A Look Back – 14 Retro Tech Commercials (videos)


Nostalgia Warning!!

We’ll start off with a young(ish) Steve Ballmer screaming the virtues of Windows 1.0 in his own inimitable style, proving once and for all that he was always a nutcase…. but wait, there’s more!

 

 

There was no shortage of big names pushing tech back in the day. Here’s Bill Cosby letting us know that Texas Instruments is “The One”. At least, I think that’s the message here… what do you reckon?

 

 

And here’s Captain Kirk in his other job… selling VIC-20 computers. Released by Commodore in the early ’80s, the VIC-20 was the first computer to sell 1 million units and was the precursor to the uber successful Commodore 64. Fond memories for me as I owned both. I still have a working Commodore 64 and Amiga 500 sitting gathering dust in my den of iniquity. Sadly, my VIC-20 is long gone:

 

 

Who could be more famous than The Simpsons? Homer is a legend! So, Intel used the popular character to sell it’s new Pentium II processor, the result is vintage Homer:

 

 

Here’s a mid ’80s Compaq ad starring the inimitable British comedian John Cleese. Cleese presents the ad in his own irreverent style, more along the lines of an anti-ad. Note the “bus” reference… a joke that some may not comprehend. If not, click here: Bus (computing):

 

 

Check out the size of this VCR from JVC complete with mega colorful buttons. Also note the corded remote control – I remember them well, when Dad always had to occupy the chair closest to the TV and would get upset whenever one of the kids accidentally tripped over the trailing cord.  One of the greatest and most useful tech breakthroughs of all time was undoubtedly the cordless remote:


 

 

Are today’s cell phones intrusive? Check out this phone (brick?) from the early ’90s. I’m reliably informed that, after carting this phone around all day, you’d have one arm longer than the other. Put it in your pocket? Forget about it!

 

 

You might think that Apple’s us-versus-them advertizing style is a relatively recent tactic… well, you’d be wrong. Here’s an Apple IIc commercial from the mid ’80s taking on the IBM PC Junior. Inferiority complex?

 

 

Want a “small” “portable” computer? Look no further than the IBM 5100. Released in the mid ’70s, the 5100 was IBM’s first portable computer, weighing in at 50 pounds, yes 50 pounds, I kid you not. I can’t imagine someone fronting a meeting today with one of these tucked under their arm:

 

 

Sega Saturn vs Nintendo 64. Apple isn’t the only company to promote its own products by bagging the opposition. Check out this Sega commercial denigrating the Nintendo 64, referring to it as the “Pretendo” and ultimately shooting it skeet-style:

 

 

Radio Shack’s TRS-80 was one of the earliest mass produced personal computers and widely recognized as among the most influential (I owned one of those too). Here is an ad for the TRS-80’s successor, Radio Shack’s Color Computer 3. What’s interesting about this early tech ad is that it clearly targets the kids – a tactic very successfully adopted much later by McDonalds:


 

 

Think voice recognition is a recent concept? Think again. Here’s IBM showing off its voice recognition technology way back in the mid ’80s. Apparently, finally getting there is a rather slow process:

 

 

The jump from 56k to broadband was one of the most influential innovations of the modern era and largely responsible for shaping the internet as we know it today. The following ad is not company or product orientated but it does cleverly portray broadband’s impact on society:

 

 

A look back at retro technology wouldn’t be complete without a reference to Nintendo. So, last but not least, here is an ad for the deluxe Nintendo Entertainment System set which included a robot named ROB… no points for originality there. The package also included the zapper light gun, 2 controllers, plus a couple of games. You’ll see all the components included in the $200 package laid out in the final 5 seconds of the video:

 

 

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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

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