Smile confidently: it’s the future

or D.  Laugh hysterically and say, “you may as well ask a monkey”?

If you were the kind of person who would c) smile confidently in 1982 it was undoubtedly because you knew you would be able to ask the “girls” in the office to do the financial report for you, and not because you had one of these bad boys.

The ad finishes: “Here’s the nicest part… you can pay it off over 2,3 or 5 years for as little as $82.56 per week”.  Presumably this is the five year deal.  So 5 x 52 = 260, 260 x $82.56 = more than $20,000 (even if it is the two year plan it is over $8,000).  I hope the financial report factors this into the projected bankruptcy of the business.

Perhaps a computer for the home then?

Imagine pitching your skills against your own Space Invaders – in colour and with sound effects!

Imagine.

With 16k bytes fitted.

The size of the file used for this picture of the Atari 400 in this post is 2.35MB.

Whenever I see these old computer ads I always think: where’s the monitor?  But of course they didn’t come with one because you plugged them into your TV.  My mother bought us a Commodore 64 in the 80s so that we wouldn’t fall behind in the imaginary race to… um, some place where having a computer was really important. 

It was exciting pulling the 64 out of the box, and stressful setting it up.  For a while it looked like it wasn’t going to work, and then we rearranged some cords at the back and bam, our perfectly good TV was now a large box for typing words into for no real reason.

We tried to think of things we could do with it.  I suggested putting recipes on it.  My mum half-heartedly agreed that you could do this.  Why you would want to type all of your recipes into a computer that could only be accessed in the living room when you had disconnected the TV and plugged the computer in is beyond me.  Much handier to have your recipes in a book in the actual kitchen.

My mother suggested I could do my homework on it, but we didn’t have a printer and I couldn’t type so this would have been like slowly assembling my homework in moveable type and then carrying the printer’s plate to school.

Let’s be honest, most people who actually used their computers used them to play games, and the computer companies knew it.  Sure, the Atari ad talks about educational stuff, but it doesn’t actually mention any specifics.  The only specific thing it mentions is Space Invaders.  They have to mention other vague stuff (“expand your families world”), because if they’d said “spend $1200 on Space Invaders” parents then would’ve gone “yeah, right” (nowadays they’ve mostly been worn down).

Problem is some crucial parts of my man DNA have been damaged.  I don’t have the male video gaming DNA (or the car DNA), which rendered the 80s computer totally and utterly useless to me.  The computer sat in its box for a bit, and then we sold it.  The man who bought it seemed delighted.  He had young kids.  He probably thought he was expanding his family’s world.  He probably told his wife “this’ll be great honey, you can put all your recipes on it, and little Timmy can do his homework”.

I hope he liked playing computer games.

Keeping up with a Commodore?  Again with this race thing. 

“In a world of fun and fantasy” (cue: hot girls exploding out of water slide)

“Wouldn’t it be great to be locked

inside of your room

(that always smells of socks)

trying to learn BASIC so that you can plot

a slightly wonky square?”

No.  No it wouldn’t.  Get back to me when you invent the internet.

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19 thoughts on “Smile confidently: it’s the future

  1. Yeah, it is great. They’re for keeping up. Perhaps some kind of erectile dysfunction medication. I’m unsure. Anyway, nice salute. Commodore thought we were going to do a lot more saluting in the future.

  2. That computer sounds awesome!?! Prepare a financial report for tomorrow’s meeting for the cost of one year of college? Where do I sign whilst smiling confidently?

  3. Holy, holy crap this was funny. The recipes and homework and taking a printer’s plate to school. All of it. Excellent.

    We got an Apple II computer some time in the early 80s. I remember all we did was, guess, play games on it. Frogger and I recall a “like” Space Invaders game. The monochromatic green screen made it hard to distinguish Frogger from the cars. Oops. Splat. Then I won a joystick through some silly drawing and it was like our life had just begun. Before that you were using arrow keys to shoot or hop or whatnot. My dad later upgraded to another computer, an Apple III perhaps. This was just after the dawn of Nintendo and my parents had bought a business. So I thought that a computer we used only for small business budgeting spreadsheets seemed like a big fat waste.

  4. The fine print says that this price includes the 40% sales tax. 40%! The people smiling here work in the tax department.

  5. Joysticks. I remember them. Who came up with that name… it’s just so wrong. Remember the truly addictive ping pong game with the bats sliding up and down the far sides of the screen? Man that was exciting.

  6. Great post. Love the main photo. Also love the fact that the pong ad features Asians because, you know, pong is Asian.

  7. LOL Great post, loved it. You need one of those bright, shiny star rating systems 🙂

    I knew someone with a Vic 20, which I’m sure you know was the predecessor to the Commodore 64. I’m pretty sure it had 8K of RAM. I wrote my first BASIC program on a C64. It was something extremely simple – a tiny program reviewing the best sites to view Comet Halley in 1985.

    I got a ZX Spectrum (the top end 48K model, of course) in 1984. It cost my parents 150 pounds. I graduated to an Atari 512 ST about five years later. That had a whopping 512K of RAM.

    Ahhhhh… good times… not sure about the smell of socks in the room. Experience tells me the smell was generally unidentifiable and usually required at least 2 weeks of an open window to clear.

  8. I know very little about computers, and I sense you know a lot. The oddest thing I found about computers recently was the Britain was briefly a computer pioneer with dozens of start up brands vying for market share. That didn’t pan out very well as it happens, but a curious footnote in history.

  9. We had Pong. We were blown away with the graphics. Then we moved on up to the cutting edge in video games: Combat. Two little tanks that sat on opposite ends of the screen and my brothers would spend hours annilihating me over and over again.

  10. I understand the Commedores are collectible now. I remember having an Atari like the one pictured above. We loved it, but didn’t spend anywhere near the time on it that I now do on the internet. I think that’s because we had to turn it off to turn on the television. In those days people only had one television per household. Having two was seen as bad parenting, though it wasn’t called “parenting” then.

    I also remember typing most of my second unpublished novel on an Apple II I borrowed from school for the summer.

    Now even a bad smart phone leaves those machines in the dust.

    Maybe I should get one.

  11. I don’t have a smart phone, but I did buy a Kindle. It can store 40,000 books. This is fairly mindboggling.

  12. That’s very true. We had Alan Turing, one of the computing pioneers. Bletchley Park is close to my hometown – that’s where we used an early computer to crack the German’s Enigma code during WW I.

    We also had the Amstrad, the BBC Acorn… there was a Lynx computer too, if I remember correctly, but I’m not sure if that was actually English or not…

  13. My parents point blank refused to expand our families world, perhaps it was because my father actually worked in IT as a software director in the 80’s so knew better.

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