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Celebrity Computer Pitchmen
June 21, 2007 3:35 PM   Subscribe

William Shatner hawked Commodores. IBM tried the cast of M*A*S*H, but without Alan Alda, who played Atari. Bill Cosby was a Texas Instruments man. Compaq gave us some funny ones with John Cleese. Bill Bixby pushed Tandy with a straight face. Buzz Aldrin, The Pointer Sisters, Tommy LaSorta, and Tip O'Neil pitched the Amiga. I guess I should include George Plimpton's Intellivision spots. Apple's covered by everyone else. Who did I miss?
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (41 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
256 colors on screen? At once???

Awesome.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:45 PM on June 21, 2007


Lasorda. Show some respect!
posted by jonson at 3:51 PM on June 21, 2007


LaSorda is a homophobic jerk. (and as a baseball fan it pained me to find that out)
posted by jonmc at 3:54 PM on June 21, 2007


"We need Stevie's help with the space station."

Ironically, at that point in time, I would venture to guess that the Amiga was in many ways more powerful than anything NASA had in orbit.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:04 PM on June 21, 2007


Lee Marvin once told me his Timex Sinclair was a piece of shit compared to my original Sinclair.
posted by breezeway at 4:08 PM on June 21, 2007


For a while you had Wil Wheaton and the Video Toaster, and how culd you forget 'Charlie Chaplin' for IBM?
posted by pupdog at 4:16 PM on June 21, 2007


I used to tell people I had the computer "Bill Cosby used to sell", but nobody remembers that anymore.

The TI was a weird, weird computer. :)
posted by Malor at 4:19 PM on June 21, 2007


Gandhi used a Mac.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:37 PM on June 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


George Plimpton was great in those Intellivision spots, lending that console a bit of highbrow cachet.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:53 PM on June 21, 2007


I was always partial to Avery Brooks' IBM spots.
posted by jamuraa at 4:58 PM on June 21, 2007


Gene Simmons was part of the pitch for the Banana Jr.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:59 PM on June 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love Deep Space Nine and reckon Captain Sisko could kick Kirk's ass in a heartbeat, but holy hell is Avery Brooks scary in that IBM ad.

However, world wide web or not, I disagree with Avery; I still want me some flying cars.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:04 PM on June 21, 2007


Ironically, at that point in time, I would venture to guess that the Amiga was in many ways more powerful than anything NASA had in orbit.

Yeah, but could it do 5-way voting fault tolerance?
posted by scalefree at 5:22 PM on June 21, 2007


Ah, I found the video I was originally looking for (also with Avery Brooks), and another one with Sylvia Nassar, John Wooden, Professor Henry Lewis Gates, Penny Marshall, and Muhammad Ali
posted by jamuraa at 5:29 PM on June 21, 2007


Little Richard and Dennis Leary* also did Amiga spots, but I can't find 'em on the Tube.

* Funny thing: I was having trouble remembering Dennis Leary's name, so I googled "bill hicks comedian rip-off"... First hit!!
posted by LordSludge at 6:29 PM on June 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


The TI was a weird, weird computer. :)
posted by Malor at 7:19 PM on June 21 [+] [!]


It was. I remember, as a little kid telling my dad that if you used a modem with the TI you'd have to type "call collect". He found that absolutely hilarious.

This brings back memories of when there was a diverse set of essentially incompatible computer systems in the neighborhood. I still miss my Amiga sometimes.
posted by juiceCake at 6:37 PM on June 21, 2007


Phil Hartman going crazy for Ice Hockey on Atari.
posted by crashlanding at 6:52 PM on June 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Doctor Who (the Baker one--and Romana) for some UK brand of mainframe--clips were on a torrent i got a while ago--hysterical.
posted by amberglow at 7:36 PM on June 21, 2007


oh, it was Australian? youtube
posted by amberglow at 7:36 PM on June 21, 2007


the intellivision ads were awesome and led me to max headroom of all things, by click on the sidebar. wtf was up with max headroom?
posted by andywolf at 7:45 PM on June 21, 2007


Isaac Asimov did a series of Radio Shack magazine ads!

Sorry, I can't seem to find the particular ad where the computers are emerging from a mystical fog bank before the magic of Isaac.
posted by growli at 7:46 PM on June 21, 2007


Yeah, but could it do 5-way voting fault tolerance?

If any computer of that era could have, it would have been the Amiga. It was unbelievably powerful, literally and exactly 10 years ahead of its time. (which is about six computer generations. It was a LONG way ahead.)

This brings back memories of when there was a diverse set of essentially incompatible computer systems in the neighborhood. I still miss my Amiga sometimes.

This is one of the things that Microsoft's software monopoly has stolen from us; the sense of wild innovation and creativity. You never knew what was coming next. It was a very exciting time... multiple entirely, weirdly different ways to go about the process of computing. The definition of what a computer WAS differed from machine to machine. The Apple 2 wasn't very powerful graphically but was incredibly moddable; the Atari 8-bit models were the graphic powerhouses of their era; the Commodore 64 was the cheap, ubiquitous, and fun home machine. In the 16-bit generation, the Atari ST was the music machine, the Mac was for desktop publishing, and the Amiga was the desktop video, kickass gaming, and mega-power-user system. PCs were bland, boring, and flat didn't work very well after the transition away from DOS... from the advent of the 16-bit Windows era, through the discontinuation of Windows ME, they were unstable as hell.

Yet, somehow, they inexorably killed off almost all competition; everything's been swallowed by x86 and Windows. Even the Mac, in hardware terms, is just a PC with a facelift.

It's rather sad, really.
posted by Malor at 8:03 PM on June 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Back in the mid-80's, there was a computer company named Pr1me Computers. They were a mid-range manufacturer that competed (ultimately unsuccessfully) with DEC.

One of their ad campaigns featured Doctor Who (the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker) and Romana II (Lala Ward). I still have the one-sheet ad from that ad campaign that I obtained many, many years ago.

Oh, yes, I think K-9 was also in the campaign. IIRC, there were TV spots as well as print ads involved.
posted by dragonmage at 8:04 PM on June 21, 2007


The TI was a weird, weird computer. :)

Oh man, as a kid I caught the tail end of the TI 99/somethingorother. Never got Nintendo. This, you might say, was the bump on the head where my development crucially and tragically diverged from my classmates.

Other kids had Koopa; I had the Wumpus and his pits of slime. Other kids got Mario and his Bob-Ross happy-cloud funland; I got Parsec, where foreboding synth-femme voiceovers psych you into crashing your starship. I played a game that involved falling off a mountain while being heckled by a disembodied voice. I distinctly remember shooting at aliens that emerged from cacti, and rescuing the corpse of a king who had suffocated in an air-tight vault.

But the TI didn't just make me depressed before my time. It made me a bad person. I booted games from audiocassette, erasing and overwriting my sister's tapes with the ruthlessness of a medieval scribe. Madonna will not stand in the way of my religion, see? TIBASIC must be recorded for future generations...

Nintendo was easy, man. Just hold reset, and walk away. But the TI will scar a motherfucker.

Don't mess with Texas.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:19 PM on June 21, 2007 [5 favorites]


(And if you're wondering about my screenname, I played some mercy Nintendo at sleepovers. I was deprived. I think I wept openly when the first emulators were released.)
posted by kid ichorous at 8:21 PM on June 21, 2007


I enjoyed this post.

~ Humannaire
posted by humannaire at 8:45 PM on June 21, 2007


++
posted by rubin at 9:08 PM on June 21, 2007


As I think about it, didn't Einstein, Gershwin, and Amelia Earhart also all use Macs? And Hitchcock? And MLK? And Edison? (Gad, that was an idiotic ad campaign.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:16 PM on June 21, 2007


dragonmage, click on my link above : >
posted by amberglow at 10:21 PM on June 21, 2007


The Pointer Sisters and the Amiga?

When I worked at Compaq in the 1980s, the Pointer Sisters were at the company meeting/announcement for one of the DeskPro lines. A giant, plywood Deskpro was lowed from the rafters to the stage while dry ice smoke and disco-y lights flashed and they sang "I'm So Excited."
Clearly, the Pointer sisters were in the DOS and Amiga camps...
posted by paddbear at 2:57 AM on June 22, 2007


More (self-link) on the Tom Baker Prime Computer ads.
posted by dansdata at 5:13 AM on June 22, 2007


LaSorda is a homophobic jerk

Not to mention a collossally overrated manager. A loser on all counts.
posted by psmealey at 5:32 AM on June 22, 2007


Mr. T for Hitachi data systems. Awesome.

YouTube video
posted by tsorgie at 5:53 AM on June 22, 2007


These are GENIUS! Thank you so much!
posted by Pecinpah at 6:30 AM on June 22, 2007


Sadly, I can't find Dick Cavett's Apple III blooper reel anywhere. The one where he tells us that the Apple III can be used to work out our sexual inhibitions.
posted by bonecrusher at 6:53 AM on June 22, 2007


This is one of the things that Microsoft's software monopoly has stolen from us; the sense of wild innovation and creativity.

Not in my book. Fragmentation in the early days of an industry is standard, and then the most successful in the bunch move on and dominate. There is plenty of wild innovation and creativity in the software world, despite the presence of Microsoft or Apple or IBM, and because of them too.
posted by juiceCake at 7:49 AM on June 22, 2007


Kevin Costner pitched the Apple Lisa

And while we're on the subject, I've always been puzzled by the simplistic, rancorous dismissals of Apple's Think Different campaign as "Ghandhi used a Mac, gimme a break". The campaign simply followed Paul Rand's edict that corporate identity isn't about what, it's about who. These are the people that we at Apple are inspired by, who's values we share; the crazy ones, rule breakers, blah-blah-blah, and we see these qualities in our customers too.

It's not Ghandi used a Mac, it's Ghandi was a brilliant non-conformist underdog who overcame the odds, and if you identify with this you should be using a Mac. A pretty sensible persona for Apple to adopt at the time.

Now that Apple is a bona fide blue-chip stock, remember that this was when Apple was at death's door; they needed to relaunch the brand by remembering who they were and why the company was started in the first place. At least, that's how their corporate mythology works....
posted by Scoo at 8:39 AM on June 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ahh, the TI. I had one (really wanted the Apple II) and was also left a bitter man because of it. I remember that massive breakout box you had to get if you wanted to expand the damn thing. The sad thing is, I couldn't afford, what with being 12 or whatever, the cable for the tape deck so I just kept all my programs written down in a notebook and would type them in in TIBASIC whenever I wanted to use them.

Saving is for the weak.

I have two Amiga 1200's sitting in a box that I used for a video installation.
posted by misterpatrick at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2007


B.B King did an Amiga ad, too.
posted by rfs at 11:30 AM on June 22, 2007


misterpatrick: you're talking about the Peripheral Expansion Unit, if I remember the name correctly. (We called it the Peripheral Expansion Box locally, but I don't know if Box was in the real name or not.) They went on sale late in the TI's life for three or four hundred dollars, and we grabbed one, with 48k of RAM and a mighty 93K floppy disk. That was cooool. :)

I used to use tapes a lot... we had a very good tape recorder with three control plugs... stereo in, stereo out, and start/stop motor. I remember being proud at my high-quality setup. It worked very well... though of course it was terribly slow.

Tunnels of Doom was a fun program... it ran in a cartridge, but you loaded the program that made it go from tape. The cartridge had a bunch of extra RAM for the program. You'd load it up, play it for however long, and then dump the entire current program back out to tape again to save your progress.

I *think* it would also dump to the disk drive, which was a LOT faster. At 93k, TI drives didn't hold very much (Apple drives were 140k, and I think C64 drives were 160), but they were very fast.
posted by Malor at 4:46 PM on June 22, 2007


The TI was a weird, weird computer. :)
posted by Malor at 7:19 PM on June 21


It was weird in more ways than you realize. The processor used some weird type of transistor (I forgot the name). Not the CMOS or Bipolar type that almost every other processor uses. As a result it was inherently radiation hard (not affected by radiation). Making a rad-hard IC is usually extremely difficult and expensive.

As a result, people in the aerospace business were very interested in this processor. I have no doubt it has flown in space on some project or another. I was working for a company that was considering it, but TI was cancelling the whole project so we dropped it.
posted by eye of newt at 11:26 PM on June 22, 2007


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