Vintage Computer Ad Fest

26 October 2010

It is easy to forget, sometimes, which products made us excited in the past. Back in 1984, the year of Big Brother (original stylee), one of the neatest little portables around was the Epson Geneva.  It even had plug-in application ROMs to make up for the lack of disk space.  Show a teenager this today and the first thing they will point out is that the screen is tiny and - where on earth is the mouse? Well as this was the year that the Apple Macintosh was introduced (remember that advertising campaign?) you could tell them that it was the year the mouse really took off.  But not for the Epson Geneva, which you could get for just under a thousand dollars. Talking of money...

Sorry about the length of this ad but you have to give it to the people who designed it - make it as loooong as possible and get the customer excited about the 286 processor (ah the days before they put the p in to pentium.  Yet look at the price!  As Shaggy would say - yikes!  Despite the high class processing power of the 286, $2,699 is rather steep for 1987 prices, don't you think?  A real WTF moment before the term acronym was invented.

If that price is something they would not get away with nowadays, the advertisment above harkens back to when the Mad Men could be overtly sexist and get away with it.  If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute is the byline.  Oh dear.  The Honeywell Kitchen Computer never quite did what it promised either - to revolutionise kitchen planning but although you may mark them down for the innate sexism of their ad they were prescient in one way.  Many people do use their laptops (etc) in the kitchen these days, albeit not always to help them cook. This product came out in 1969, the year after 2001: A Space Odyssey.  More optimistic times perhaps?

Although the word hubris might spring immediately to mind with the advertising campaign for the short lived Honeywell Kitchen Helper, then chutzpah might be an appropriate word to describe Apple's 1976 ad above.  Two hunded years after the revolution and they had the audacity to tell the business world that they could make better decisions than Jefferson by using their computer systems.  Crikey!

Staying with Apple for a while, they certainly knew how to shock - male nudity (partial or otherwise) was virtually unheard of in advertising in1980 but Apple were struggling with getting their products' uses across to the wider population.  So, they started a creative writing competition, asking people to write about the unusual or interesting use you've found for your Apple.  It can only be wondered how many of the entries were deemd unsuitable for digestion by the general population.  Today, the wording of the competition would have to be thought through very, very carefully.

Perhaps it was a hard lesson, but there was more than a single fatal flaw comparing utilities software with superheros as Norton did in 1995. Mmm.


One company that could see the future was Atari - this ad from 1982 does play it safe in a number of ways.  It emphasises the educational advantages of a home computer, it stresses that you can solve problems like mortage and loan analysis and that their home computer will allow you to manage your world a lot better.  However.  The little girl is playing Caverns of Mars.  Way ahead of their time!

Before we discuss the ad itself, what is the name of the actor at the far right?  I recognise his face but cannot put a name to it - he was obviously jobbing at the time but went on to greater things. This ad stresses the fact that it will be computing power that will extend productivity and that one programmer will be able to do so much more work but within the same hours. In other words, don't panic, it won't be you doing an eighty hour week.  They lied.

ISC gave us the Intercolor 3261 in 1979 and it was one of the first ever desktops to give the world a color visual display unit.  It didn't come cheap, however - at the time it was priced at $3,300 which would be the equivalent of spending $10K on a PC these days.  Similar then to one of those ultra expensive cars in the showroom that people (OK, mostly men) gaze at longingly before moving in to their prcie range.

The Old Spice guy may have brought facial hair back in to the fold when it comes to advertising but there was a time back in the eighties when a lot of facial hair was no drawback to being the star of an advert.  If the crystal ball had been available to the makers of some of the products above they would have withdrawn the R&D money years before the product ever necessitated the advertisment.  Yet although in some ways these adverts would not see the light of day in 2010 you can't help but feel sometimes plus ca change.


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