[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Official IBM PC Desk

July 9th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

IBM Synergetix Personal Computer PC Work Station Ad -  1983The IBM PC Workstation: Almost as small as a refrigerator.

Once upon a time, IBM made furniture.

Specifically, they created a custom folding desk for its IBM Personal Computer called the “IBM Synergetix PC Work Station,” which we see in the 1983 ad above.

IBM registered the trademark “Synergetix” in 1981 to cover its line of IBM PC-related furniture, which even included an official IBM PC Table and IBM PC chair. Big Blue let the trademark expire in 1989, which shows you how successful that idea was.

I’ve been trying to think of modern analogies to the IBM PC Work Station, and the closest I can come up with is Apple making a special cover for its iPad — although Apple’s Smart Cover has been popular and well-received. The Smart Cover also doesn’t cost $850 like the IBM PC Work Station did (that’s about $1,961 today).

[ From Personal Computing, November 1983, p.249 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a desk specifically designed for use with a computer?

11 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Official IBM PC Desk”

  1. Cameron T. Says:

    I remember a desk that my Dad and I put together that had an angled, recessed monitor shelf. The idea was you would put the giant CRT monitor on this shelf and then rather than looking straight ahead, you could angle your head down a little. I guess it was supposed to be ergonomic or something. Or at least space-saving.

    Anyway, it was one of those “built it out of a box” things, and when the time came to get rid of it, we discovered that you could NOT move it out of the room that it was in. So it had to be chopped apart to get it to go through the door.

  2. arlandi Says:

    yes i have. it was a desk made from aluminum. my dad bought it for our Apple II compatible around 1985. that desk was then replaced with a wooden one when we bought an XT few years later. i still use it until a few years ago, around 2003, for my desktop. so the desk outlives all the desktops we ever had.

  3. Jordan Says:

    Twenty or so years ago I remember Spiegel (remember them?) sold a desk which was similar to Cameron T’s desk in a way. In this case, the monitor actually rested on a shelf _below_ the desktop. In other words, the user looked through a glass-top into a monitor recessed below the desktop. I don’t think this would be very comfortable. I keep my monitors at least a foot above the top of my desk.

    Weirdly, Spiegel sold XT’s and AT’s for the same price as a 386DX. “There’s a sucker born …” as the cliche goes. An overpriced desk to go with an overpriced EGA monitor.

  4. Geoff V. Says:

    I work on CAD and CNC computers that have special desks to keep the hardware “clean” from carbon dust.

    Hey Benj, how about an article on the death of the minitel. Don’t know if you used one or not, but they were all the rage when I was in France in the mid-90’s. It was the first time I bought something “online.” It was like magic.

  5. DPenn Says:

    The desk I’m sitting at was purchased in 1998 at Staples. It’s vaguely triangular so it fits in a corner, and, while it has shelving to the left and right, it is open at the back to fit a CRT. Sadly, my widescreen monitor can’t fit back in the hole. The desk also has a broad keyboard/mouse panel that slides out on rollers.

    This is either a testament to the quality of Staples’ furniture selection in the ’90s or proof that I’m the cheapest man on Earth.

  6. Ethan Says:

    I have a DEC “Datasystem 310″ desk with a recessed top for a VT52, two 10.5”-tall rack spaces where most office desks have file drawers meant to hold RX01/RX02 floppy drives, and in front of your knees, hidden behind a panel, a rack space for the PDP-8/a CPU. The desk also has a power switch and a boot button.

    Additionally, the standard RX02 pedestal for the DECmate I (VT278) word processing system normally has a small clip-on shelf for the VT100 keyboard. I have the desk-mount clip and the 3-sided desk surface (left legs, top, and back). You can’t roll the desk version of the DECmate around like you can the pedestal, but there’s plenty of room to put the VT278 CPU on the desk and use the pedestal top for files or a copy stand.

    Neither were very common, but the DataSystem 310 desk appears on the cover of the 1978 Small Systems Handbook.

  7. Benj Edwards Says:

    Very cool, Ethan. I would love to have one of those — although I am not sure where I would put it.

  8. Ethan Says:

    The DSD310 desk is _not_ small, that’s for sure. I have to remove the casters from the ends of the legs or it won’t fit through a standard door frame. However, once it’s in place, it holds an RX02, an RL01, and a PDP-8/a, and the VT52 takes up less than half the desktop. It’s a great workstation!

  9. Steve Moore Says:

    I actually own a “IBM Synergetix PC Work Station.” I even still have the keys so you can swing it back closed and lock it. It is all on wheels so it’s easy to do.

    I’m getting married and merging households – no room for the IBM Synergetix PC Work Station – anyone interested in owning one of your very own?

  10. Roswell Grey Says:

    Steve Moore:

    I’d be interested in the desk if it was still available. Shoot me an email at mindpixel (at) proton mail dot com and let me know!!

  11. David Monroe Says:

    I have a Synergetix desk.

    Years ago when I worked at NASA someone offered it up on our internal swap/shop bulletin board site. I think I paid $20 for it. It is a BEAST of a computer desk.

    I lived in San Leon when I bought it, during Hurricane Ike the ocean came up into my home and the entire thing was submerged in salt water for a day or two. I tried to save it with WD40 and some other oils/compounds. After moving to one particular apartment the shape of the thing didn’t work out for me, it was very deep. I gave it to a coworker.

    Last Friday he offered it back to me, about a decade after I gave it to him.

    I am moving within the next week, so it’s on my back porch at the moment, but I’m getting my own office room again, so I plan on putting it back into use. I may oil it up some more, I do see just a little more rust since the Ike dunking, but I don’t think it’s fatal.


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