13 Goofy Ads From The Early Days Of Computing

The computer ads of the ’70s and ’80s imagine a future in which every kid is a hacker and girls skateboard to work on their PCs.

Part of what makes vintage advertisements fascinating is the way they reveal what the companies of an earlier era wanted people to think. That’s as true of the early days of computing as it is today.


Consider some of the ads in the gallery above, which come from Dinosaur’s Pen, an excellent Tumblr blog dedicated to retro-computing. Dinosaur’s Pen is like a time machine that travels back into the epochs of computer design that existed long before Sir Jony Ive even saw his first Mac. And it makes you wonder how the Apple, Samsung, and Beats ads of today will be viewed in 40 years.

An early 1980s ad for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum home computer imagines a future in which every kid might be able hack into corporate mainframes with a sort of “gee golly” enthusiasm. Fast forward 30 years, and the same kids who learned to hack into mainframes on their Spectrums are the Edward Snowdens and Aaron Schwartzes of the world. It turns out that being a hacker just isn’t as glamorous as Sinclair made it out to be: hack into the wrong mainframe, and your life might just be over.

Not all of the ads are so ironically depressing. Some are just goofy. Looking over early computer ads, it seems like many marketers (and probably customers) had no idea what computers were actually supposed to do: computers weren’t used as props in some of the ads, they were almost used as non sequiturs. For example, for a sexy girl to skateboard upon.

Sex was just as much of a tool in vintage computer ads as it is in contemporary beer ads. There was a sexy Japanese girl in leggings and a leotard doing aerobics next to a PC, and a ’70s go-go dancer in Nancy Sinatra boots gives you a come-hither look while holding a computer modem the size of a hope chest. Sex, it appears, will always be the technique that advertisers fall back upon when all else fails.

See more at Dinosaur’s Pen here.