Tech advertising in the 1980s tended to exaggerate the capabilities of their products. The following magazine ads show Mom, Dad, brother and sister (and various party crashers) going nuts over these life-changing systems. Here’s the true stories behind those over-the-top computer ads.

radio_shack_answers_1985-02-1985_0008aDad comes home from a crappy day at work pushing paper in the Wang Building on Carey Road (the original home of 100.3 The Q) expecting Chicken à la King on the table. Instead he sees his wife and kids going nuts over the new Tandy. Mom works part-time (5 hours a week) as a playground monitor at Sidney Elementary School. Yes, that’s Trick Shot Basketball that has little Jennifer in absolute awe. She hasn’t done her homework yet. She loves Math and Science, but hates recess and lunch hour because her Mom volunteers at the same school. Brother Billy was suspended from school earlier in the day for looking at Computer Language Magazine in class. Poor old Dad would have to put in many more overtime hours in the Wang Building to pay for the family’s new entertainment & education box; this Tandy cost $1199 U.S. in 1983. That’s $2877 adjusted for inflation.

1977-imsai-complete-control_000aLook at these people. Judging by the levels of shock, you’d think this man just turned water to Labatt 50. No. Recently laid-off from the Wang Building (“downsizing” was the official reason. But he was hired in error and generally creeped out coworkers), Michelangelo Smith hooked up a motherboard to a train and phone. Even the Island Farms milkman heard the commotion from down the block and had to check it out himself. Donny is the kid in the red baseball hat and likes to walk the family schnauzer, Patsy (not seen in photo) with a garden hose. Granny is so excited by all the noise in the kitchen, she’s had a hot flash and needs to turn down the thermostat.

078Uncle Garth had always been more of a jock than a technical kind of guy. When he was walking by his nephew Derek’s bedroom and heard the melody of “My Dog Has Fleas”, he just had to investigate. Garth was intriqued; maybe this music computer box could find him a date? He’d seen a story on CHEK 6 about computer dating and the future of robots as companions. Derek, an extremely uncoordinated boy, programmed his Texas Intruments TI-99/4 system to play “My Dog Has Fleas” in less than 300 hours. The Blanshard Elementary fourth grader previously had no purpose in life before his Times Colonist paper route earned him enough money got him this computer. Within a year, Derek had successfully programmed his computer to play several bars of “B-I-N-G-O”, “Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer On The Wall”, and an original composition titled, “Tilikum Lives In A Tank (at Sealand of The Pacific)”. A decade later Derek would be fired from his job in the Wang Building in a messy email scandal. But in 1981, Derek was his uncle’s hero, a computer genius from little old Victoria who might be his key to meeting chicks on the computer.

creative_computing_v09_n09_1983_september_0162aWhat exactly are these people and Mr. Dumpy-Doo (a hyper-intelligent but incontinent Cocker Spaniel) looking at that would simultaneously cause:

  • the boy in yellow to look afraid for his life
  • the lady in red to appear positively enamored
  • to make the man make a hand gesture like Borat
  • to make semi-mullet teen stick miss smoking cigarettes at Johnny Zee’s arcade
  • to make little girl show her tongue

1985-computingThe guy on the left (the other two aren’t real) work in an office in the Wang Building (again, on Carey Road and original home of 100.3 The Q) and the two Intellivision players from Central Saanich on the right (the poker dealer, ball player, golfer, spaceman, and a 4-foot-8 silky outfit goggles-guy aren’t real) are on the verge of hysterical. The office worker on the left rarely could get his computer box to shoot a green crooked laser. Most days he didn’t know where to start trying to program a green laser and spent most days reading the complicated manual before he was fired from the Wang Building and would collect U.I. (now knows as E.I.) for many years before getting job as a prep cook at Fuddruckers. The two youth on the right are babysitter Debbie (she was saving money to buy a bus ticket to go visit a hottie who lives in Duncan whom she met at a Styx concert at Memorial Arena), and a lippy 10 year-old named Matthew, from Keating Elementary. Matthew always was talking about voices in his head when he and his babysitter played SNAFU. Matthew would talk about hearing high pitched voices of a poker dealer, ball player, golfer, spaceman, and 4-foot-8 wearing a silky outfit goggles-guy. She never told Mathew’s mother about the voices in her son’s head.





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