Back in the awesome 80’s the personal computer was working hard to get into people homes and each one had its own choice spokesperson. A face that John Q. Public could trust. I’m sure the board meetings at Radio Shack, Commodore and Texas Instruments had corkboards with head shots of the days biggest stars pinned all over it. But who? Who would be the faces to get their products into the home. Let’s take a look at some of the choices they made.
Radio Shack TRS-80 (1982): Isaac Asimov
Radio Shack chose the prolific science fiction writer to be their spokesperson. His name and recognizable face (with his bushy mutton chops) evoked a sense of the future. A future of science and technology. For those who knew his works, it was a no-brainer, but for those who weren’t familiar with Mr. Asimov, his somewhat “bizarre” look certainly garnered a second look at whatever he was hawking.
The Commodore Vic-20 (1982): William Shatner
Of course the Captain of the Starship Enterprise James T. Kirk, would know a thing or two about computers. That’s what Commodore was hoping for. Shatner’s swagger, machismo and good looks literally compelled people to buy a Commodore computer (plus its under $300 price point helped too).
Texas Instruments TI99/4A (1982): Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby was a trusted face. He was telling us to have a Coke and a smile and extolling the deliciousness of Jell-O pudding. So, why wouldn’t we believe him if he told us Texas Instruments home computers “…we’re the one.” It was the first domestic computer with a 16 bit processor but companies like Commodore pounded it silly forcing TI to drop prices lower and lower eventually selling each at a loss. Bill cashed his pay check before Texas Instruments announced is was getting out of the computer biz.
Radio Shack Tandy 2000 (1983): Bill Bixby
After 5 years of being Dr. David Banner on the Incredible Hulk television series, Billy Bixby was available to take the Tandy 2000 and show the world it could be used for Gamma radiation experiments. Oddly, we were expected to trust a man who’s own computer malfunctioned and cursed him with his raging alter ego the Hulk.
Spectravideo SV318 (1983): Roger Mooore
What’s a super spy without his high tech…tech? James Bond always had the best gadgets from a solex agitator to a ski pole gun, so of course he would know all about the Spectravideo computer. It’s a little know fact that Roger Moore has the daintiest little fingers, just perfect for the Spectravision’s notorious “ckicklet” keys.
Compaq Computer (1980’s): John Cleese
Humor has always worked in advertising and for the most part the computer makers of the 80’s had avoided this angle and favored intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals to push their wares. Compaq hired Monty Python funny man John Cleese to do a series of absurdest and humor packed commercials. They proved effective and gave Compaq the needed exposure to do battle with Big Blue, IBM.
The Prime Computer (1980’s): Tom Baker
Sticking with the tradition of using science fiction to sell computers, Prime Computer inc. ran four commercials starring Tom Baker and Lalla Ward of British television’s Dr. Who. The Time Lord himself would use a Prime Computer to save the universe or just calculate how long his scarf was.
Atari 800XL (1984): Alan Alda
Atari tapped Alan Alda to be the face of their XL computer line. Gone was his sarcastic MASH attitude replaced with a softer gentler Alda. One who speaks to his dog about the virtues of the Atari 800XL or aids a young girl in correcting a sexist sentence on her word processor. Eventually Alda jumped ship and joined his MASH buddies working for IBM (see below).
IBM PS/2 (1987): The frickin’ cast of MASH
Some how MASH keeps creeping back into the mix. In 1987 IBM hired basically the entire core cast of the famous TV show to peddle their growing line of computer systems. The found themselves out of war torn South Korea and into the war torn American office. Alan Alda soon there after joined his buddies for a happy reunion of sorts thanks to IBM.
Vendex HeadStart (1987): King Kong Bundy
The Vendex HeadStart computer decided to use the massive professional wrestler, King Kong Bundy, to show their computer could release the intellectual in anyone. Hmmmm are you convinced? No? Well what if you were body slammed a few times, would you be convinced then?