“Computer Shopper”, says Alexis C. Madrigal of The Atlantic, “was like Vogue or Vanity Fair for nerds: You read it for the ads.” Which is what 99% of the magazine was. It was a massive tome filled with ads of companies selling their computers and peripherals, along with some articles on this or that tech stuff that I didn’t read back then and won’t be reading now.
But let me backtrack for just a moment.
A lot of my time spent for this blog thus far has been looking through old magazines from my youth. Often I’ll notice things now I didn’t give a second thought about then, or see things in a totally different way. As a kid I loved flipping through computer catalogs (and CS was essentially that), wishing I had this or that shiny new system. Looking at this November, 1989 issue of CS again (that I held onto for some inexplicable reason other than to write this post twenty-six years later) has revealed to me something I’m sure I didn’t notice before, or had since put out of my memory.
They’re bad. Like, really bad.
It’s the puns! There are just so many of them! It’s like a boy pun got together with a girl pun and had a million pun babies, quickly infesting the hapless ads therein. I don’t remember if I ever bought other issues of CS or not, but I’m guessing they were similar.
These are not them.
So let’s look at some bad puns in old computer ads, shall we?
Get ready, kids. There are a lot of bad jokes ahead.
“OUR EPSON PRINTER PRICES ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD!!”
Let’s kick off this list with one of the most basic, overused advertising puns ever, the “out of this world” pun.
This ad makes me want to reach for the stars… grab one, and shove that flaming ball of gas into my eyes.
“THIS IS NO SNOW JOB”
Snow job? This ad needs a whack job.
“IMMEDIATE CACHE BENEFITS.”
Robert “Dinero” would love this ad.
(They just get better and better, don’t they?)
“Under-Ware Electronics: Hitting prices below the belt for over 15 years”
“We Trump the Competition with On-site Service!”
I’m not sure why, but this one really annoys me. Each ad here is trampling over the limits of good-punism of course, but here, if you covered up everything but the headline and the card, you’d have no idea they’re talking about computer service. It more suggests service for your new GE-branded stack of playing cards. The “snow job” ad fails in the same way, but it doesn’t irritate me as much. Probably because the snow man looks happy even though he has no reason to be there, the poor ignorant fool.
Either way, I think this ad is a real ace in the hole… the craphole, that is.
“Do we have the best selection of Computer Books and at great Discount Prices? You bet your sweet ASCII we do!”
I could never buy something from Mr. Computer Books. He’s way too cheeky for me.
“One Small Step Toward Computer Satisfaction One Giant Leap For Computer Performance”
I want to take one giant leap… off of a short pier. (Mixing puns with cliches. I feel like I’ve made it as a writer now.)
“IT DESERVES A CITATION.”
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a bit of a grammar and spelling nazi (so if anyone notices any mistakes I make, let me know so I can correct them—seriously, I can take it!).
But something else that irks me a little is language usage that isn’t necessarily incorrect, but just sounds weird. Like the sign here:
I suppose “SPEED” isn’t technically incorrect, depending on how you mean it (“This isn’t just a computer; it’s a SPEED computer!”). And the first sentence in the body copy:
“Even though our 386-25 is built around a true Intel 25Mhz CPU, not a revved up slower chip, it’s still frequently cited for speed.”
First of all, speeding, please and thank you, although again I guess it’s not technically wrong. Second of all, this sentence makes no sense at all! Think about it. Wouldn’t this overly-zippy computer be given a speeding ticket because it’s “a true Intel 25Mhz CPU” (i.e. implying this is a fast chip for the time, with emphasis added), not in spite of it (implied by the “even though”)? Or maybe there’s something about “revved up slower chips” I don’t know that makes them faster than something that’s a slightly faster clock speed. I don’t know. These are the things that keep me up at night.
Officers, arrest this speed computer ad. Not for being fast, but for being dumb.
That’s all I got for this one. :/
All these Swan Technologies ads
“Our Swans make waves.”
“The Swan 386SX. The wave of the future…”
But wait! There’s more! Check out the subheadings…
“Swan will make you wave goodbye to other computer dealers.”
“Swan Peripherals add unwavering value and performance to your PC.”
Jackpot! Word and visual puns! Clearly it’s our lucky day. But Swan isn’t done yet, oh no! Photography aside (which I really don’t mind and actually kind of like), there’s this wonderful illustration of a PC riding a wave.
I just can’t think of it in terms of a pun; all I can think of is a tsunami is heading to shore carrying a giant computer as people on the beach look on in terror. Probably not what Swan was going for.
Oh my! What’s this?! I do believe we have another Swan Technologies ad!
“Make a mating call. 1-800-468-9044″
From the body copy:
“Call our toll-free number and our expert staff will mate you with hardware, software, or peripherals to fit your unique needs.”
“Mate” you? Ew. You know what’s even more ew? When you add unnecessary quotation marks.
“Call our toll-free number and our expert staff will mate you with hardware, software, or peripherals to fit your ‘unique needs’.”
Extra ew, amiright? (Yes, this is how I have fun.)
But according to them, “when you shop Swan, you’ll get the benefits of a strong, supportive relationship”, so at least it sounds like they want more than a one-night stand.
But you know what, Swan Technologies? I think I’m going to have to wave goodbye to this relationship. It’s not you; it’s this town! I want to make waves in the big city! I want to swan dive right into things, make a name for myself. You know, make a big splash! I promise I’ll call you. (I won’t call you.)
And now, my personal favorite…
“All systems are tested by the Rose Hill Lab.”
No, not there. First paragraph, second page:
This poor, well-dressed dog must have eaten some trash the neighbors threw over the fence, because he clearly suffers from a vicious case of pun diarrhea.
What was/were the copywriter(s) thinking with this one? More pun = more clever? It makes me want to take it into the back yard and put it down…
Know what else is at the end of it’s life? This post. Not like the frogs that don’t have their vocal cords. You know, the ones that can’t croak? Yeah, those.
Thank you, I’m here all night! No seriously. Where I’m typing this? I live here.