In Pictures: The good, bad and ugly history of Microsoft hardware

Microsoft built its identity on software development. Just refer to the name, and pay special attention to the "soft." But throughout its storied history, the company has progressively become much more of a multi-discipline workshop, producing physical gear alongside ethereal software code. And now we have the Surface RT tablet, the perfect springboard to recount some of the most memorable (and forgettable) products in Microsoft's hardware history.

1996: SideWinder

There was a time when gamepads and joysticks ruled PC gaming, and Microsoft was king. The SideWinder brand debuted with a gamepad (pictured top right) that became popular enough to warrant many games to come with SideWinder-specific controls. In the following years, Microsoft developed joysticks (next slide), the motion-based gamepad Freestyle Pro in 1998 (top left), and the two-piece Dual Strike in 2000 (bottom left), a real-time-strategy controller that replaces one's keyboard and a programmable voice communication device.

Not all SideWinder products were hits, but many pushed the boundaries of what gamers knew PC peripherals could do.

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