The proto-media center PC…

IBM PC jr family

Boingboing points at the Computer History’s collection of old sales brochures for computers, which is a treasure trove of inflated language and not quite so inflated computers. I will refrain from citing the nerdier items such as brochures for mainframes and acoustic modems, but the "Going to work with your Osborne" (at 24 pounds/11kg) brochure and especially the sales brochure for the (even at the time) extremely underwhelming IBM PCjr are great fun.

The PCjr was IBM’s foray into home computing, but in order not to threaten their profitable line of business PCs the PCjr was crippled so severly that it flopped, big time. (Part of the reason may be that it had the worst "chiclet" keyboard in computing history, though, as the picture shows, it was wireless.).

IBM was fairly early into home computing, but hadn’t yet cottoned on to the real market for home computers, which at that time (in the absense of online peer interaction) was based on guilt: Buy your child a computer, or he/she will do poorly in school and go downward from there. Note the picture, which bears an uncanny resemblance to certain home-oriented products I have been thinking about getting for my own living room lately. I know things have moved on, but can’t help getting that uncomfortable feeling that in about 20 years time I will look at these things and wonder what the hell I was thinking….

But it takes a special kind of thinking to produce something as bad as the PCjr. According to a friend of mine, the then-current explanation inside IBM was that the sales force (ever the upper hand at IBM) had boasted "We can sell anything!", whereupon the product development guys handed over the PCjr, saying "Oh yeah? Try this!"