Gateways’ first machines were based around the Intel 286 CPU, initially they used off shelf components like many other early “PC Clone” vendors, but soon subtle changes such as a branded Gateway “G” logo on the cases and the use of quality internal components started to differentiate the Gateway PC’s from the competition.
Pricing was also a key factor, but it was the quality and the unique friendly style that was winning customers to Gateway 2000.
Competition in the PC market wasn’t for the faint hearted, and companies came and went, but Gateway continued to stay one step ahead with top industry awards and clever industry firsts. Gateways quirky advertising and its commitment to bringing the latest technology to market before anybody else ensured its phenomenal growth.
We’ll take a look at a new Gateway product here every once in a while, and although the tech looks a little antiquated by today’s standards, these machines were once at the cutting edge of Personal Computing…
Gateway announced the Destination in late 1995, and for a while it was just a name doing the PDG (Product Development Group) rounds. Some products get talked up at meetings and then they fade away into the ether just as quickly, Destination was sitting on the roadmap's for a while, but when the product got some concrete details, it caused quite a bit of a stir.
The main feature was a huge (and heavy) 31” Mitsubishi CRT, and in 1995 this was a BIG TV. Gateway was going to adapt a PC with TV functions and a wireless control system for the home or office, and at a price point nobody could beat.
Although it was only ever sold in the U.S., the shipping, logistical and sadly, the final consumer costs would have killed the product in Europe. There was also an issue with the IR receiver, which operated on a channel not available for consumer use in Europe and could, so the rumour goes, interfere with aircraft approach beacons!
The Destination was reconfigured a few times, and the case changed to accommodate front port connections. A 36” CRT was also launched later, as well as software upgrades and options.
A major upgrade to the concept was launched in 2003 with a Gateway 42” Plasma screen.
Gateway announced the ColorBook in September 1993. This was a time when portable computers were leaving the monochrome age and entering the color era. Gateway was able to lower the costs of its color portable by using a technology called “dual scan”, which was basically 2 LCD screens tied together, thus reducing the expense of the larger single LCD of the same size. Color was pretty new at this time, and color LCD panels still had some technical limitations such as depth of color, ghosting and luminosity in real world conditions. We are so spoilt today with life like screens that it is hard to believe how impressive these first color portables were.
Another innovation on the ColorBook was the little trackball controller. It came out underneath the keyboard on a littler drawer and was quite responsive in the Windows environment. Overall the ColorBook was a successful foray into the portable 486 color world.
The ColorBook 2 was an update to the original machine launched in 1995. It addressed some of the missing features users wanted in the original ColorBook, such as Sound, more RAM and a faster CPU. The machine also adopted a more corporate design scheme. Unusually, this machine didn’t get a worldwide launch, and was confined to the North American market. The ColorBook 2 had a short shelf life, and was soon outdone by Gateway’s Liberty and Solo ranges.
This one’s a doosey! The machine that was a “Thank You” to 10 years of Gateway growth and success in the industry ended up being a configuration from hell! Court cases, bad publicity and a list of complaints a mile long made this system possibly one of the best examples of poor design, poor technical development and as much as I hate to say it, all round sloppy product management.
Nothing but the Anniversary mouse mat that came with this computer was really of any merit to a 10th Anniversary computer built to celebrate Gateways ability to supply the best PC’s in the industry.
From the “Surround Sound” system that was anything but (it even had a lovely hissing sound generated from the sound card connection), to the 6X CD-
A great idea poorly executed, most probably rushed into the roadmap schedules without any real clarity or respect for what this machine should really have been. A fail on Gateway’s usually clean record…
The Gateway Connected TouchPad was built in collaboration with AOL as a vehicle to push AOL into more homes via Gateway hardware. During this time, the buzz words were “Connected PC’s” that connected to the Internet for services, spurning another offspring, the “Net PC”. Both concepts were “light” PC’s which required the Internet to power the local software features. Unfortunately, these machines (a number of manufacturers got burnt with these Net PC concepts during the early 2000’s) were too early for the market at the time.
Although the hardware won best product at CES in 2000, the sales were just over 20,000 units and the machine was discontinued less than a year after its launch. Gateway also cancelled a “Connected” Tablet which had been readied for launch in 2001.
The Gateway “Pizza” box was the first box you would see when you opened your famous outer Spotty Box! It was filled with all those acres of forest manuals and leaflets before CD’s and DVD’s replaced them.
It also came packed with your driver and backup disks, mouse, keyboard, copy of your personalised invoice, “quick” set-
Eventually, cost reductions, environmental concerns and smarter overall packaging design relegated the pizza boxes to history.
The Gateway “Handbook 486” was introduced in mid 1993. Not to be mistaken for the original Gateway Handbook launched in 1992 which sported a Chips and Technologies (C&T) 286 clone, the updated Handbook 486 used a genuine Intel CPU and had the addition of a Integrated Pointing Device (IPD) which Gateway patented. It’s dimensions were 9.75” x 5.9” x 1.6” and weighed in at 2.9lbs (1.3Kg). The original machine had been sourced in the far east by Ted Waitt and Gateway purchased exclusivity on it and began updating the original specification, which became the 486 model launched in 1993.
It really was a neat little PC, and it sold like proverbial hot cakes. The LCD was good for the time, and the 486 models ran Windows 3.1 well enough for everyday use. It had all the usual accessories, including a nice leather carry bag.
Unfortunately for the Handbook, it wasn’t updated any further than the 486 50Mhz models, which is a shame, because if Gateway has been able to keep the same overall package with a colour LCD screen and faster CPU option, it could have given Gateway a niche product segment in addition to its other standard portable offerings. The Handbook was quietly phased out by 1995 (even though customers still asked about!).
Seeing as how Apple had reinvented the home computer with its new iMac range, many PC makers hurried to grab a piece of the pie with their own versions. With Apple’s lawyers already talking to some of their competitors, citing similarities with their own designs, Gateway decided to stay as far away from the iMac comparison as they could, but it was an obvious PC-
The Astro didn’t last long, and was killed off by Q4 2000. It had a few teething problems, and apart from being heavy (nearly 20kg / 44lbs), it was practically obsolete when it came out. A version with either a Rug Rats or Blues Clues bundle was also made available for just under $900. It had meant to come with an AMD CPU, but the powers that be were persuaded an Intel CPU would be better. It was a good effort, but like many of the PC makers of the era, they were too slow to react to the iMac and lost out to simply great PR and advertising from the guys in Cupertino.