by Ilya Pestov

How PCs were advertised in the 1990s


Today, hard drives are boring. You can buy a terabyte hard drive for $50. But back in the day, people would get excited when they saw ads announcing even 10 megabyte hard drives.

To prove it, I’ve unearthed some retro computer ads that give you a first-hand look into how computers were advertised before the modern age of smartphones, ultrabooks, and smart watches.

You’ll never be able to look at your gadgets the same way again.

The company NeXT was founded by Steve Jobs in 1985. The NeXTcube workstation was cast into a cube-like shape, with each side being 12 inches. Its black body gave it a special style and focus on the serious challenges, both in business and in science. It worked under the control of NeXTSTEP operating system. It was manufactured and sold from 1990 to 1993.


In 1990, the PowerMax 386/33 from Northgate Computer was available for sale. You could order one by mail, or even by email.


In 1991, Microsoft released Windows 3.0. It was through this release that the company made the IBM-compatible PC a true competitor to the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga, through its graphical operating system. Windows 3.x was a system add-on to DOS. Here’s a TV commercial for Windows 3.0 or Windows 3.1 from 1991:

“It simply works better” by Compaq in 1990:

A CSS Laboratories Server — 486 with Zero Wait in 1990:


An article about interactive tablets for the computer:


Pocket network adapters from Xircom:


An advertisement for Lotus’s Magellan 2.0 software, which let you search through documents:


A Logitech trackball ad from 1990. Don’t feel like you’re an alien.


For $50, Microsoft offered an upgrade to your personal computer enabling you to to access to all the memory in your PC.


A Dell advertisement from 1992:


Circuit City advertising the opportunity to buy a computer on a credit card:

The Macintosh Performa was on sale from 1992 to 1997:


A great advertisement for the Commodore 128. But by 1994, the company had declared bankruptcy. You can find more ads on Commodore’s website.


At IBM, outstanding people don’t stand still.


An IBM PS/1 advertisement featuring Theodore Roosevelt from 1993:


Radio Shack advertises the 486 PC in 1993:


In 1996, the PC industry had another great year, with unit shipments reaching 59.7 million, up 24.7 percent from last year, according to Dataquest. Compaq continued its steady ascent as the market leader worldwide, increasing shipments by more than 1.2 million compared with 1994. IBM shipped 4.8 million units and regained the second spot from Apple.


An Apple Power Macintosh in 1997:


An Apple Apple Power Mac G4 Computer in 1999:


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