We’ve heard it said that technology moves, and improves, at a blistering pace. We, of course, agree with this statement, being in the fast-paced technology world ourselves. But for many, it can be hard to gain a sense of how far we’ve come in such a short period of time. That’s where the Information Age comes in! Thanks to the advent of YouTube, classic commercials from the 1980′s are easily accessible online and display the astonishing advancements that a few short decades can produce. Below are 11 of our favorite retro commercials, specially selected for their impressive graphics, memorable messages, crazy characters, and painfully outdated products.
Most adults over the age of 18 can remember the thrill of playing the classic Nintendo system. It was Nintendo that gave birth to some of the biggest titles in video game history, including Mario, Yoshi, Kirby, and more. This commercial from the ’80s shows the original system complete with the legendary Rob the Robot and Zapper gun.
The massive Centel was one of the first consumer cell phones on the market. This particular commercial, looking something like a dream sequence from Saved By The Bell, shows the main character plowing through off-road territory while comfortably talking on his Centel, clearly showcasing its versatility. Call us cynical, but it’s doubtful that the phone received full service and held a call while dashing through rivers and woods. If it did, then perhaps today’s smartphones can learn a thing or two by going back 30 years.
The Commodore VIC-20 is considered by many to be the earliest affordable color computer. Complete with an 8-bit chip and gaming joystick, this machine was the first home computer to sell over 1 million units. Watch and rejoice as William Shatner, the classic TV spokesman, beams in to inform you of the great features available on the “wonder computer of the 1980′s.”
When watching this early Windows commercial, it can be hard to believe that the man throwing money and screaming at the camera about clocks and notepads would one day become the Chief Executive Officer of the entire company. Strange as it may seem, the unctuous salesman seen above is none other than Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft since 2000. Ballmer, who has a history of being extraordinarily energetic and unpredictable, has even been known to jump around howling and cheering at company conferences. We can probably all agree that his pride is best exhibited behind Microsoft’s closed doors.
This 1980s Macintosh commercial stands as a testament to how far Apple has come in just a few short decades. The company that once advertised the ability to align text and change fonts has advanced to give the world some of its top selling products, including the iPod, iPhone, MacBook, and iPad. Apple has always known that its strength lay in its graphical ability (which has traditionally surpassed Windows) and even this commercial, despite its hilarity, clearly reflects this selling point.
The Atari video game system was the first gaming system commercially available for home purchase. What the console’s traditionally simplistic games lacked in graphic quality, they made up for in addictive fun. The Atari was also the first system to bring the arcade into the living room with games such as Brick Breaker, Asteroids and Missile Command. These are all classics of gaming history that continue to be duplicated, collected and spun-off today.
The promise and ability to see a photograph instantly, with little to no development time and cost, was a huge selling point that made Polaroid an immensely popular camera and accessory. In fact, those who recall growing up during the Polaroid craze have referred to it as the iPod of their generation; it was a piece of technology that no one left home without, especially if they were on their way to a social gathering. But the innovation that Polaroid brought to the market would, in some ways, cause its very decline. Due in large part to the explosion and technological innovations in digital photography, Polaroid has since stopped selling the iconic instant film seen advertised in the above 1980′s commercial.
Perhaps the most memorable Nike commercial from the 1980′s was the popular Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley spot. Having defeated other formidable opponents including Mothra and Mechagodzilla, the monstrous fighting lizard must square off with yet another towering foe: Sir Charles Barkley. Dubbed “the battle of the century” by the voiceover, the takeaway from the spot is that Barkley has the upper hand in his fight against the monster, not necessarily because of skill, but because he is equipped with a pair of brand new Nike sneakers. Later commercials featured the actual battle as it happened, which resulted in Barkley quickly dunking on the big beast.
This ’80s edition Canon copier was the first of its kind to print two colors at the same time. This early key selling point helped Canon distinguish itself from competitors and catapult itself into the quality, cutting-edge brand they are today. This original TV spot features a geeky boss repeatedly requesting new color copies in order to give his secretary the chance to show off Canon’s brand new dual color capability.
Those who want to see truly retro technology need to look no further than 1980′s RadioShack commercials. Each one features a host of horribly outdated hand-held video games and long gone gadgets of yesteryear. This particular commercial shows a family at Christmas time opening a collection of the hottest electronics on the market, all of them purchased by the mother at the local RadioShack.
Before the lovable Energizer Bunny, Energizer commercials featured an obnoxious and overbearing spokesperson named Jacko Jackson. Jackson was an Australian pro football player who acted in several Energizer commercials, usually lifting enormous batteries over his head and bellowing about how long they last. This particular 1988 commercial features Jackson on a train reminding commuters of the importance of choosing Energizer when they need to make sure the battery lasts.
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