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eMachines! To computer users of a certain vintage, eMachines is synonymous with budget computers that are objectively underwhelming but subjectively very charming. (Unless you just see them as junk, in which case, I’m not sure we can be friends.) eMachines pushed the boundaries of accurate marketing and good taste with their promises of “free” PCs (through rebates with Internet providers and retailers) and “Never Obsolete” PCs (where members of the eMachines Network were potentially eligible for occasional computer upgrades), but simultaneously, for a first computer in the late 90s, an era where PCs were still expensive and having one at all was special, for folks who just wanted to get online or get a PC for the whole family to use, eMachines was a highly attractive option, and at one point the fourth largest PC manufacturer in the US.


I love eMachines. My primary retro computer, the one I use for testing Protoweb stuff and playing Unreal Tournament 99, is an eMachines W3507 tower circa 2006, and I have an eMachines EM250 netbook complete in the box for nostalgia since we had one, along with netbooks from Asus and HP, when I was a kid. Oliver had previously started work on (which is specifically for the eMachines Network, eMachines’ short-lived dial-up ISP through MCI Worldcom and the conduit for the Never Obsolete program, not eMachines as a PC brand–though you can also see that on Protoweb at!), but he’s a busy guy and offered it up to anyone who wanted to finish it off. I happily snapped up the opportunity.


This was a pretty quick restoration! Probably the trickiest part involved the dial-up access number lookup. If you’ve never used dial-up, you would have your modem call one of your ISP’s access numbers, preferably one in your area so you didn’t have to eat the long-distance fee, and they would get you online from there. has a form you can use to find the access numbers in either your state or your area code, but they relied on a database that no longer exists. After quite a long time of trying to track down any numbers associated with eMachines or MCI Worldcom on Google and failing, I gave up and was ready to dummy out the form–until I just so happened to find a list of over 800 numbers in a dropdown on the tech support customer service form. This didn’t include the international numbers, sadly, but if you live in the continental US, you can now see what and how many access numbers the eMachines Network had for your area. Spiffy!

eMachines is sadly no more, having taken over Gateway in 2004, being acquired by Acer in 2007, and the brand being discontinued in 2013, but thanks to a new era of retrocomputing where their low specs are a draw rather than a hindrance, I’d say they’ve finally made good on their goal to be Never Obsolete. Happy browsing, everyone!

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