A 1980s Home Computer Family Celebration

Gather the kids round your Apple II and enjoy these nostalgic, vaguely unsettling vintage ads.

Posted by  | Sunday, November 22, 2009

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Computers: The Heart of the 1980s Home

Familiar holiday tales tell of a time in the late 19th century when loving families would gather around the hearth to give thanks for their many blessings, sing songs, read Dickens, and roast chestnuts. But by the early 1980s — if you believed computer ads of the day — the home computer had become the center of the traditional nuclear family. Chestnuts  were replaced by joysticks and computer manuals.

With the holidays just around the corner, let’s carefully peel back the fabric of time and examine ten vintage advertisements from a more civilized age when dazed, zombified android families found themselves irresistibly drawn to home PCs.

As you look through these ads, keep this in mind: When was the last time more than two people sat around your computer?



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18 Comments For This Post

  1. Mike Says:

    Hate to say it, but these ads to point to some significant issues with modern technology ads… type-setting. These ads, especially the “How to get from Sesame St. to Wall St.” all have fantastic use of fonts, spacing, copywriting, and placement… something that you rarely see if you were to flip through a modern technology magazine, where ads are more or less modern replications of “Boys Life X-Ray Glasses.”

  2. Heather Says:

    I don’t think so, Mike. With the exception of “How to Get From Sesame St. to Wall St.” (which I really, really like), I think the type-setting is awful, even compared to some modern-day tech ads.

  3. Rick Says:

    I remember these ads…I started with a Vic20, then moved to a C=64. I had friends with TRS-80s, CoCo’s and Apples. I got Compute! and Compute!s Gazette and spent hours punching in machine code, only after creating the machine code editor that preceded the code in the issues. Truly fun times.

    Back then in school, it was awesome to submit a book report or essay that had been printed in NLQ on a dot matrix (or daisy wheel) printer attached to your home computer. How many parents bought their kids those machines with such a scenario in mind? And how many of those kids wound up playing games and using cracking programs to make copies of games? And what of one’s first experiences with modems and BBS?

    They were heady times, full of promise for the future. The competition in the industry led to amazing innovations and creativity.

    Comments about fonts and typesetting aside, does anyone really think that the current crop of “Hi, I’m a Mac”…”I’m a PC” are really any better than those ads of the 1980s?

    I’d say that in terms of marketing creativity, we’ve gone backwards compared to those older advertising efforts.

  4. Woody Says:

    My experience was a lot like Ricks starting with the VIC-20.
    Wonderful machine because it used color!
    I belonged to clubs where we would meet at a different members home every week or so.
    Learning to program in Basic was a blast when you would get on a friends ‘puter’ & type in a memorized program that when you typed ‘Run’ & hit enter the friends name would flash on the screen in colors that would change every few seconds. My buddies would be ‘Amazed’ if they hadn’t learned Basic yet.
    Real ‘Heady’ times back then, specially when the Web started being available to us ‘ordinary’ guys & Email became fashionable!!!

  5. computers for less Says:

    It was the C64 versus the Apple ][ for me. The c64 had some sweet games, but it was the basic programming of the apple that got me hooked. The old apple ||c might still be in the parents garage – might have to take a look next time I am there.

    Maybe it was the advertisements like this that made me go with the apple.

  6. Darrencardinal Says:

    These ads are so unreal. You never used your computer like that with your parents standing there smiling at you.

    Using the computer is by it’s nature a solitary activity.

    And I do thing the modern mac vs. PC ads are better, because they are funny.

  7. Dan Says:

    Forget the computers…. I can’t get over the outfits here. Ah, the days when mom had a severe perm and used to wear horrid plaid dresses with football shoulder pads.

  8. retrojoe Says:

    I don’t see what is so “vaguely disturbing” about these ads. They don’t seem any more or less strange than printed ads for other consumer products in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
    Weird to me, is an ad claiming that a carton for luck strikes under the tree is an unbeatable Christmas gift.

  9. Michael david Says:

    Hi,

    Awesome post,just found this post from my Yahoo Buzz upcomming blogpost news feed, really interesting post, keep it up.

    Michael

  10. Jewel Says:

    Cool ad. Really portrays the 1980 lifestyle. And look how old the computer looks like.

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