Tech #20: Computers - Making Stupid Kids Smart

Home computer advertising in the eighties may have over-represented their products, but they did it with gusto.  Computer products, whether it was hardware or software, were going to shock and awe your family to the point of orgasm.  They were going to save your children from the clutches of ignorance and unemployment.  They were going to bring your lousy dysfunctional family together into a wonderfully harmonious circle of love.  Computing was, dare I say, 'The Answer' for every upper middle class Caucasian family.

Let's look at some ads and you'll see what I mean.  In this post we'll look at educational products that will make your stupid kids smart.  In the next tech post, we'll just look at general computer insanity.  Enjoy.

So, what you're telling me is that my dumb son who eats boogers can become a college graduate..... and it'll help pay for it too?!? Holy shit. Sign me up!

  "You can travel through space and time.  and go where no one has gone before - to the center of your imagination."

Hmmm.  It looks like just monochrome word processing.... but if you say so.

This was the big buzz in the education world back in the eighties - computer software was going to replace your flesh and bones teachers.

This coming from a guy in a knit square-end necktie.  Sorry, but no.

Just look at all this incredible learning going on.  And it's all because of a crummy dot matrix printer.  Who knew?

Looks like Nike got a bit of free advertising here.

I guess I'm just a jaded and cynical human being.... but the way that dad is looking at his daughter..... (shudder)

Lie to your parents.  Sure, you've got an algebra test to study for - but, screw it, this is technically studying. Right?

I wonder how many parents bought Plato thinking their kids would end up academic all-stars.  A set of floppy disks does not a valedictorian make.  Software was truly the magic pill that was going turn these white kids successful.  So, were Plato and its ilk snake-oil charlatans, or true believers?  I wonder.

Take home message: Blow your kid's college savings on a Commodore.


  1. Oh, Lazer *128*. I thought it said Lazerize. I don't remember any non-Apple hardware that run Apple II software.

    Kid, don't leave your Walkman open like that - you'll get dust all over the pinch roller.

    And yeah, they're all white. Nothing wrong with showing what the majority of the population was.

  2. Adam. What the ColecoVision wanted to be when it grows up. And did anybody use the scholarships they won? Adam and ColecoVision pretty much ruined the company.

  3. #4: The half-retard can't even eat properly, but still he's going to end up as a computer genius... Yeah, sure.

  4. My first real home computer was a TI99/4A which I bought in mid-1982. I was married but we didn't have kids yet. I wanted it for me. I used it for word processing, simple number crunching, and simple databases and games. I wrote a few BASIC programs for it, including a graphical dungeons and dragons type game. In 1985, when my children were babies I bought a Mac and have had a number of Macs since. When my kids were old enough to use a computer (in the early 1990's) a computer was a fixture in the house. The educational aspects were never that big of a deal although we had some 'educational' programs that the kids loved. I'll never forget my 4-year-old figuring out how to do things in Kid Pix by reading the manual!

  5. The problem was that school administrators, most trained int he slide-rule era, ate this up like meth. All they needed was computers in the classrooms and they would be set. Every school I went to had a pile of last years models in the teacher's lounge. The 8088s all had to be replaced by 286 & 386 models. Who cares if the teachers are not trained to use them as anything more than glorified typewriters. If it is the latest Apple 2e then OUR school had to have them.
    In High School they even stopped teaching typing. We had computers, but we all hunt and pecked the keyboard. My DAD had to by me a typing teacher program.

  6. When did referring to people as 'white' become a derogatory (yet stylish) way of communicating, and why is it necessary?

    1. I interpret "white" in his description as, not a slur, but as a critique of the advertisers' consistent failure to invite people of other races to see themselves as owners of these products.

  7. Put a lot of mileage on a Gemini 10-X printer, hooked up to my privately expanded Radio Shack Color Computer. (Didn't even say Tandy on it yet!)Took that Coco all the way from casette tape data storage to double sided 5 1/2 inch floppies! Twas a fast and capable little computer in the day. (Well, the computer was, the storage wasn't, lol.

  8. Jeff SockwellSeptember 16, 2013

    Love the TRS-80 Model 4 there. Daring to be mono when other computers were color. We called them Trash 80's for a reason, but my first programming classes were done using Model 3's and 4's.