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15 Vintage Tech Ads 96

Posted by kdawson
from the when-we-were-young-and-some-of-us-weren't-even-born dept.
JimLynch writes "Tech ads just aren't what they used to be. Sure, you have your robot phone wars and naked spokeswomen in bathtubs (what was she selling, again?). But missing are the cheesy songs, silly slogans, and giant gadgets that made the tech ads of yesteryear so wonderful to watch. Check out these 15 vintage tech commercials for yourself. If all the obsolete technology doesn't put a smile on your face, surely the cameo by a young William Shatner will." Apple's "1984" is included, and it has a strange and unanticipated resonance these days.
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15 Vintage Tech Ads

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  • Priceless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday May 03, 2010 @07:16PM (#32079090)
    I'm not sure which one I laughed at more, the MS-DOS 5.0 upgrade or Steve Balmer mocking himself while pitching Windows 1.0.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Skuld-Chan (302449)

      I don't think that was a vintage advert. I think it was made by MS sales executives to motive sales people and give them a quick overview on whats new - something I've personally seen done in lots of companies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by NJRoadfan (1254248)
        The MS-DOS 5 video is a promotional video Microsoft gave out to dealers. It was never aired on TV as a commercial. Still got the tape too.
    • I dunno, for a moment there I thought I was watching a "Weird Al" Yankovic video.

      • That's true for many old "computer ads". You know, it's the 80s, and all those highly skilled (ymmv) ad artists have no idea how to sell "computer stuff". On one hand, you have to be legitimate, staid, serious, you're selling business machinery, office equipment. On the other hand, you have to be goofy, playful, action driven, you're selling a game machine, an electronic toy.

        Combine it, and you get Ballmer. A goofy guy in a suit.

    • by Pharmboy (216950)

      The MS DOS 5 Upgrade rap commercial makes me ashamed to be Caucasian. That guy was a Navin Johnson, tuna fish sandwich eating, with the crusts cut off, and a twinkie for dessert [imdb.com] kind of Caucasian. I could actually visualize Bill Gates clapping his hands and stomping his foot, almost in rhythm with the video, just like Navin.

      I don't feel so good now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by schon (31600)

        tuna fish sandwich eating

        As opposed to all those guys who eat tuna beef, or tuna chicken?

        Exactly how many things exist that are called "tuna", which are not fish?

        • by CityZen (464761)

          You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish.

          (but seriously, though, there's a tuna pear: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tuna [merriam-webster.com] )

        • by Pharmboy (216950)

          Hey, I'm just like each and every American. After careful thought and consideration, these basic fundamentals come to mind: We eat tuna fish, our cars have VIN numbers, and these are true facts. The end results still remains, that sometimes we are redundant in any and all of our expressions ;)

          ($10 to whoever picks out all of them...)

        • by Lars T. (470328)

          tuna fish sandwich eating

          As opposed to all those guys who eat tuna beef, or tuna chicken?

          No, as opposed to tuna mammal, aka dolphin. He's of the picky kind.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ReneeJade (1649107)

        The MS DOS 5 Upgrade rap commercial makes me ashamed to be Caucasian. That guy was a Navin Johnson, tuna fish sandwich eating, with the crusts cut off, and a twinkie for dessert [imdb.com] kind of Caucasian. I could actually visualize Bill Gates clapping his hands and stomping his foot, almost in rhythm with the video, just like Navin.

        I don't feel so good now.

        I'm fairly certain the MS DOS 5 one was meant to be a bit silly, a bit of a joke. And for that reason I think they pulled it off well. I thought it was one of the less dorky ones. You can tell that MS put a fair amount of money into it.

        • They pulled it off the opposite of well, imho. It was the only one I couldn't watch. It's just cringe worthy.
          • by Pharmboy (216950)

            Amen with cringeworthy. The girls walking in at the beginning were not even remotely synced, it was like they accepted the first take of everything, with no rehearsal, and a bad script to start with.

      • That guy was a Navin Johnson, tuna fish sandwich eating, with the crusts cut off, and a twinkie for dessert kind of Caucasian.

        "Sir....you are talking to a nigger !"

  • I am sure these will be added to the list some day.

  • Ill-Informed Public (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday May 03, 2010 @07:17PM (#32079100)
    I can't help but look at the old tech ads and see how they were catered to a tech-illiterate population. Compare the iPhone and the 1984 commercials. For being a revolutionary product the Mac ads didn't -say- much about the Mac while the iPhone shows what all it can do.
    • The Apple IIc commercial used a little bit of "fear" ... and it looked like most of the bad MTV videos that featured kids in school.
      • bad MTV videos that featured kids in school.

        wow, when reading this the twisted sister vid for 'i wanna rock' popped into my head

        too bad i dont have any 80s glamrock on my ipod, otherwise today would have been Glamtastic!

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        The fear angle worked well back then. Even though I can't remember it myself, my dad recalls him coming home from his construction job (we were somewhat on the low income scale back then) when I was about a year old (so circa 1982) and my mother was sobbing crying because she'd seen some commercials that led her to believe that a kid would never be able to get a job without knowing about computers - and she feared they'd NEVER be able to afford one.

        Luckily, our situation improved, I did end up getting a Co

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lemur3 (997863)

      you must recall what 'tech illiterate' meant back then.

      back then you got a 'computer' and it came with a big book of BASIC code telling you how to code your own games! right out of the box!

      now? you get a 'computer' and the odds of you coding your own games are quite unlikely.. even most 'literate' computer users wouldnt know where to start

      • by bughunter (10093) <<ten.knilhtrae> <ta> <retnuhgub>> on Monday May 03, 2010 @07:51PM (#32079542) Journal

        you must recall what 'tech illiterate' meant back then

        Back then it meant 'the parents'. Those commercials are mostly aimed at the parents of teenagers who wanted a computer. I know I constantly begged my parents for a Trash-80, but I never got one. (By the time the Amiga and the Mac came out, I was making my own purchases.)

        Today the young computer-literate parents are grown up and buying their own toys. Thus, the commercials now are more practical and informative, since their audience will be the users, too.

      • I think the difference is what people call fun and up to date. Back in the day, you could re-create Pac-Man and that was a large achievement because Pac-Man was -the- game out there. Today people expect to make Pac-Man in less than a day their first try. Back in the day, an NES game was considered to be a large and deep game. Today though, people will look at SNES and even N64 games and think that there isn't enough content in them.

        Essentially anything with less content than Ocarina of Time is looked at
        • by oatworm (969674)

          ... and no one is going to take the time to learn everything to make a modern game.

          More importantly, no one could. Games are interdisciplinary these days - your "one" would have to excel at graphical design, programming, game theory, possibly physics (depending on the kind of game), and on and on and on. Outside of little Flash games, you're just not going to achieve the depth of knowledge required to make a full scale game.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Not every family had the money for those toys back then.

      Technical literacy had little to do with it. None of my peers had trouble learning, navigating, and exploiting the Apple ]['s or the early Macs at grade school.
      • Not every family had the money for those toys back then..

        That's for sure. I remember my Atari 800--2 external 5-1/4" floppy drives, a RS-232 serial adapter interface, a big, big 48KB of RAM--$1200, no monitor included. Ow.

      • by cgenman (325138)

        Also, tech moved so fast that it made less sense to invest.

        I have been using the same laptop for 5 years, and it's still considered pretty good. It started with XP, ran Vista, and now competently handles Windows 7.

        5 years in the 80's was a huge generation in computing. That would take you from DOS to Windows 3.0. Nothing you knew or loved about computing would be the same.

        Give a kid a computer today, and it will probably be viable for years and years. Give them a computer in the 80's, and welcome to con

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by ozmanjusri (601766)
          I have been using the same laptop for 5 years, and it's still considered pretty good. It started with XP, ran Vista, and now competently handles Windows 7

          That's more an indicator of how badly OS progress has stagnated under the Microsoft monopoly than any intrinsic quality of the x86 hardware.

        • by dangitman (862676)

          Also, tech moved so fast that it made less sense to invest.

          That's absolutely backwards. Tech moved pretty slowly in the 1980s, a machine made in 1984 wouldn't be that different to one made in 1989. The 1990s had a much more rapid pace of acceleration. Things have slowed down a bit in the 2000s, but by far the most rapid advances were from around 1995 - 2001.

          • by MBGMorden (803437)

            That's pretty much spot on. Look at the Commodore 64: it was produce for retail sale in the same configuration from 1982 to 1994. TWELVE YEARS for the same system. Sure it was waning in popularity by the time the 90's rolled around, but it covered most of the 80's as a useful system.

            Back then GUI's were new and a luxury. Only the expensive computers had such things. The lower cost computers were text based for quite a while, and such systems just don't take much horsepower.

            I personally had the C64 for

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by dangitman (862676)
              Or how about the Apple II series? Variants of it were sold from 1977 to 1993. That's right, 16 years spanning the decades of the 1970s to the 1990s, with few changes in basic specs. It even made more money for Apple than the Macintosh for years after the Mac's introduction.
    • by mirix (1649853)

      The new ads show flashy shit, they don't show the basic compiler.

      I'd assume if the old mac had glitter they'd have pimped it too.

  • by Itninja (937614) on Monday May 03, 2010 @07:20PM (#32079150) Homepage
    ....so, yeah: http://www.itworld.com/print/105778 [itworld.com]
    • by c.r.o.c.o (123083)

      Much appreciated. :) The only problem with having all clips on one page though is that if you don't want to finish watching one of them, they'll still finish buffering in the background after you've paused it and moved on to the next one. Not a problem on a desktop or a laptop, but on my N900 this can be a bit of an issue.

    • Autopager [mozilla.org] also works quite well if you have Firefox available :)

  • I miss the old "Things you can't do with a MultiModem" radio commercials. For some reason they're still stuck in my head.

  • I'm sorry (Score:5, Funny)

    by way2trivial (601132) on Monday May 03, 2010 @07:41PM (#32079412) Homepage Journal

    how the HELL could they not include this gem
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGO2hVA3P58 [youtube.com]

    go ahead- skip to 2:20

    THEN SKIP TO 2:55 WHEN SHE DROPS HER CLOTHES

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NekSnappa (803141)
      Wow. Just wow.
      This just goes to show that the trendier something is when it's made, the sillier it will look in the future.
    • by CAL2009 (1618499)
      Damn you sir, damn you all to hell!
    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday May 03, 2010 @08:16PM (#32079794)
      That's worse than the DOS 5.0 upgrade 'Rap'. It was just painful to watch. If that's what Windows does to a person it should come with a Surgeon General's warning label.
      • by gmack (197796)

        In grade 6 my class had this music teacher who wanted to be all trendy and made us do rap songs about things like the dangers of drug use. Had she actually been "up with it" she would probably have noticed how much we hated doing it. The DOS 5 upgrade ad is causing flashbacks to that music class.

    • Boring until 2:20 when production is taken over by crack-smoking monkeys.
    • I just posted my thoughts about another one from 1980, the ad for the Vector Graphic System 3005, but now that I see this one, I bow to the superior entry... Only Microsoft could have the total lack of aesthetic sensibilities to come up with such a howler-- I should have known...
    • Listen to the background music. It's a Mission:Impossible riff from the original TV series. How appropriate.

  • Is it just me, or does the "source=smlynch" at the end of the URL in the summary mean that the person who submitted this story is profiting out of every person who clicks the link?

    I guess we've finally discovered what the mysterious ??? in slashdot business plans stands for.

  • by fredjh (1602699) on Monday May 03, 2010 @08:00PM (#32079636)

    I just didn't think they were all that funny.

    Well... except the Radio Shack cell phone ad.

  • I'm going to have that 'OooooohhOohOohOohOoh, Pole Position" jingle in my head for the rest of the day.
    • by MBGMorden (803437)

      It's the "IBM PS/2" one for me. They even mention getting that song stuck in your head for 4 days in the article. Sadly, that friggin tune has been stuck in my head for 20 years. Before I even opened the article I thought to myself "I bet that damned PS/2 ad is gonna show up in here."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's some temporocentrism going on here. A few of these ads are truly goofy compared to any time period (MS DOS 5), but most aren't and are perfectly reasonable commercials given the time they came out. For example, the one about the VideoWriter. Sure, it seems stupid now, but replace that product with another product of today and you have a modern commercial, somewhat.

    I've also seen a few comments on how commercials of old seem to be catered towards a more tech illiterate crowd than today's. I find this

  • It's pretty obvious from the Microsoft ads here that they've really needed to fire their Marketing department for a very, very long time.

    From the People who brought you a brown Zune that squirted, and the Jerry Seinfeld ad, there was the MS-DOS 5 ad that was the original clue that they should have been fired.

    Their products may not be better without the Marketing department, but they would surely be more successful. Microsoft: shooting itself in the foot since at least 1990.
    • More successful? For everyone who thinks 90% market share ain't enough?

      IMO you shouldn't replace the MS markedroids, they do a great job at convincing their customers. If anything, replace the users with people not stupid enough to fall for such moronic ads over and over again.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        IMO you shouldn't replace the MS markedroids, they do a great job at convincing their customers. If anything, replace the users with people not stupid enough to fall for such moronic ads over and over again.

        I very much doubt it's the ads that sell Microsoft products. Has anyone in history ever bought a Microsoft product due to an ad? Sure, plenty of companies buy due to business-to-business marketing (i.e salespeople), but that's not really the same thing as mass-market advertising.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Monday May 03, 2010 @08:35PM (#32079960)

    They missed the windows 386 one!

    now that one is odd

  • by Scarletdown (886459) on Monday May 03, 2010 @08:48PM (#32080072) Journal

    If I was still collecting classic systems, I sould soooooooo be wanting one of those IBM 5100 "portables". The alternate VIC-20 commercial had a major flaw to it. Since the applicant had his Munchman score listed in his resume, that meant he did have a personal computer, and not just a video game console. The TI-99/4a was a perfectly viable computer for its time.

    The lack of the Atari 5200 Joust Commercial [youtube.com] (which deserves the Good Weed/Bad Acid Award) was a major disappointment in the article. Also disappointing was the lack of the Coleco Adam commercial that starts with a girl's parents having a conference with her teacher about her failing in school and convincing them to buy her an Adam. I remember how her face lit up when they broke the good news to her, and nowadays, I am imagining her having a meltdown like that kid in the faked video where his brother filmed him throwing a fit after his WoW account was cancelled.

    Ah well... Time to go Youtubin for a few hours to see if I can dig up that commercial.

    • The VIC-20 had some personal-comp type programs - calculator, accounting, VERY basic spreadsheet apps, stuff like that.
      • The TI also had its adequate share [99er.net] of non game titles (a ton of educational stuff, plus access to the PLATO system), Multiplan, TI Writer, etc). Granted, for "important" work, an expansion system with a disk drive and printer (which were priced at unobtanium levels) were required, but still, the TI was not all games, and it could have been a viable competitor at the time if not for asshat decisions made by the folk at Texas Instruments.

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Monday May 03, 2010 @08:59PM (#32080162)
    Some of them were amazing. I remember one where Woz and others were middle aged (with gray hair) showing off the new tech - The Apple 5000(?) mainframe that replaced IBM, and a disk drive so small it fit into the side of a pair of glasses (which was a computer with screen in teh glasses). In some ways they are not as far fetched today as they were in 1983/84. I wonder if any of them survived?
  • A commercial from France, late 80's

    Think Different [youtube.com]

    It's very dark, but amazing. The target of the ad is IBM/Compatible, I presume.

  • Once again, a message that kdawson forgot to include when he allowed this article to go up:

    YHBT
    YHL
    HAND

  • I always liked this one [youtube.com].
  • It occurs to me that, according to most accounts of the past, young people's attitudes towards new computers hasn't really changed at all. We begged our parents to upgrade our PCs all through the '00s to no avail; and were even less successful on the X-Box front.
    Now at 20, I've finally got the top-end gaming machine I've always wanted. But what will this computer seem like in another 30 years? Will my 3.7GHz quad core and dual Radeon HD5850 graphics cards seem slow? Will Windows 7 seem quaint? Probably. B
    • by MBGMorden (803437)

      I don't know. The 80's were the early days of computing. The golden era when it really took off and people started getting them in their homes (not nearly as common as today mind you, but you could finally see a computer in the corner at someone's house and not think "What the hell!?!?!?". Things ramped up fast from there, but they've slowed down a lot since. Honestly, aside from VERY incremental improvements, things really haven't changed that much in the user experience department in that least 10 yea

      • Yeah. This makes me sad. I feel like I've missed the golden era of computing. I wish I had been there.
      • by turgid (580780)

        I don't know. The 80's were the early days of computing.

        No, the 50s were the early days of computing. Programs were generally written in machine code and ran on the bare metal. Compilers for a few high-level languages were just being developed. LISP hadn't arrived. Only the very privileged had access to computers.

        By the 1980s personal computers (microcomputers) were mass-market and high-level languages (C, Pascal, Modula-2, FORTH, BASIC) were replacing machine code and assembly language programming. Comp

  • No Atari? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AdamD1 (221690) <adam@[ ]inrub.com ['bra' in gap]> on Monday May 03, 2010 @11:22PM (#32081138) Homepage

    I can't believe they didn't include any of the Atari 400 / Atari 800 ads.

    You could learn geography [youtube.com], or French [youtube.com]. (Always followed by some version of Space Invaders or Missile Command.)

    Alan Alda [youtube.com] was a spokesman for a period of time.

    Yeeesh...

    I think in hindsight Atari obviously spent slightly more on TV advertising than product R&D, but I could be wrong.

    ad

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      the funny thing about that ad...

      Alan Alda's approach to selling a computer made sense.

      The dweeb at the keyboard sounds more like the average slashdotter.

  • My Top 1000 Advertisements and Sponsored Links, conveniently spread over 15 pages of actual (poor) content and user comments.

  • by Eternal Vigilance (573501) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @01:22AM (#32081870)

    Apple's "1984" is included, and it has a strange and unanticipated resonance these days.

    The "1984" commercial's resonance is neither strange nor unanticipated if one understands the nature of projection [slashdot.org] .

    Knowing that, it was obvious even 25 years ago what was (unintentionally) being revealed.

    And while it's startlingly clear here in the case of Apple, the larger reason I mention projection is so more people learn how it works and how to use it to understand the world. It's both incredibly useful and incredibly beautiful. And if we want to create a world where we can do more than look at the mess and say "how strange and unanticipated," it's essential.

    Every day statements are made with just as much future significance as "1984."

    We might wanna learn to recognize them. ;-)

  • They missed it entirely. The Vector Graphic TV ad from the early 1980s is the most hilarious of all time, now just as it was then. I think it was the model 3005. It shows the machine up on a stage in front of a microphone addressing the excited press, saying, "And in conclusion, I'll only use my exceptional powers for the good of mankind." The camera then moves to a couple watching in the back, where one says "what a mind!" and the other says "what a body!" (I forget who said which, the man or the woman, b
    • by dangitman (862676)

      This would appear to be the associated print ad. [vector-graphic.info]

      I'm impressed how they refer to the "rigid disk" system. A couple of decades after the old "floppy" and "hard" disk jokes, they manage to bring fresh humor to the double-entendre.

  • I love this advert [computerhistory.org].

    With SYSTEM/360 you get the largest low-cost core memory ever offered. [...] The main memory comes in sizes up to 512,000 characters. To this you can add up to 8 million characters of bulk core memory.

    Why would you ever need more than that?

  • You think the Apple of today exhumes cool every which way? Flash back to 1985 and re-discover the double-page spreads Electronic Arts did for their Amiga software and developers when they said "We see farther". EOA (as they used to shorten it) were actually coooooooool once upon a time.
    • You think the Apple of today exhumes cool every which way?

      Well, obviously. Somebody keeps "digging up" the 1984 ad.

      ;-)

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06di_a588b0 [youtube.com]
    That has to win the award for burning through the most cash with nothing to show for it. Celebrity endorsements for a computer? If it's not Bill Shatner, why bother?

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