Inside the InfoWorld Hardware Hall of Fame

There's a special place reserved for the stalwart hardware that many of us have depended on day after day, year after year. Or at least, we believe there should be a special place -- which is why we present you with the InfoWorld Hardware Hall of Fame.

Our hardware Valhalla boasts 18 inaugural members, from mainframe to PDA, that will be instantly familiar to IT folks in the know. Many of these products are humble workhorses whose main distinction is (or was) extraordinary longevity. Everyone has heard the urban myth that goes something like: "No one knew what was in that closet, but when they opened it up, that [insert product name] had two inches of dust on it. Nobody had touched it for five years and it was still running." In baseball terms, our Hall of Fame is biased toward the Cal Ripkens of hardware rather than the Mark McGwires.

We would like to say our selections are scientific. Actually, they derive from the subjective experiences of our staffers, contributors, and friends (some of whom are older than dirt). We could not, for example, establish a hard and fast minimum for the number of years a product needed to be in "general use" to qualify. Five years seemed about right, but some markets move faster than others, and some products lasted longer than their users wished they would. Plus, we wanted to be sure to include a couple of worthy, more recent products. This is a meritocracy, not a nostalgia fest.


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[ The fanfare is over and it’s time for a walk through the InfoWorld Hardware Hall of Fame. Our 18 inductees span 42 years and range from big iron to devices frequently lost in the back seat of a taxicab. ]

We may have developed a curious affection for hunks of plastic and metal, but we are serious enough to focus on work rather than play hardware. No yokes or MP3 players here (although we did feel compelled to include one PDA). Our hall of famers are products we generally took for granted as they propelled us to where we are today. Some of them helped define the era in which they reigned. With luck, you can still find them on eBay.

It goes without saying that we will be battered with e-mails and comments demanding to know why we left out or included this or that product. We encourage this behavior. For one thing, if we hear a compelling enough argument, we will revise this slideshow to include new members, with all due credit to the nominators (high-res pictures of the hardware in question are appreciated). For another, we all like community discussion, even when the dialogue starts to resemble kids squabbling on a family road trip. All we can say is, pop the slideshow into play mode, sharpen your diatribes, and enjoy the ride.

[ The doors of the Hardware Hall of Fame have just opened, so these are the first inductees, not the final lineup for all time. Your nominations are welcome. Those seeking a more practical guide to the best products should check out InfoWorld's 2009 Technology of the Year Awards. ]