Ironically, the original meaning of "Compaq" was a combination of the words compatibility and quality. Anyone who doesn't see the irony in this (anyone who would buy a compaq, like 90% of the population) needs a big LART with a cluestick, preferably a metal cluestick with one end jammed into the Compaq's cheap and wimpy power supply.

What's the combination of irony and Compaq? Iraq?

Compaq's usual pracices include using 5.25 inch hard disks, completely non-standard cases and power supplies, building every peripheral in the world into the motherboard, and only one expansion slot.

This is all referring to the modern entity known as Compaq. Back in the day, Compaq was pretty cool. In fact, I own a Compaq. It's an 8086 "portable" computer (about the size of two suitcases) with a 20MB hard drive and a built in black-and-green monitor.

Compaq is now one of the 2 or 3 largest computer companies in the world (IBM and HP are the other two.)

Acquired what was then left of Digital Equipment Corporation in 1998. DEC at that point had already sold off lots of their software business to various parties, their tape drive and hard disk business to Quantum, and had cut tons of people. This was all after Ken Olson left to be replaced by Robert Palmer.

If, say, in 1985, you walked up to Ken Olson and said, "Hey, you know that little two-bit clone company in Houston with the suitcase computer? Well, in just thirteen years they're going to buy what's left of your company," he'd probably have dope-slapped you. That's the beauty of the industry.

In fall of 2001 Compaq and HP announced plans to merge. The merger is subject to shareholder approval in March of 2002. The charitable foundations associated with the Hewlett and Packard families, who control a large part of HP's stock, have come out publicly against the merger; however, it seems unlikely that the merger won't go through.


Back when I was in college, I bought myself a laptop. My criteria for buying one was that it have a true Pentium processor, and have an active matrix display.

I've never liked Compaq very much, but I found an attractive deal for a Compaq Armada 4131T through PC Connection. It was a P133, 16MB RAM, 1.3GB Hard drive, and 20X CDROM via a multimedia dock. For the first few months, it worked great. It did what I needed, but it had a few lame quirks: No Windows install CD, and the CAB files were on the hard drive itself. Plus, it had a 4MB partition for the BIOS utility. If you wipe the hard drive, your BIOS is history. Smack the engineer who came up with THAT idea. This makes LILO almost impossible, and a Linux/Windows dual-boot system is out of the question. Believe me, I tried.

Anyway, after a few months, the computer started having some problems. The TV output port never worked, and didn't work from day one. The power button became temperamental, as did the floppy drive. Also, I was using it one day, and suddenly, crackling noises started creeping out from inside the computer. The display flickered, the laptop shut down, and I smelled something burning inside it. That was not cool.

I contacted Compaq's warranty department, and I had it sent in for repair. I gave them a list of issues it had, including the display problem. The laptop was sent away, and returned within a week.

The problems didn't go away, and in fact grew worse. The TV output port wasn't fixed, the power button was still moody, and something was now rattling around inside the computer itself. I called Compaq back, and they took it in for repair once again.

When I got it back, it had more problems than it left with. The serial port stopped working, and the TV output port still didn't work.

I became angry very quickly, so I started reading over my warranty paperwork. I came across an interesting clause that is still in Compaq's warranty to this day:

If, after repeated efforts, Compaq is unable to restore the product to good working order, you are entitled to a refund of the purchase price.

I didn't consider this laptop to be in "good working order", and I still had two years left on my warranty. I decided that's what I wanted. Give me my money back, and I'll get myself a real laptop. I called their customer service line, and the service representative told me they were unable to comply with my request. I asked my call to be escalated, and they did so after much hesitation. The next rep told me the same thing the first one did. Basically, they told me they'd be happy to bring it into the repair center and fix the problems, but I was not entitled to a refund. I argued with them, explaining that it had already been in to the repair center twice with no end in sight, but they didn't care, nor did they believe that a warranty is a legally binding document.

So instead of dealing with Compaq's useless "Customer Service" bullshit, I wrote a letter to Eckhard Pfeiffer, the then CEO of the company. I sent it certified, so he had to sign for it. He did. I got the little piece of paper back that said that delivery was confirmed, and he had signed it with his initials.

Later that week, I received a call from Mr. Pfeiffer's secretary. She told me exactly the same thing that the rest of the representatives told me. Compaq didn't feel that the number of trips my laptop made to the repair center constituted "repeated efforts", and I was not entitled to a refund.

By this time, I was pretty pissed off. Not only was I stuck with a piece of shit computer, the manufacturer also refused to uphold part of their warranty! To try to get something done, I wrote a letter to the Better Business Bureau of Florida and Texas (Compaq is based out of Dallas), and I also wrote a letter to the Department of Agriculture: Consumer Protection Division. Both organizations replied with notices that Compaq ignored their requests, and no further action could be taken because Compaq refused to cooperate. At the same time, I had also written a letter to PC Connection. To sum up the letter, I pretty much told them that "I'm not looking for anything from you guys, I just want you to know what kind of company you're doing business with." I then detailed the entire situation from start to finish.

About two weeks later, I received a phone call from the product manager at PC Connection. He was pretty upset at what Compaq was doing, and decided he wanted to help me out by replacing my crappy laptop with one of equal or better value, and a different brand. I told him that would be great, and that all I requested was a true Intel processor, and an active matrix screen - my original requirements for getting a laptop to begin with. He agreed, and we communicated back and forth for about three weeks before he found an Acer Extensa 501T. It was a Pentium 266 MMX with 64MB RAM, 20x CDROM, 4.3GB Hard drive, and an active matrix screen. He replaced my Compaq with the Acer at no charge to me, and I'm happily using that Acer to this day. (Linux runs wonderfully.)

One funny side note: About 5 months after I've been using my Acer, I got a letter from Compaq. The letter stated that they didn't have enough information to follow up on my service complaint. Gee, 20 calls to customer service, a letter to the CEO, and a call from executive management.....and they don't have enough information for a follow-up. I threw the letter away.

Lucky me, I worked at CompUSA. I talked hundreds of people out of buying a Compaq because of this story. COMPAQ: I have cost you a lot more money than if you had just refunded my laptop. Have a happy day!

First things first - COMPAQ IS THE DEVIL!!!

Now that that's out of the way, I'll say something pertinent to the node. This week, Compaq agreed to be acquired by hardware mogul Hewlett-Packard for 26 billion dollars. In my opinion, this is the best thing to happen to the PC sales industry since the advent of the mouse. Perhaps Compaq computers will WORK well now, and maybe they'll be easier to operate on. Maybe they'll even loose their evil and demonic name. Who knows, the merger can only mean good.
Having personally worked on at least 150 different computers in my life, I can honestly say that Compaq has the worst architecture of any mainstream manufacturer I've come across. Sure, there are the no-name companies that produce proprietary computers, but you could expect that from some smaller companies. I've never come across a "standard shaped computer" from Compaq. I've seen proprietary motherboard expansions, proprietary IDE ribbons (or at least IDE looking ribbons), and proprietary power supply connectors.

One day, I was at a LAN party and I needed to install a NIC in a friend's Compaq. After some difficulty trying to remove the case, I realized that the case went all the way around the computer, including the bottom. Everyone in the room cracked up.

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