We’re obsessed with these 19 amazing retro computer ads from the late 1980s
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Ultima IV, 1986
Though Gary Gygax may have created the role-playing genre with Dungeons & Dragons, Richard Garriott’s Ultima series (1981-1999) is considered the forefather of RPG computer games.
Maxell Floppy Disks, 1986
Throughout the late 1980s, data storage company Maxell ran a number of ads for its 5 1/4-inch floppy disks featuring a golden C-3PO-like android.
In this particular ad, he’s running a business meeting…
Maxell Floppy Disks, 1987
In this ad from 1987, Maxell’s golden bot is being served a floppy disk meal…
Maxell Floppy Disks, 1989
By the end of the decade, Maxell’s robots had moved on to … giving TED talks?
A-Star II Computer, 1986
IBM was a dominant computer company in the 1980s, but its expensive machines faced increasing competition as the decade went on.
Not all those competitors would be successful, however: Wells American positioned its made-in-America computers as IBM killers, but Wells American itself would file for bankruptcy in 1991.
Samsung Electron Devices, 1986
Samsung began to rise as a major IBM competitor in the late 1980s, as well. This jingoistic ad from 1986 positioned the South Korean electronics manufacturer as a company with an increasingly American presence.
Puma RS Computer Shoe, 1986
In 1985, Puma introduced a computerized running shoe that tracked distance, speed and calories burned when connected to your Apple IIe, IBM or Commodore computer.
The bulky, $100-plus shoes were hardly a commercial success.
Gateway 2000, 1987
Founded in 1985, Gateway (then called Gateway 2000) rose to prominence as one of the first direct-to-consumer PC companies. The company always played up its Midwest roots, introducing its iconic cow-print boxes in 1991.
Gateway was ultimately acquired by Acer in 2007.
Dell Computer, 1988
The other major direct-by-mail PC company in the mid 1980s was, of course, Dell. It was started by 19-year-old Michael Dell in his dorm room in 1984, just four years before this ad ran in Byte magazine.
Online service provider Compuserve continued to grow through the late 1980s with its offering of stock quotes, news and — yes, even online gaming.
In 1987, Compuserve had roughly 380,000 subscribers.
Toshiba T3200 Laptop, 1988
By the late 1980s, Toshiba was making big waves in the laptop market. Its T3200, seen here, was designed to be not just portable, but a full 286 desktop replacement machine.
Compaq Computers, 1989
Of course, no discussion of late 1980s computers would be complete without a mention of Compaq. By 1987, the company was selling $1 billion worth of computers.
Irwin Tape Backup, 1986
While 5 1/4-inch floppies were enough for lightweight file storage in the mid 1980s, larger backups required magnetic tape storage. That didn’t come cheap, though: This Irwin 40MB tape backup sold for “less than $1,000.”
Microsoft Excel, 1987
Introduced for the Mac in 1985 and for the PC in 1987, Microsoft’s Excel found much success as the first spreadsheet program with an easy-to-use graphical user interface.
Lotus Manuscript, 1987
In the late 1980s, Microsoft faced heavy competition from Lotus, who made the DOS based word processor Lotus Manuscript touted here, as well as the popular Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program.
Lotus failed to keep up with the move to Microsoft Windows in the early 1990s, ultimately dooming the company.
Citizen Tribute 224, 1987
The home printer market really began to take off in the late 1980s. This particular dot matrix printer was made by Japanese watch company Citizen.
HP DeskJet Printer, 1988
Though HP made its first inkjet printers in 1984, it wasn’t until 1988 that the company introduced its first-ever DeskJet branded model.
The technology was revolutionary, delivering 300 dpi quality. But it was also expensive ($1,000) and slow (2 PPM).
Logitech HiRez Mouse, 1988
Throughout the late 1980s, computers began to increasingly embrace graphical user interfaces, creating a growing market for computer mice. This particular Logitech HiRez mouse offered three buttons, a dirt-resistant roller ball and 320 dpi sensitivity for $99 MSRP.
Logitech ScanMan, 1989
If you wanted to scan a picture into your computer in the late 1980s, chances are you would have used a device like the handheld Logitech ScanMan ($309). The monochrome device is rudimentary by today’s standards, but being able to scan your own photos was a huge deal in 1989, even in grayscale.