In German, the term "Kiste", literally meaning "box", is often used as a colloquial derogatory term for electronic and mechanical devices.

It is comparable to "jalopy", which, however, seems to be restricted to automobiles (according to dict.cc).

Is there a comparable term one can put into the following sentences?

I am lucky if this [term for desktop computer] boots without blue screen of death.

Most times this [term for TV set] shows nothing but snow.

  • 6
    I guess piece of … would be too generic?
    – slhck
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 13:47
  • 3
    @MετάEd Well, no, I guess I can say "shit" in a question asking for derogatory terms, but I was implying that there are other words you could use, such as "crap".
    – slhck
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 14:35
  • 6
    Using "box" to refer to computers colloquially is more commonly an affectionate term used by enthusiasts than a derogatory one in English slang.
    – Affe
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 19:17
  • 2
    Box is an affectionate term, but shitbox isn't.
    – Kaz
    Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 0:23
  • 1
    I like to use Toaster, which usually works well for most electronic devices. Of course, that is not fair to actual toasters.
    – Kobi
    Commented Mar 4, 2013 at 7:54

10 Answers 10


Piece of junk refers to something that is cheap, shoddy, or worthless. It can be used as an oject as in "This piece of junk won't boot." or a modiying adjective as in "This piece-of-junk computer won't boot" (with or without hyphens).

Related adjectives can be used with the name of the device. These include:

"Junky", "shoddy", "trashy", "lousy", "worthless", "crappy" (oh, and, of course, "shitty").

Boat Anchor which merely means the device is only suitable for that purpose. "This computer has become a boat anchor" (Urban Dictionary, definitions 2 and 3, Ham.net shows the term used in practice.)

Doorstop similar to "boat anchor". "This computer only works as a door stop now."

Junk Box No longer suitable for anything except to be cannibalized for spare parts. (See wikipedia.) Usually this refers to just the parts themselves, already disassembled and collected into a box. But it parallels your German reference, so I thought it was worth adding.

We also refer to some things as "hangar queens", which is alludes to aircraft that spend more time in repair than they do in service. Any products that can't get through the production process may be relegated to being hangar queens, with hopes that someone will eventually figure out how to repair them.


Contraption (often paired as infernal contraption) refers to any mechanical or electronic device for which the author has some contempt.

Gizmo can similarly be employed to mock some needless or useless technological contrivance, but it is not inherently negative. I can call something a gizmo to suggest I am overwhelmed by its complexity, or simply because I don't remember its name. Similarly, other generic terms like gadget or widget (for a part of a larger machine or device) are not inherently negative.

There are a variety of ways to disrespect a car or other large mechanical machine: jalopy, rust bucket, beater, or clunker.

There are also words and phrases for televisions, but these emphasize dislike for the medium of television itself as represented by the device, not the device itself: idiot box and boob tube. You could say I'm spending a mindless Saturday night in front of the boob tube, but you wouldn't say I hate my old boob tube, I need to get it replaced.

  • 1
    Gizmo? Mogwai! (So, I wouldn't usually use it as you suggest. Although I agree it is valid)
    – Izkata
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 21:33
  • 1
    darkwingduck.wikia.com/wiki/Gizmoduck is "popular and well-liked" as well.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 22:49
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    Contrary to @Izkata, I think gizmo is an excellent word in this context. Maybe it's a US/UK difference, but some flash gizmo usually implies a disparaging reference to a small, electronic device to me, whereas a bucket of bolts is much bigger and more "mechanical" (e.g. - a car). Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 23:05
  • doodad implies the gadget or feature in question is superficial or trivial -- also that the speaker might not be able to remember its name Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 14:49
  • Contraption is better than gizmo, but contraption usually refers to complex mechanical devices and I'm not sure how well it naturally extends to electronic devices Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 15:21

Paper weight Implies that it is good for nothing other than holding paper in place.


"Hunka junk" (slang for hunk of junk) has the added attraction of being alliterative so it feels good saying it:

"Most times this "hunka junk" shows nothing but snow!"


While often used to describe, as you say, jalopies, bucket of bolts can also be used to refer to machinery:

(idiomatic) A piece of machinery that is not worth more than its scrap value, often of old cars.

Other candidates that you can consider are contraption and its synonyms. However, they are not necessarily uncomplimentary. Most people would probably use something along the lines of junk or piece of [x] where x can be replaced with junk, crap, shit, etc.


You could describe an outdated or large, clunky gadget (especially mobile phones) as a "brick". This term can also be used as a verb to describe the act of breaking a piece of technology so as to make it essentially useless:

I tried to format my hard drive but ended up bricking the entire machine.


  • 1
    Solid term, but the definition is a little off - bricked implies a state of worthlessness due to an attempt to reconfigure or update a device, rather than its size or age. See your own linked wikipedia article.
    – Hannele
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 19:31

demon-posessed ___
old ___
piece of garbage / trash
god-forsaken ___
sassn frassn ____


Gadget is rather diminutive...

"Hey I got a new smartphone!"
"Great, that is just what we need another gadget!"

and if a gadget doesn't work then it is a "brick"

  • neither one works in your example sentences very well though. Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 22:32
  • Gadget seems quite a good fit, it definitely implies something gimmicky that has no important function, if that is the intended meaning. It maybe depends on context - a computer that is essential for your work but is annoying and terrible wouldn't be a gadget, but a computer that is only used for playing solitaire and checking the weather.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 11:00

Doohickey is close, although that might be more mechanical than electrical.

The OED says that it is:

Any small object, esp. mechanical; a ‘thingummy’ (see also quot. 1928).

  • 1914 Our Navy (U.S.) Nov. 12 - We were compelled to christen articles beyond our ken with such names as ‘do-hickeys’, ‘gadgets’ and ‘gilguys’.
  • 1925 Fraser & Gibbons Soldier & Sailor Words 81 - Doo hicky, an airman’s term for any small, detachable fitting.
  • 1928 Sunday Dispatch 30 Sept. 10/2 - He offered to run me down in the old doohicky-his latest, though second-hand car.
  • 1949 R. Chandler Little Sister vii. 45 - A pencil..broke its point on the glass doohickey under one of the desk legs.
  • 1967 A. Lurie Imaginary Friends iv. 44 - Just unhitch that dohickey there with a wrench.

jalopy is a perfectly acceptable term for a part of a device that is no longer functional. One word that I use in Hibernian English: is the term, Flipping yoke. i.e. That flipping yoke is not working again. G** d**n it! Grrr etc, More expletives. Hope you enjoy it good night.

  • 6
    My experience in the U.S. is that "jalopy" (if used at all, it's close to obsolete) specifically refers to an old car. I'd be very surprised to hear it used in reference to anything else. Is it common in Ireland?
    – user9383
    Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 15:06

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