The State of Computing 1993

Time Capsule: Personal Computing, 1993 Style

The first thing one must know about computers of the 1990s were that they had two primary attributes — they were boxy and gray. Oh, and they were also super expensive. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to revisit those heady, pre-internet days when only the luckiest (or the ones with a ton of disposable income) had their own PC. So let’s head back three decades and do just that, through the magic of preserved photos and vintage advertising.

I haven’t been in college for many years. Do they still have computer labs? I remember the thrill of sending my first non-America Online email with one in 19…well, that’s not important. Well even if they do, I’d be shocked to find any dot matrix printers there.

No, that’s not a camera at the bottom of this computer. That’s what us old folks remember as a track ball. It came in handy when navigating around the whopping screens on laptops of the day. According to this site, the Siemens Nixdorf PCD-4NL was positioned as a compact subnotebook. It was offered with a VGA color or grayscale display; the dimensions were 36 (with color display 39) × 269 × 199 mm with a weight of just over 2 kg. An external floppy disk drive was available as an accessory.

1993 graphic on how modems work, from BYTE Magazine

I don’t really have any commentary on this other than to say that I love a good modem infographic.

And now a word from the Tandy Sensation!

Amstrad NC150 Notepad Computer

I certainly don’t want to forget about my European friends, so here’s a neat item from ’93. This is the Amstrad NC150 Notepad Computer. Amstrad was a British electronics company (1968-2010) and was a big player in the UK PC market during the late 1980s. The NC150 was an intermediate version of the NC100 and was only sold in Italy and France. Its main selling point was ease of use and simplicity, thus the “User Friendly” label at the top of the unit.

1993 Prodigy promo image

Before they were eclipsed by America Online, Prodigy was the biggest player in America’s online service provider space. And here’s a cool piece of trivia for you — the company was founded as a joint venture (Trintex) in 1984 by CBS, IBM, and… you guessed it, Sears, Roebuck and Company. Man, was there anything Sears wasn’t involved in back in the day?

Man, I can just hear that keyboard clicking in my head now.

Prodigy changed ownership hands in 1996, went public in 1999, and was essentially subsumed by SBC Communications — formerly Southwestern Bell — in 2001.

1993 Apple Newton magazine ad

I certainly don’t want to leave my non-PC friends out of this roundup. So let’s take a moment to remember the ill-fated Apple Newton, which lasted not quite five years. Perhaps Newton’s most lasting legacy — other than being the butt of a great Simpsons joke — is introducing the term Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) into the popular lexicon. Alas, the Palm Pilot ate Newton’s lunch and relegated the latter to a technological footnote.

Mosaic web browser 1993

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what the internet was like for most people in 1993. In a word, rudimentary. What you’re looking at here is one of the first browsers of note, Mosaic. Version 1.0 of Mosaic was released in April 1993 and introduced such features as icons, bookmarks, and pictures. Fancy!

1993 ZyXEL modem magazine ad

And speaking of the internet, let’s wrap this up by remembering the days when you had a choice to make — either you could use your home telephone or the internet, but not both. That’s because for most home computer users, the humble dial-up modem was their only way to access the web. A typical modem ran for anywhere from $200-500 in 1993 bucks, or from $400-1,000 in 2023 value. I can’t speak for you but I know those blazing fast speeds were worth every penny.

Catalog Goodness Banner

Catalog Goodness #3: Late ’70s Exercise Equipment

I know that making fun of 1970s fashion is an easy thing to do, and I certainly enjoy a good bell-bottom or earth tone joke as much as the next guy. But one thing that gets overlooked in ’70s jokes is how primitive the home exercise equipment of that time looks compared to now.

To illustrate, here are three pages from the Fall 1977 Sears catalog that showcase home workout equipment made up of approximately 86.3% pipes and belts. Let’s get physical!

Late '70s Exercise Equipment from the Fall 1977 Sears catalog

Triple Action Progress-A-Cyzer. Dig it.

Late '70s Exercise Equipment from the Fall 1977 Sears catalog

OK, that thing on the bottom is literally just a board with some rods attached.

Late '70s Exercise Equipment from the Fall 1977 Sears catalog

I’m pretty sure half of this stuff is banned by the Geneva Convention.

Catalog Goodness Banner

Catalog Goodness #2: Fall 1958 Halloween Costumes

In Sears Catalog Goodness I pull one page from a vintage Sears catalog to highlight neat, interesting, or just plain funny images and products sold by one of America’s greatest retailers once upon a time.

You knew I couldn’t go the whole Halloween season without sharing some vintage costumes from Sears, right? Well I’m not about to disappoint you on that front, so here is a page from the Fall 1958 catalog featuring the biggest heroes and stars of the day — Zorro, Superman, Lassie, Woody Woodpecker, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Bugs Bunny, and “Pop-Eye the Sailor Man.”

Sears Halloween costumes, 1958

The name characters on this page are great, of course, but my eye is drawn toward the costume that probably dates this assortment more than any other — Satellite Joe, the “man of tomorrow.” If that doesn’t scream Space Age I don’t know what does. Let’s get a closer look at him.

Sears Halloween costume 1958

Good ol’ Satellite Joe!

Man, what I wouldn’t give to see a color photo of that costume in real life.

Catalog Goodness Banner

Catalog Goodness #1: Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Cowboy & Cowgirl Outfits, 1957

In Sears Catalog Goodness I pull one page from a vintage Sears catalog to highlight neat, interesting, or just plain funny images and products sold by one of America’s greatest retailers once upon a time.

From the 1957 Sears Christmas catalog we have what look like Halloween costumes but are absolutely not.

Sears Catalog Goodness #1: Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Cowboy & Cowgirl Outfits, 1957

If you were a kid in the 1950s then I don’t have to tell you how large the whole Western genre loomed in American pop culture. In particular, two of its biggest stars were Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, whose career began in the 1930s and spanned decades.

Given that, it was not at all strange for boys and girls to dress like cowboys and cowgirls just because. It didn’t even need to be Halloween. I suppose the closest thing we have to that now is when little girls dress like Disney princesses.

People found this post by searching for:

    "https://www grayflannelsuit net/blog/sears-catalog-goodness-1-roy-rogersdale-evans-cowboy-cowgirl-outfits-1957"
Kodachrome Memories series banner

Kodachrome Memories #3: Sears Parking Lot, 1940s

Some of the best old Kodachrome slides you can come across are of parking lots. They give you the chance to see a nice cross-section of cars, sure, but they also offer a hint as to the economic condition of the area. A bunch of rusted old junkers paints a very different picture than a lot full of shiny, newer models.

Vintage Kodachrome slide: Sears Parking Lot, 1940s

This is a great selection of pre and post-war models, including at least two Woodie station wagons. And as an even bigger bonus, you can see a Sears storefront, from a time when they reigned as one of the great retail operations in America.

Good times, my friends, good times.

If anyone can identify any of the cars in this picture, please leave a comment.

Boston Patriots at Houston Oilers — December 18, 1960 Jeppesen Stadium

Site Updates O’Plenty! (Sears Catalogs, AFL Covers)

These are exciting times at The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, my friends. In addition to a great new project in the works (hint: it involves old postcards), the updates to the main site have been coming fast and furious.

1958 Sears catalog page (saddle shoes)

I uploaded a bunch of new scans to my classic Sears catalog area, for the 1958 Spring/Summer edition. And if you love vintage saddles shoes and children’s wear, then you will love these scans. New stuff starts on this page.

Elsewhere, I’ve added a bunch of new game programs in my American Football League cover gallery, as well as added some higher-res versions of existing ones. There are too many for me to list here, but I can share a few of the cooler ones with you here.

New York Jets at New York Giants — August 17, 1969

This is from the very first matchup between the New York Jets and New York Giants. It was a charity preseason game played in front of 70,000 people at the Yale Bowl. The Super Bowl champion Jets had a little something to prove that day, and prove it they did. They creamed their older NFL brother 37-14. Joe Namath threw three TD passes and Mike Battle returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown.

Boston Patriots at Houston Oilers — December 18, 1960 Jeppesen Stadium

Well what’s not to love about this cover? It’s from the 1960 AFL regular season finale between the visiting Boston Patriots and home Houston Oilers. The Oilers and Dallas Texans home game programs from the league’s first few seasons are all outstanding.

1962 Houston Oilers Pocket Schedule

Speaking of neat old Oilers images, how does this 1962 pocket schedule strike you? Yeah, I love it too.

Sears 1969 Fall/Winter Catalog - Baby Car Seat Travel Platform

Is This the Least Safe Baby Car Seat Ever? (1969 Sears Catalog)

So I’m bopping along, looking through 40-year-old Sears catalogs, as I am wont to do, when something catches my eye. No, not hideous fashion or vintage toys, although I certainly find plenty of that. I’m talking about a something altogether different.

Tucked away on page 543 of the 1969 Fall/Winter catalog is an item that you might miss if you focused on the rather, um, interesting vintage baby car seats. See if you can find what I’m think of on this “Travel Time” page…

Sears 1969 Fall/Winter Catalog - Baby Car Seat Travel Platform

Did you see it? Nope, not the car seats. It’s item #6, listed as the “Steel Travel Platform,” and it is a lovely relic from the golden age of Mid-Century Baby Travel.

Read More

People found this post by searching for:

    "vintage child car seats", "IsThistheLeastSafeBabyCarSeatEver?(1969SearsCatalog)|grayflannelsuit net", "History baby carseat"

Football Friday — Vintage NFL Products from the Sears Catalog, Part 1

And it’s back to the Sears catalog I go, this time to bring you a host of vintage NFL merchandise from the past. Let’s take a look!

National Football League (NFL) sheets, Sears 1973 spring catalog

I don’t know if I had this bedding set (from 1973) exactly, but I had one very much like it. I had matching curtains too. Man do I miss them. Dig that funky New York Jets wordmark!

National Football League (NFL) sheets, Sears 1975 fall catalog

National Football League (NFL) sheets, Sears 1975 fall catalog

Both of these images are from the Fall 1975 catalog. My eye is immediately drawn to the old Los Angeles Rams and Houston Oilers logos.

Read More

Racist "Negro Makeup Outfit" - Fall 1912 Sears Catalog

Here’s a Pair of Bizarre, Racist Catalog Pages from Old Sears Catalogs

I wasn’t planning on rolling out any of my Halloween-related posts until October, but this was so bizarre I just had to share it now. In searching old Sears catalogs for Halloween costumes — as is my wont — I came across these insane items. Let me just present them, and then we can chat. The first is a “Negro Makeup Outfit” from the Fall 1912 catalog:

Racist "Negro Makeup Outfit" - Fall 1912 Sears Catalog

And up next is a group of costumes from the Fall 1920 catalog. It has classic Negro masks like Sporty Mose (sorry, collar and tie not included), Old Uncle Joe, and Aunt Dinah (a Negress outfit not complete without this mask!). Oh, and if you really want to go hog wild you can get one of the full body suits — there’s the Ridiculous Yellow Kid, the Japanese Lady, and the Negro Minstrel Suit (suitable for hometown shows, no less).

Racist "Negro Makeup Outfit" - Fall 1920 Sears Catalog

There you go then. I’ll say one thing for old fashioned racism — there was no hiding or covering up. Dressing up as a “Ridiculous Yellow Kid” or a “Negress” was perfectly acceptable in the 1910s and 1920s, and that’s that. I’m not going to get all preachy here, because this stuff is a century old and the people behind it are dead.

I simply find it fascinating that this stuff was not only sold in a major retailer outfit’s national catalog, it probably sold well. I can only imagine the awkward meetings at Sears when they decided to drop these costumes (which were gone by the mid ’20s). I would wager that at least one person in that room saw absolutely nothing wrong with these costumes and argued that it was silly to stop selling them.

People found this post by searching for:

    "https://www grayflannelsuit net/blog/heres-a-pair-of-bizarre-racist-catalog-pages-from-old-sears-catalogs"