If you have been a fan of Microsoft as a whole, you probably know the hardware products of Microsoft. In that case, you probably can also count the best of Microsoft hardware products. Among the most popular and the ones praised by the press were Intellimouse and the different ergonomic keyboards plus Xbox. But there have been many more hardware products from the software giant that deserved applause but did not get it, as the mainstream media did not consider that hardware appealing.
Microsoft Hardware Products History
One such lesser covered hardware is the Microsoft Kinect which also has an entry in the Guinness Book for being the fastest sold hardware. I don’t know much about Xbox and Kinect but anyone with a passion for online gaming knows Kinect and Xbox combined can give a gaming experience that no other brand – including Apple – can provide. There were some internal hardware pieces too – sound cards and graphics cards to improve gaming experiences on PC but they did not take off probably due to people’s lack of interest and also because Microsoft did not push them hard enough into the market as it did with Surface.
The following covers some of the best hardware products from Microsoft. I have tried to maintain the timeline – meaning the years when they were released. If you find anything in contrast, do let me know.
1980: The Microsoft Softcard & RamCard
The soft card, as evident, was a firmware that allowed CP/M to run on Apple computers.
To further enhance the performance of CP/M, Microsoft came up with Ramcard, too, in 1980. The RamCard was also used w/o Softcard to improve Apple’s functioning.
1982: The Blue-Eyed Mouse – First From Microsoft
This was available with Microsoft Word – the Graphical Interface one. We can safely say that Microsoft introduced this mouse so that users can easily use its new GUI-based programs. Prior to this, there were mouse that had only one key to click. The mouse added support for context menus. It came with a floppy containing mouse driver and a manual (shown in green) that explained how to use the mouse.
Microsoft Trackball 1.0: For Kids?!
This too was released around the same time as the blue-eyed mouse but was basically for kids. Though not specifically mentioned, kids were the target as the ball was just big enough to fit into their tiny hands. This was a cursor navigation device that also served as gaming peripheral
1983: Microsoft SystemCard To Boost IBM Performance
The above is an advert released by Microsoft. I could not find the image of the actual System Card on the Internet. Maybe, if you search Gizmodo thoroughly, it might be hidden somewhere. Anyway, this card intended to save on the different slots available on IBM those days. The main function of the card was to increase RAM by 64KB while also allowing for a print spooler and some other tasks that would require separate chips otherwise.
1988: Microsoft Mach 20 – Enhanced Windows on Early PCs
There was a Microsoft Mach first, that was supplied as an add-on to IBM Machines running Windows 1.0 as the normal machines would not be able to handle the software smoothly. Until IBM came up with better machines to run Windows GUI, Mach and Mach 20 were added to the motherboard to enhance the Windows experience on PCs.
The above is an advert released in Infoline, a magazine related to electronics.
1994: Microsoft Natural: The Ergonomic Keyboard
The time came when science turned towards possible problems that can arise from using computers for a long time. Among the many problems listed out of longer duration computer usage was straining wrists and damaging something towards the joint of palms and hands (can’t recall the exact term but was some kind of tunnel).
To counter and ease the claims, Microsoft worked on ergonomics and came up with a range of natural keyboards. Many of these keyboards and mice are already covered on The Windows Club so we won’t look at each one except for the first one here:
As you can see, the keyboard has a split to ease the position of both palms thereby reducing the “tunnel” thing at the wrists. Plus, the upper keys were elevated, i.e., at slightly more height for ease of typing.
The Least Advertised, but Best Hardware from Microsoft: Xbox + Kinect
As said earlier, the Kinect is rather undermined by the mainstream press. As far as I know, Kinect allows Xbox to be taken beyond gaming. Combined, both can give you a good gaming experience with some other functions. I have not actually used an Xbox so cannot say much about it. We do have an article on using Kinect with Xbox at The Windows Club.
Besides mouse and keyboard as input devices, Microsoft also released several trackballs, joysticks and even mouse with trackballs for both regular use and for gaming.
I will leave the History of Microsoft Hardware Products at this. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, but contains only what I feel was the best from Microsoft in its hardware manufacturing attempts. If you feel I missed anything important, please feel free to add them to the list.