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.