Compaq is a computer company that began in 1982. It has had many ups and downs, which includes a merger with Hewlett-Packard (HP). Some people who have been following the history of computers over the years ask, what happened to Compaq computers? For it seems that Compaq went from being a dominant force in the computer industry to one that is now considered, at best, a maker of lower end model computers. There have also been some lawsuits involving Compaq, which have certainly not helped their reputation.

The truth is, nothing in particular has happened to Compaq computers. They still make a wide range of mostly reliable computers. The reason for any perceived decline has more to do with changes in the industry than with anything Compaq itself has or hasn’t done.

The first model of computer that Compaq released was in 1986 –the Compaq Portable, which was an IBM compatible PC (which made it, at that time, a competitor of IBM itself). By the 1990s, Compaq was a dominant force in the computer retail market, with products such as the Presario. The merger with rival HP occurred in 2001. Since then, Compaq/HP has put out many different desktop and laptop computers. These cover the entire spectrum of the consumer computer market, from the basic, no-frills bargains to the top-of-the-line.

Computer owners, as well as “geeks” –that is, technical types who know a lot about computers and spend a lot of time talking about them– develop preferences for some brands over others. Sometimes this is justified by facts, but there is undeniably an emotional or even arbitrary quality to this. For example, someone may have a bad experience with a particular computer –or a problem with a particular person when calling support– and then make a negative review about that model of computer. This is true for cars as well as computers, and probably any other products that are sold.

Compaq computers are not really any more or less reliable than they were years ago, aside from the many changes that have impacted the whole industry, of course. What has changed is that Compaq will probably never again be the dominant force that it was in the 80s and 90s. What happened to Compaq computers is that many other brands caught up with what they were doing.