Throwback Thursday: Antique computer ads

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Sometimes, there’s nothing like a great series of throwback ads to revive memories from the precious era of yesteryear. Like all great things before it, computers have definitely seen a rapid change in not only the way they’re built, but also the way they’re advertised.

In this collection of vintage spots from the synthesizer loving era of the 80s, you’ll see a variety of ads; some are weird, some are cool and some have strokes of pure genius that still reign relevant today. Check out these gems and let the memories start flooding back to you!

Honeywell (1981): Here’s a classic from 1981 attempting to describe one of today’s most clutch tools of business communication. Not only does the “Electronic Mail” in this ad look as if it’s a freshly sparked bottle rocket ready to turn your important furniture into office kindling, the look on this man’s face is pure terror. It looks like electronic Mail will forever be burned into his retinas as the urban cousin of Smokey the Bear’s #1 enemy. Was the main goal here to ignite curiosity or put the fear of email into the hearts of everyone looking to upgrade from snail mail?


TI – 99/4A (1982): This ad isn’t showing you what PC a previously jailed Atlanta rapper uses in his spare time. It’s actually showing off a early 1980s computer made by the famous calculator company Texas Instruments. This ad certainly has a hazy connection between its spokesperson and its product. It isn’t written as if ol’ Bill Cosby is speaking to you; the body copy is just typical tech specs and product details. In fact, it appears that Mr. Huxtable is just acting as Vanna White for the computer; he’s not even pretending to use it! Hmmm. This ad certainly makes me wonder what was in it for the Jell-O man to agree to this figurehead position.

IBM (1979): This ad just goes to show you how fast things can change. Just take a gander of the body copy and you’ll be reminded of a time when computers made people cower under their desks like George Costanza, airlines actually served meals instead of miniscule pretzel bags and smoking on a flight not only optional, but perfectly acceptable.

IBM ad 1977

Compaq Portable III (1987): What a headline! I’m going to give the writer of this ad credit since it’s clearly due. Ok, so the copy may be a little on the long side, but that was par for the course in the 80’s. The line “so now there’s less wait , with less weight” is another piece of pure copyrighting gold. As for the look of the computer itself, it reminds me of a larger version of the Gameboy Advance that came out in 2003.


LBMS (1991): Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t get the connection between Elvira and computer-aided software engineering. Words like “scariest” and “afraid” still aren’t helping me connect the dots. Perhaps this ad was going for pure sex appeal, turning up in a favorite tech magazine right around October 31st? Maybe the art directors just really had a thing for the deadly combo of the Queen of Halloween and computer screen chainsaws? The jury’s still out on this one. My favorite part of this ad? The offer for a glossy reprint right above the logo on the right.

lbms elvira ad

Compaq (1983): Think for a second. When was the last time you saw a Netbook next to a Dell, next to a MacBook? They just don’t make ads like this anymore, probably thanks to the strict advertising comparison laws regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and the ruling of the Jartran vs. U-Haul court decision. Is it just me or does the Compaq actually look a little harder to carry than the middle two?

compaq ad comparison 1983

Which of these ads do you remember?

2010-08-26T13:41:20+00:00 August 26th, 2010|

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