world." One of the tests is averting this trope with out-of-date machinery.
- Fooker passed by building a server out of computer equipment made in the late 1980s, when said components were at least a decade out of date.
- Sharon passed by writing down what you'd have to do in order to pull off a similar feat, using 20-year-old equipment.
- Yoshi passed by having the computer equipment a college kid could buy on a budget confiscated by the FBI, because of what he did with it.
- In Homestesque, Tyler has an Unbelievably Shitty Laptop with a CRT screen.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has the mad scientist Dean Martin (no, not that one), who uses a TRS-80.
- In The Adventure Zone: Amnesty, paranormal researcher Thacker kept all his notes on a Mac laptop that was at least 20 years old by the time the main characters needed it. They only used it as a reference in extreme cases, because each time it booted up might be its last.
- The Daily WTF has a few stories about these.
- The Comics Curmudgeon has a theory that the Archie comic strip is written by the "Archie Joke Generating Laugh Unit 3000" (the AJGLU-3000), a quasi-sentient but primitive, very large, computer that attempts to mimic human interaction for humor.
- The official website of George Carlin had an intro where the screen would initially show static while George could be heard demanding that the hamster be woken up and start running in its wheel so the site could function.
- The Bastard Operator from Hell keeps one antiquated machine around because his unfinished game of Dungeon is on it. Its hard disk failed a long time ago; the machine has been running from memory for untold years. Other stories also make fun of various outdated equipment, like one where he made a few bucks by selling users the right to chuck their crappy old hardware from the roof of the building. It's all good fun until an old mainframe lands on the boss' car...
- The Fairly OddParents:
- The Simpsons:
Agent Johnson: Mr. Simpson, this government computer can process over nine tax returns per day. Did you really think you could fool it?!
- In "Separate Vocations", the school's aptitude tests are scored by a huge mainframe-like machine named "Emma", which takes some Percussive Maintenance to operate. It said Bart should be a cop and Lisa a homemaker.
- In "Lisa Gets an 'A'", when Lisa's dishonest exam result pushes the school's average into the boundaries of acceptability, the school is awarded some money which is spent on, among other things, a Coleco desktop computer which is visibly about 15 years out of date at the time of the episode and was released to mediocre reception and poor sales even when it was new. Hapless salesman Gil advises rust-proofing.
- They use this to take a great jab at The IRS when Homer is audited in "The Trouble With Trillions". How triumphantly the agent brags about how "powerful" their computers really sells it:
- Peggy Hill in King of the Hill uses a Kaypro II (first released 1982) up until the turn of the millennium, at which point Hank buys her a 'blueberry' (read: G3) iMac.
- The Loud House: in the episode "Out of the Picture", the school computer Coach Pacowski has to use to edit the year book is horrendously slow.
- We Bare Bears: In "The Library", Panda tries to download and print out some practice tests for Chloe, who's cramming for a big exam. Unfortunately, the only computer available is a ridiculously outdated one with a CRT monitor ("Why does the screen bulge out?"), a dot-matrix printer, and a dial-up modem.
- The Ur-Example would have to be ENIAC, built in 1945. When first switched on, it drew so much electricity that it caused a brownout in adjacent localities. And in its early years of operation, vacuum tubes of the type that drove it would burn out several times daily. Also, to change its program, its operators had to rewire the thing!
- The Apple III is an early example, being (as Steve Wozniak described it) designed more by committee than by actual engineers. A poor cooling system and other design flaws led to reliability problems due to overheating, the real-time clock could fail with prolonged use, and poor software support meant that many users had to rely on the Apple II backwards-compatibility feature to run Apple II software. Unfortunately, this feature only worked in 40-line mode, ruining the III's advantage of built-in 80-line support when upgrading a II with an 80-line expansion card would have been much cheaper. Despite the design flaws being ironed out in later machines, it still ended up being a flop.
- Most of the Apple III's flaws resulted not from the engineering mistakes (except the early overheating power supplies), but from conscious corporate decisions that no one bothered to check by something as plebeian as common sense. Steve Jobs, for example, had a lifelong burning hatred towards cooling fans, and while he usually acquiesced to the engineering pressure, that time he had a brain fart and insisted that the computer not have one (nor any vents either). Limited Apple ][ compatibility was also dictated by the company's marketing department, who was afraid that it would be seen as a Video Game platform rather than the business machine they positioned it as.
- Another early example was the Sinclair ZX80, which in addition to an (allegedly) barely usable keyboard had the design flaw of not being able to display anything whilst a key was being pressed (making it unsuitable for anything like games), as well as the available display area shrinking the more memory was used. Like its younger and more famous brother the ZX81, which had some of these design flaws fixed, it also only had a measly 1K of RAM and monochrome display (even the Commodore VIC-20 had more than this). Nevertheless these trade-offs made it the first home computer in the UK available for under £100, ended up selling some 100,000 units and proving mass-market home computing was possible, leading to the phenomenally successful ZX81 and ZX Spectrum.
- Computers from budget brands tend to become this, where probably the only hardware that didn't require the bare minimum to pass was the parts from Intel or AMD.
- Rule of thumb for vintage computing enthusiasts - if you find an old computer with a PC-Chips brand motherboard, run away. It's not worth it, and there's a real chance the CPU cache chips on the motherboard are fakes meant to convey the appearance of a more capable motherboard.
- Even some gaming oriented pre-builds are not immune. Despite being sold at large markups over the cost of parts and flashy looks, they tend to have brand name CPUs and GPUs and skimp on stuff like motherboards and power supplies. Moreover, the flashy cases tend to not be that great for airflow and general cooling capacity. There's a reason pre-builds are frowned upon by many enthusiasts who prefer to buy parts separately and build PCs themselves.
- Back in the 1990s, before the iMac came out, Apple released a line of low-end Macs only begrudgingly (Apple's stance, then as now, was that desktop Macs were meant to be high-end workstations), and so their quality was hit-or-miss.
- The two worst were 1990's Macintosh Classic (a reissue of the then four-years-old Mac Plus, which was itself just a bit faster than the original Macintosh from 1984), and 1995's Power Macintosh 5200/6200 and 5300/6300 (a deliberately compromised design based on the Macintosh Quadra 630, which was itself not a bad machine, but was never meant to host a PowerPC CPU with a 64-bit data bus). The Mac Classic was cheap, but extremely slow even by 1990 standards and only supported monochrome graphics. The Performa x200/x300 was plagued with firmware bugs and compatibility problems due to its motherboard design; Low End Mac has the details.
- Both were eventually replaced by better machines; the Classic was replaced just a year later with the Classic II (based on the 32-bit LC II's internals), and the 5200/6200 evolved into the PCI-based, much faster and more compatible 6360/6400/6500 "InstaTower" series.
- The Core Solo Mac mini also warrants a place on the list, owing to its very short support life, cheap single-core CPU at a time when dual-core systems were becoming standardnote , Intel GMA 950 graphics that performed noticeably worse in games than the ATI Radeon 9200 in its PowerPC G4-based predecessor, and most damningly, a 32-bit only CPU shortly before Apple started making OS X increasingly 64-bit, resulting in total incompatibility with OS X 10.7 Lion and later. Low End Mac has the details.
- During the early 2000s, numerous PC motherboards had bouts of "capacitor plague". where the offending capacitors would burst and leak. The cause was attributed to industrial espionage, after an engineer was suspected of stealing formulas for a new capacitor which were revealed to be incomplete.
- One major reason Windows Vista was so poorly received was that it was a major leap forward in system requirements after six years of Windows XP, during which a lot of computer manufacturers had stopped bothering to upsell customers on ever-more-powerful hardware and instead just lowered their prices. Laptops under $700 and desktops under $400, which would have been unheard of in the early 2000s, became commonplace. Once Vista came out, these manufacturers tried to unload their remaining inventory with Vista preinstalled — a mandate from Microsoft — and ended up selling machines that could barely boot up, let alone run anything.
- Another reason behind Vista's botched launch was largely that the new Aero interface required a fairly high-end GPU to work at a time when most computers still shipped with atrocious Intel integrated graphics solutions, many of them laptops with no upgrade path or desktops without a proper AGP or PCI-Express slot for dedicated graphics. Intel actually had to get Microsoft to permit the "Vista Capable" spec for integrated graphics systems instead of the "Vista Ready" badge reserved for dedicated GPU systems just so all the pre-built OEM vendors could sell their woefully underpowered computers and claim compatibility with the latest OS.
- The success of Windows 7 — which featured only minor changes — was largely due to being released three years later, when every new computer on the market was more than capable of running it smoothly and stable Vista drivers were abundant. That last point about drivers is particularly critical considering that a lot of NT/2000/XP drivers would not work on Vista, especially 64-bit installations that required new drivers entirely, but drivers coded for Vista will, more or less, work all the way up to Windows 10.
- History has repeated itself with Windows 10. When Microsoft released the operating system in 2015, they allowed that it might be free to download for a year. Then, some months later, they decided to attach Windows 10 as a 'preferred' update for any computers capable of running it, automatically downloading it. Various issues inevitably resulted, as not only were there severe driver issues with numerous types of hardware, but many computers which were 'recommended' were incapable of running it at any speed beyond impossibly slow. Netbooks were the worst offenders. The problem has also reared its head in another way: As Windows XP and Windows Vista are no longer officially supported by Microsoft, not only are they becoming more and more an example, but if the customer attempts to update the computer to 10...
- At the turn of the millennium, Microsoft released two operating systems with confusingly similar names, Windows 2000 and Windows Millennium (if you worked tech support at the time, you could expect about half your calls to be from someone claiming their computer runs "Windows Millennium 2000"). While 2000 earned a reputation as being stable, sturdy and nearly above any reproachnote due to it running off NT underpinnings (which led Microsoft to add the subtitle "Built on NT Technology" on the boot splash), Millennium was all but an Obvious Beta. Multiple glitches and questionable design decisions created some truly remarkable problems, such as the System Restore folder feature ballooning out of control until the entire hard drive was consumed unless turned off, files going above 4GB getting automatically deletednote and system settings defaults setting up a constantly readjusting dynamic page memory that would keep the hard drive active at all times. That last one could cause premature disk wear that might eventually lead to complete drive failure. Getting this version to work correctly could get a savvy tech user suspected of using black magic. Much of the criticism behind Me was because of the fact that it was derived from the now-antiquated Windows 9x architecture, albeit with real-mode DOS access Dummied Out, reputedly to shorten boot times and improve on reliability. Not to mention that Windows Me was Christmas Rushed for a summer release as a stopgap while Neptune, which was to be the consumer-oriented edition of 2000, was delayed in favour of Me for whatever reason. If there's any silver lining to it, the NT-derived Windows XP born from the ashes of Neptune and the failure of Me would be fondly remembered as one of the best if not the best Windows release of all time.
- The Coleco Adam: the list of "Problems" on its Wikipedia entry reads like a series of gags from a National Lampoon movie. Most notably, it generated an electromagnetic surge on startup that could wipe any tapes or disks left in or near it (and the manual recommended inserting them before booting up), and the whole thing ran off the power supply from its bundled printer.
- As smartphones were technically portable computers, those smartphones which could blow up due to various reasons from overheating to poor power management count, but Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 takes the cake with how hyped, how pricey, and how good performance and feature wise it was. Except the power regulations were poor and the battery quality was also poor, leading to the phone catching fire or popping up into a bar of hot metal in the most unfortunate situations. The backlash was tremendous, the phone quickly became a contraband, and Samsung even updated the phone to drastically lower the performance, even stopping charging above 15%!
- Ever since the original iPad came out, numerous Android tablets from a myriad of manufacturers cashed in on the nascent smart device market. While some of them are of merit like Samsung's Galaxy Tab line, lower-end models especially those budget devices running off a MediaTek or Allwinner systems-on-chip tend to end up like this either due to poor design or badly optimised software. Even name-brand tablets like those from Fuhu's Nabi line of children's tablets received criticism for the reasons mentioned above—in the case of Nabi, it suffered from a sluggish UI, had poor battery life and in some cases end up with their batteries bloating up as well.
- It gets even worse with the Sprout Cubby tablet, which also had its own laundry list of reliability issues, the most common being its delicate LCD panel. To give people an idea on how easily broken the Cubby is, one parent claimed that their daughter trashed the LCD screen within a day of use, not to mention that disassembling the Cubby would reveal that the internals look jerry-rigged◊ compared to those of the Amazon Fire which while still regarded as cheap garbage, is more solidly constructed. You'd think that the company behind the device would take durability very much into account considering the Cubby's intended audience, but somehow they skimped on that and decided to pass off a shoddily-built device as something children would be able to play with reliably.
- Apple's iOS devices tend to start throttling their speeds as they age in, so as not to stress their ageing lithium batteries too much in theory. In practice, it makes their performance drop off, leading to complaints of both their battery lives and their general performance ageing badly. Apple, naturally, helpfully suggests that the best way to resolve this is to trade in for a newer model.
- The most commonly-reported reason for performance issues in most ageing computers/electronics is that the primary memory storage is either suboptimal or degrades faster than expected. For example:
- The first-generation Google Nexus 7 tablet had a serious issue of flash memory performance degradation as it aged, making seem to slow to a crawl after a few years.
- The most common complaint of laptops suddenly seeming to hit a wall in performance speed after the advent of the Core i-series Intel processors was due to the continued use of slower, "power-saving" hard drives with throttled disk spin rates in order to reduce power consumption. You see, Windows sometimes needs to run disk-intensive operations due to writing/rewriting either files or cached information. However, after a few months of writing/deleting/rewriting files, the hard drive's contents can get rather fragmented, resulting in increased seeking times as the hard drives would need to spin more in order to access, read, or write files. On budget machines that already had slower processors, this would result in a vicious cycle of waiting for processor operations, then waiting for a hard drive to wake up and spin up to speed, then wait for it to finish accessing a fragmented file or two, resulting in the alleged "power saving" drive wasting energy alternating between idling and spinning up/down between processor operations. The easiest, if pricey, solution to this issue is to transfer the disk image into a solid state drive, which doesn't rely on a fixed spinning disk medium to retain data and has much better file access speeds (write speeds may vary depending how good a solid state drive you invest in).
- Let's not forget the much-publicised hardware failures encountered by Xbox 360 owners during its early days, where early-revision "Xenon" models tend to die easily from overheating and and broken solder joints caused by said thermal issues, and thus display the now-infamous Red Ring of Death (RROD), no thanks to Microsoft cutting corners to keep production costs at a minimum. And not only that, design flaws with the optical drive and certain system software revisions were also the subject of intense scrutiny and subsequent litigation.
- PC World did an article about the 25 worst PCs of all time, and most of the listed were badly compromised budget PCs. Number one was notable, though, for being an entire PC brand instead of just one PC. Packard Bell computers, which were sold in America from the mid eighties to 2000, and were in no way associated with Hewlett Packard or Bell Labs, were notorious for being cheap, unusually designed, and horridly unreliable. Even better was the fact that, due to their unusual case designs, everything inside was also of nonstandard design, meaning that, if say the power supply failed, you couldn't just buy a $40 one from your local electronics store and put it in, because it wouldn't fit. No, you had to buy Packard Bell's $200 power supply to get your PC working again. Amazingly, despite this, and the fact that they had twice the average return rate (1 in 6, when their competitors averaged 1 in 12), they were the best selling PCs through much of the nineties, before losing a lawsuit to Compaq about undisclosed use of recycled parts (something everyone else did at the time as well, but disclosed in their warranty statements), resulting in them being bought out by NEC that year and pulled from American shores by 2000.