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...or your money back.

During the summer before my freshman year of high school, my parents decided we needed a new family computer, as I would soon be assigned homework that would need a computer to complete.

They soon settled on a setup which included a Packard Bell minitower computer, monitor, printer, and extended warranty. I don't remember the model number, but it came in the "Art Deco" style case and featured a Pentium processor.

You're probably still stuck on "Art Deco", right? The case was wider on the bottom than it was on the top, presumably because the motherboard was parallel with the bottom of the case. And the case looked rather presumptuous. Just like Art Deco skyscrapers.

We had the computer on the floor. I don't remember the desk being that small, but then again, the footprint of the tower was larger than those of today. It doesn't matter why, but it did set the optical drive up for the accident that happened within the first month or two of ownership: dad bumped the optical drive tray with his knee, while it was open, causing it to break.

It was an accident, and our extended warranty covered accidents, right?

Dad kept calling the extended warranty company over the broken optical drive. They kept promising that a repair would be scheduled, and no one ever returned the call. I think he started complaining to the store manager, who was also unable to get the extended warranty company to perform.

This went on for way longer than it should have. It was at least a few weeks, but it could have been a couple months.

One day, dad suddenly started packing the computer back in the box. We were returning the computer to Sears. Dad simply pointed out the Sears pledge: "Satisfaction Guaranteed or your money back".

A pledge to customers that started in their catalog days, when you had to place an order sight-unseen. A pledge proudly posted over the entrance doors at Sears, many times in gold. A pledge that they kept.

The store manager apologized for the poor service we were given, and honored their "Satisfaction Guaranteed" pledge. We were no longer the owners of a now-disgraced Packard Bell computer.

We then went to Circuit City and purchased a different setup which included a Hewlett-Packard desktop computer, monitor, printer, and extended warranty. It featured a slower Pentium processor, but the build quality was better.

Not that the tray of any optical drive has been built to withstand a glancing blow from one's knee...

We acquired our first two family computers while I was in middle school. They were both hand-me-downs at the right price (free).

Our first family computer was an Apple II+. One of my middle school teachers discovered that we didn't have a computer at home, and told my dad that if we would come over and get it out of her basement, it was ours.

She also warned us that the screen was green. She wasn't kidding...

I remember that this computer was well-configured. It had the full 48K of RAM, a language card, and one Disk II floppy drive. It had a decent, though very green, monochrome aftermarket monitor. And it had the Apple DOS 3.3 disk – I could save BASIC programs, yeah!

We never did get Oregon Trail for it... though I never asked for it, either.

Shortly thereafter, we acquired our second family computer, an IBM Portable PC. Mom's boss had upgraded computers in the office, and told her that she could take one home.

Portable means it had a handle.

This computer was equally well-configured. It had the full 640K of RAM, two 5.25" floppy drives, a built-in 9-inch monochrome amber monitor, and the aforementioned handle. There was an IBM slipcover box with it, which I believe it was PC-DOS 2.10.

I remember one difference clearly: The IBM didn't have BASIC...

We had these two computers side-by-side for a couple years. I do remember using both computers: the Apple II+ for writing BASIC programs, and the IBM for more mundane things.

I might have the table that these two computers sat on in my possession. Perhaps I should repurpose it for vintage computing...