Sadly, in 1987 the universe of World Wrestling Federation-loving computer geeks was apparently too small to support a line of PCs for long. Sales of the Vendex sagged as badly as Bundy's man boobs, and references to the line seem to die out about 1989.Alan Alda and the Atari 800XL (1984)
These days, technology wars are usually fought over specs and features. But in the 1980s, celebrity endorsements were the weapons of choice. As evidence, check out this quote from coverage of Atari's announcement that it had hired "MASH"'s surgical cutup: "The arrangement with Alda is expected to more than match the celebrity-spokesman impact achieved by competing computer companies."
Alda's impact was of the soft variety, though. In one television commercial, he helps a young girl use Atari's word processing software to promote feminism. In another, he's lounging in a bathrobe and slippers while extolling his new best friend, the Atari XL, to the dismay of his loyal dog.
We named the earlier Atari 800 one of the greatest PCs of all time. The 800XL was reportedly Atari's best-selling PC, but the company's computer line became a casualty of the PC price war of the mid-'80s.'MASH' Cast and the IBM PS/2 (1987)
IBM didn't have Alda for this ad, so they compensated by jamming just about every other member of the 'MASH' cast into the picture.
The gang also did television commercials for the doomed IBM system, showing the characters bizarrely transported from an Army hospital in Korea to a generic American office building where they apparently all inexplicably decided to continue working together. In one, Radar bubbles excitedly about the PS/2's ability to put "256 colors on the screen at once!"
Eventually, Alda's love of Atari PCs proved fickle. He showed up in another of the 'MASH'-characters-as-cubicle-drones ads for IBM's machines.Bill Bixby and the Radio Shack Tandy 2000 (1983)
By the time Radio Shack changed from the TRS-80 computer moniker to the less "trashy" Tandy name, it had already given poor Isaac Asimov the boot in favor of TV's Bill Bixby.
Bixby had an oddly schizophrenic public image. On one hand, he was the mild-mannered, compassionate dad from "The Courtship of Eddie's Father." In "The Incredible Hulk" though, he was Dr. Bruce Banner, the man with perhaps the worst anger-management problem ever. This ad seems to be going for an "Eddie's Father" vibe, though who knows what would have happened if the Tandy had thrown up its version of the Blue Screen of Death.Sarah Purcell and the Tomy Tutor (1983)
If you don't remember Sarah Purcell (and who could blame you), you can think of her as the proto-Kathie Lee Gifford. Purcell cohosted a live morning show in Los Angeles with the ubiquitous Regis Philbin. She also worked on "Real People," a proto-reality show in which she interviewed people like Macale Merton, a 51-year-old bare-knuckles fighter who yearned to fight for the middleweight championship.
Her endorsement of the Tomy Tutor was as quixotic as Merton's campaign. Even the one Web tribute to this cross between a toy and a computer refers to it as "The Little Orphan."Bill Cosby and the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A (1982)
Jell-O, Coke, Ford automobiles--America trusted Bill Cosby's opinion on lots of other products, so why not a computer?