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Five more television personalities who have pitched computers - VIDEOS

by Richard Keller, posted Aug 22nd 2008 2:01PM

William Shatner -- Starship Captain, Police Officer, Computer SalesmanLadies and gentlemen, I would now like to take you into the world of how a writer of TV-related items thinks during his day. After reading about Jerry Seinfeld's new role as pitchman for Microsoft's Vista operating system my mind didn't turn to thoughts of how Jerry has become a corporate shill and will do anything to get his mug back on television. Nor did I think about the many pluses and minuses of Microsoft Vista. No, what I reflected upon was the fact that Jerry is not the first high-profile television personality to promote a computer.

That, in turn, brought me to YouTube and its glorious library of video history, from which I was able to cull a few examples of those other big-time TV folks who expounded on the glories of those new-fangled personal computers. New-fangled, you question? Yes, because these examples all come from the 1980s: the dawn of the personal computer era. Here are five examples of our favorite stars promoting the dickens out of their Commodore, Atari, and Texas Instruments computers.

William Shatner for Commodore (circa 1981): Who else would you get to promote your new personal computer than the Captain of the Starship Enterprise? Of course, with his collared shirt and pullover sweater (the favorite uniform of computer pitch-people -- see Alan Alda below), he didn't look much like his swaggering, womanizing Star Trek persona. But, he really didn't need to since the Commodore VIC-20 sold itself with "wonder arcade game" GORF and a personal version of Space Invaders. In color, no less!

Bill Cosby for Texas Instruments (early 80s): When you think of the Cos and television commercials the first thing that probably comes to mind is Jell-O Pudding. Yet, before he rejuvenated the sitcom genre with The Cosby Show, Mr. Cosby was praising the virtues of the Texas Instruments 99/4A personal computer -- the one with all of the memory (16K RAM, 26K ROM). During this commercial he also extolled the glorious $100 rebate one would receive when purchasing this computer, to the point that it was almost a hypnotic mantra.

Alan Alda for Atari (1984): Typewriter? What's a typewriter? According to Alan Alda, the word processing software package that you could buy for the Atari XL (you mean it wasn't bundled? Shocking!) would make the typewriter obsolete in a few short years. That meant your lifetime supply of White-Out would have to be thrown in the garbage. By the way, notice the standard computer pitchman uniform of the 80's that Alda wears. I'm guessing that it gave the viewer a sense of comfort.

John Cleese for Compaq (mid 80s): I guess when your new computer, featuring the "powerful" 386 processor (gosh, what did we know back then?), costs a few thousand dollars to purchase you can afford someone like John Cleese to promote the product on television. Out of all of the ads mentioned here this is one that I actually remember as well as one that is genuinely funny (as opposed to being funny in an archaic sort of way).

Cast of M*A*S*H for IBM (1987-88): You're IBM, the fading giant of the computer industry in the last half of the 20th century, and you want to promote your brand new personal computer -- the PS/2. You want to highlight the advances in your operating system as well as the designs for your new portable storage system (3.5 floppy disk) and connections for peripherals which would eventually become the system standard.

So, who do you get to promote your product on television? Why, former cast members from M*A*S*H, of course. Huh? Promoting the future with personalities who starred in a show that took place in the early 1950s? Well, their previous spokesperson was someone who portrayed Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character, so it wasn't too much of a surprise. Needless to say, neither the advertising campaign nor the PS/2 lasted too long.

(Various technical specs and model numbers provided by PC World)

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How about Doctor Who? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGlMTMV_CJo

August 23 2008 at 12:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm surprised Alda was the spokesman for both Atari and IBM (albeit 3 years apart) without one of them crying 'conflict of interest' -

August 22 2008 at 9:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SB Dude

You forgot Dick Cavett (sp) for Apple ][.

He was in a few for Apple including one of the best commercials ever made with the tag line, "...Oh...I see".

August 22 2008 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So it is a stretch to call him a TV personality, but King Kong Bundy was the spokesman for some PC. Can't remember the name though. I used to have a picture of him with me at a computer trade show.

August 22 2008 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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