Daily Archives: September 22, 2013

New for 1997

I remember being very envious of Gateway computers.  In the mid to late 1990’s, they had some really great marketing going on.  It was a time when computers were just barely starting to become a fixture in the home.  As they did, more and more people people started dialing up and getting online.

They hit a home run with their branding.  I remember they would always tout in their commercials, that their computers were built in South Dakota.  They used holstein cows in a lot of their early commercials and you really got the impression that Gateway computers were built in some barn on a farm in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota.  Every computer shipped in a cow patterned box, so it was just a fun package to get.  And they really pushed selling their computers as a complete package.  All together they did a great job of making the PC seem like something that was friendly, fun, and they removed all the complications of is X compatible with Y.  So for a lot of families, their first computer was a Gateway.

gateway cow box

We had several old PC’s by the time Gateway rolled around.  At this time, we had an AMD K6 machine that ran at 200mhz I believe.  Windows 95, 26.6kbps modem.  It wasn’t bad for the time.  But the stability was less than reliable.  This is from the time when you’d turn off your computer, and you’d get a message after Windows shut down that said, “It is now safe to turn off your computer”.  Then you’d manually push a button to turn it off. GASP!

But back to Gateway.  I’ve been trying to think about why in retrospect, I looked up to Gateway so much.  We never owned one, and I only knew one other person that did.  And it wasn’t anything remarkable, it did most of the same stuff any old PC would do.  I think it was just because the marketing was so prevelant.   Not only were there TV commercials, but they would send out actual paper catalogs in the mail which were chock full of desktops, laptops, printers and all the cool stuff that would be blazing fast.  And in that time there was always a lot of waiting around when it came to using your computer, so faster was always a huge deal.  Now a days you can get away with using even 10 year old hardware and plop around on the internet.  But using a 1987 PC in 1997 was pretty much impossible for any modern task.

Gateway Computer

I remember thumbing through those old Gateway catalogs.  I really wanted a laptop and I’d look at a modest, but not barebones model that would be priced at something like $2,500.  If I could just make $20 a week, I’d think to myself, it would only take (then I did the math)… 125 weeks.  To think that it would take me two and a half years to save up for something like that made them feel completely unattainable, and maybe that’s where my reverence for the brand comes from.

It’s fun to think back on this time.  Computers were booming.  Everyone was jumping online and into a world that was completely uncharted.