Top ten laughably bad tech ads

We take a look at ten of the worst/best/most amusing technology adverts of all time, and explain why it is they leave us screaming for the head of the advertising executive that dreamed them up

Ian Morris
4 min read

The tech industry has a rich and hilarious history of being unable to promote itself as anything other than unutterably dorky. Originally we were going to call this 'The top ten worst tech ads', but as we hunted around we discovered these are pure gold. They are shockingly bad, but you'll derive so much pleasure from watching them it didn't seem right to use 'worst' anymore.

Anyway, we've collected ten of our favourites -- in no particular order -- that made us laugh, either because they feature lycra, awful singing, pathetic old technology, Steve Ballmer or some combination of all of the above. -Ian Morris

Steve Ballmer sells Windows 1.0
You've got to love Steve Ballmer. Now Bill Gates is stepping down from the day-to-day running of Microsoft to concentrate on being a full-time good guy, Ballmer is pretty much in charge at Redmond. Anyone who saw his monkey dance will know why that's a little scary.

Anyway, this video is him selling Windows 1.0. And while it's funny for all the wrong reasons, you have to respect Ballmer for not caring what people think of him. We can't imagine Jobs doing this.

Update: Several commenters have pointed out this was an internal MS video that wasn't broadcast. Fair enough, our mistake. It's still incredibly funny. And there's still no way Jobs would do it.

Don't copy that floppy
We've all heard how piracy is killing the music/movie/book/software/corn (delete as applicable) industries, but this advert was the first of its kind. It was designed to educate people about all the hard work that goes into making games for the PC.
'Don't copy that floppy' follows a couple of young children on a voyage of discovery that covers morality, economics and the art of song. It's actually much less annoying and patronising than the ones that have followed since. But more on that later...

The Ellen Feis Apple switch advert
Our next video documents a few moments in the life of one girl who lost her school work to a crashing computer. Ellen Feis became an Internet and TV star in 2002 when her 'switch' Apple advert became an Internet phenomenon.

Geeky boys loved her, the tech press questioned her sobriety and everyone else wondered why the hell she didn't press Ctrl+S more often. However you look at it, she became a star for losing her homework, but looking at her eyes, we question how good it would have been if it hadn't gone missing.

Keeping up with Commodore
Are you keeping up with Commodore? Well, are you? In this brilliantly cheesy advert from the 80s we see lots of people smiling, pointing and generally enjoying the life and the flexibility afforded to them by owning a Commodore personal computer.

Ultimately even Commodore couldn't keep up with itself and went bust. Lamented by many as one of the great tragedies of personal computing, many of us still miss the Amiga -- and these fabulous adverts.

MS DOS 5 Upgrade promo video
One of the best clips here isn't really an advert, more a promotional video. We're introduced to the joys of MS DOS 5 by some bloke who looks like David Arquette and a trio of backing singers. All involved are yapping about why you should upgrade to the latest version of DOS through the medium of crap white-man rap.

Movie piracy is a crime
Okay, this isn't so much a tech advert, but it is one of the most annoying things ever to be seen on TV. Usually it's found on any DVD you buy from a shop, so is of course perfectly marketed at people who don't break the law. Generally the Internet pirates remove it from the start of the films they rip for Internet distribution. We're sure you'll see the irony in that.

This ad was recently beautifully parodied by the Channel 4 TV show The IT Crowd.

Atari Pole Position
This truly magnificent advert is one of several Atari ads that had an unusually keen sense of humour. We love the way the real racing footage is mixed seamlessly with the in-game footage. As if no one would notice the difference between the two.

BT Slimtel
Those of you old enough to remember a time when everyone didn't have a mobile phone will probably remember how huge home phones were. Many of the UK's telephones were still rotary dial things in the 80s and this advert attempts to tempt you into buying a new, slim, touch-button phone.

So, what you might ask, is wrong with it? Well it's got singing and lycra. That's all we really need to say.

Kevin Costner flogs Apple kit
Although Ellen Feis made everyone hate Apple while it was floating around the memeosphere, this Apple advert features someone who should really have known better.

There are two main things wrong with this advert. Firstly HE DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO USE A MOUSE and secondly, it's so boring we all nearly jumped out of the office window waiting for it to end. 

Amstrad Studio 100
Our final advert is comedy gold from Amstrad, the company founded by Sir Alan Sugar. Here we see more hopeless ad-agency rap and some magnificent exploding product shots, not something you really see much of these days.

We can only assume this ad was the result of an awful lot of Friday night drinking at a Karaoke bar in central London, where someone with a looming deadline met a chap called Dave who reckoned he had a talent for rapping.