Tech #21: Oh, the Possibilities!

Computer advertising in the eighties made promises that they simply could not deliver.... in fact, many of the claims still haven't been fully realized thirty-odd years later.  The old adage "Don't let your mouth write a check your ass can't cash" is fitting here.  How many families spent a fortune on computer stuff expecting it to change their lives, only to quickly realize it could actually do very little.

That being said, this is the way it always goes when new technology hits the market.  If you look at old ads for refrigerators and microwaves when they first came out, the advertising depicted a very similar ecstasy.  "Our new automatic garage door opener changed our life!"  No it didn't.   It made things marginally more convenient.

Anyway, let's check out some great vintage computer/tech ads.  Enjoy.

FYI - 'Plinker' is a contraction of People Link.  Although, this man looks to be doing a whole other kind of 'plinking'.

I can't imagine spending fifty bucks on this now - let alone in 1983!

Life before wireless and laptops.  So sad. So very sad.

"And I can create my own type. For example, I designed 'SteveScript'"
Yes, Times Roman just wasn't good enough for Steve Clarke.  His crummy dot matrix printer was barely out of the box before he started naming fonts after himself.

This one is amazing.  A type program that is based on the movie 9 to 5! What genius came up with this idea?  And why is the fella' in the ad still using an old typewriter?

Has this man been deaf all his life and now, suddenly thanks to modern technology, he can hear music?  Sweet, sweet music!

Nope.  Actually, it's just a sound card.  So, why is he basically climaxing at the sounds?...... Oh, just never mind.

Ever seen a dot-matrix printout? It's not pretty.  Forget the ear piercing screech as it inks each individual line.  Forget the fact that those lousy holes on either side of the sheet would initiate an apocalyptic paper jam nearly every print job.   When all was said and done, the color printouts were awful.  They were anything but bold - unless by 'bold' you mean 'horrible'.

Of all my tech ads, this is my favorite.  It's actually promising you a robot so advanced you'll consider it a member of the family!  Think about how disingenuous this was.  This ad is from November 1984 - so, we're talking nearly thirty years ago.  They wouldn't presume to make this claim in 2012 (we're much too tech savvy these days to take the bait); yet, in '84 they literally offering you a fully functional robot that looks like a Dalek!

Plus, this isn't some Sea Monkey ad buried in the back of a comic book.  No, this is brought to you by Heath and Zenith!

Of course, this wasn't the only Rosie the Robot being offered....

Pour your coffee and recite the day's agenda.  cough! bullshit! cough!

Even at 2012 technology, hardly anyone uses software for their exercise routine.  These eighties software companies literally covered the bases for every aspect of your life and sold you a program for it.  

This ad came out in May 1984.  Jim Fixx died while on his daily run in July 1984. 

At last! An advertisement that's completely honest!  Oh, wait.  I didn't read the text at the bottom.  Never mind.


  1. THANK YOU for these. Brings back memories of bygone tech.

    And I specifically remember that AdLib ad.

    1. Jeff SockwellSeptember 16, 2013

      Those AdLib cards were awful. Better than the click-beep stuff that came before it, but I bought one of the first Sound Blasters and it blew the AdLib away. My friends with AdLibs went out and bought Sound Blasters.

  2. I remember most of those ads.

    I still have my Commodore 64 and 128 machines.

    And they still work perfectly.....

  3. That ad for the printers is right without the bottom text; those printers are probably just as "reliable" as modern ones, no matter what the price. :p

  4. These are a hoot. I LOVE the 9-to-5 one! I HAD a typing game for my Commodore 64 and it really did help me learn how to type faster.

  5. We had a Vic 20, then upgraded to a Commodore 64. Yeah, quite primitive by today's standards. As for the promises, I do think the internet/world wide web did finally fulfill some of the promise. Computers is one area where no one wants to go back in time!

    1. Jeff SockwellSeptember 16, 2013

      I still have three Commodore 64s and still enjoy the old games. They had to be very clever due to the lack of processing power and memory, as opposed to now where bloated code is not considered a big deal.

  6. I haven't commented on these computer posts much because they were a foreign world for us. No one I knew had one. My high school got 24 computers my senior year ('83-'84) and that was the first time I ever touched one. We were supposed to do something using BASIC, but I couldn't figure it out. Then, I didn't even see one again until I started college in '88. Now I'm on the stupid thing all day long.

  7. I see these kind of promises applied to smart phones and tablets of today.

  8. Heh, that banking add needs almost a half dozen more wires to be operational (most computers had external drive, power supplies, a video cable, modems, etc.)

    Printers were a really big thing back then - especially finding a good one; first quality dot matrix was from Centronics but hella expensive (noisy too). Epson was one of the first big challengers, then you could get a good printer for just under $1000.. Once epson developed a good graphics standard (graphtrax) the prices went up again for that feature (~$800). Star Micronics eventually undercut Epson with price and improving quality I think I got an NP-10 for about $250 which was really cheap in the day (around 1988).

    Inkjets really didn't take off till Canon got in the game and made some decent models, they supplied inkjets for Apple (stylewriter) and also did some OEM parts (brother). They also made the coolest of the laptops the Canon BN22 - which had a built-in inkjet printer! http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2197919268/

  9. Not much has changed, as more and more folks are using apps to lose weight, manage time...

    And, what are Roomba and Siri, if not life-assisting "robots?"

    In early 1983, in 12th grade, a pal showed me where he was hiding in the 20 minutes before classes stared. The tech lab, with the hot new thing--computers! He swore computers were the coming thing! I sat in, to play a "math game," where you answered simple questions, then watched as a thin line (representing a cannon) shot a target tin the "sky."

    It took about 3 minutes for the action to happen.

    I thought, "this is computers?"


    Al Bigley

  10. Replies
    1. Saw a HERO Jr. on eBay for around $400 and an OMNIBOT 2000 for $100

      I bet the battery would be the biggest pain in the ass for ether of these. Also, it looks like they're basically remote control toys. The actual HERO, not the Jr., looks pretty cool, I couldn't find any for sale though.

  11. HERO JR. was actually my first husband. He took our divorce hard. The last I heard, he was hanging outside of some Circle K in Vegas, offering to recite a poem for you if you buy him a 40 and some lottery tickets.