I love ugly computers. I love hideous design mentalities from yesteryear, I love seeing how products evolve, but mostly I love seeing a particularly horrid machine and knowing that, at some point, someone thought it was a good idea to try to sell it. Today is the day you help us decide which Apple desktop computer takes home the homely crown.
In coming up with the list, there weren't many rules, but the guidelines were as follows: The computer has to not only be ugly in today's eyes, but also unbecoming when it first debuted. It's easy to look at products from decades ago and declare them grotesque, but the key to making it on our ballot is that the design never really tickled the public's fancy regardless of the year.
We settled on a total of six possibilities, with designs ranging from impossibly bland (even for the time), to just plain silly. Let's begin.
The Pizza Box - Macintosh Centris 610
The ultimate softball, the early Centris design is the computer equivalent of a Ford Tempo. It's functional, and that's as much as it brings to the table. The pizza box design is like Apple saying "Ok, we couldn't actually cram all this stuff into a single monitor-sized box, so just sit your stupid display on top of it and pretend it's not even there, ok?"
"The 610 was my college mac, and it barely fit on our dorm desks." -Victor Agreda Jr.
It's thin-ish, but not impressively so, and its massive footprint wasn't making anyone's jaws drop either. It's not ugly in an "avert your eyes" way, but its completely lack of personality is enough to suck the smile off of anyone's face. If lukewarm white rice had a favorite computer, this would be it.
The Mothership - Power Macintosh 7100
Following up on the massive yawn that was the Centris, Apple decided to make it a little bit taller, thinking that we'd be impressive by the sheer size of the behemoth it had produced. It gained a few dozen holes in its facia and a fancy new name, but it was the same basic vanilla pudding design that put us to sleep years earlier.
"Those buttons underneath the protrusion are fun to reach, let me tell you, especially when there's a keyboard there. Working inside of it was a nightmare. That machine drew blood on me." -Dave Caolo
The size of the 7100 would have been super impressive in 1965, but thirty years later it felt like Apple couldn't be bothered to churn out anything but a gigantic crappy gray box. The only interesting thing the 7100 can claim is that it got Apple sued by Carl Sagan... twice.
The Coffee Pot - Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh
My personal favorite, the 20th Anniversary Mac is a one-of-a-kind creation with no equal. It is, in my opinion, the single strangest computer Apple ever decided to produce, and it happens to also be one of the ugliest. The head unit of the computer looks like a PowerBook stuck open at 180 degrees, and the base unit is almost certainly a repurposed coffee pot.
Its LCD display was ahead of its time for a desktop computer, but the screen is stuck in a gross speaker/CD player mashup that is difficult to look at without laughing. It was shooting for "futuristic" but ended up just being foul.
The 1984 - Quadra 700
Apple took a stand against the boring, bland, brainwashed PC market in 1984 with its infamous Super Bowl ad, but by 1991 the company had designed a computer with the very aesthetic it had fought so hard to separate itself from. How do you spice up a completely nondescript gray box with zero personality whatsoever? Put a bunch of random horizontal slices in it, of course! Call them "vents" and nobody will know the difference. Oh, but stick one creepy glowing light on the front, just so everyone knows it's still plotting your demise.
"The Quadra 700 is the Mom Jeans of Macs." -Victor Agreda Jr.
If 1984 was a computer, it would be the Quadra 700. It's like Apple took the design of one of those creepy "futuristic" skyscrapers from a dystopian sci-fi movie and shrunk it down to fit on a desktop.
The Wedding Cake - Macintosh TV
Layers. The Macintosh TV has them, lot of them, and boy does that make for an awkward-looking hunk of plastic. It's actually somewhat astounding how many curves, ridges and bevels Apple was able to cram into a single piece of hardware, but it's not surprising in a good way. It has more levels than a wedding cake, and it's not nearly as edible.
"It looks like it's macrocephalic." -Steve Sande
Ok, so the case itself is actually lifted from the LC 500 series which used it a few months before the Mac TV launched, but that only makes it even more obnoxious. Apple used the design for its budget computer line and then said "You know what? We can't be bothered to actually create a new case for this entirely separate and standalone product line, so let's just use this thing we've already made. It doesn't look like a TV? Screw it! Paint it black. Problem solved." Gross.
Prior to the iMac -- which would be Apple's all-in-one darling -- the company launched a self-contained version of its Power Macintosh G3. It was skinny at the bottom, wide at the top, with a curvy, translucent dome that made it look like it had been sitting in the sun too long and began to melt. Oh, and it looked like a damn tooth.
"That machine weighs thirty thousand pounds and there's NO good way to hold it. A God-forsaken machine." -Dave Caolo
Little else needs to be said about the computer market of the time other than the iTooth came with an optional Zip drive. In a time where Apple was finally beginning to once again show a little bit of personality in its design, the iTooth was a huge step backward in aesthetics.
Those are our picks, and now it's time to hear from you. If your choice for Ugliest Mac Desktop is on our list -- and I'm guessing it probably is -- feel free to cast your vote on the poll below. But if by some chance we've missed the most wretched example of Apple design, you can cast a write-in vote by leaving a comment below.