Buying a Gateway Desktop in 1994

Missing the cow boxes on campus.

November 17, 2013

The time has come around again to purchase a new computer.

This time will be just like the last few times. Go to the Apple online store. Hit the Education store. Spend about 10 minutes figuring out options for a MacBook Air (or should I go for the 13 inch MacBook Pro with Retina display?). Click a few buttons. Done, done, and done. Boring.

Remember how we used to buy our computers?

Remember what a huge deal it was to spec out and buy a new desktop?

Remember the days when Gateway (I think it was actually Gateway 2000) was dominant on campus?

Remember all the big spotted boxes that looked like cows would litter our offices and our department hallways?

I think the last time I bought a Gateway desktop rig was in 1993 or 1994.  

I remember spending hours with the Gateway catalog. (Could this have been pre-Internet computing buying days?). And then I would call up the nice people at Gateway, and place my order over the phone (can you imagine?).   

A few weeks later a series of giant cow themed boxes showed up. You knew who had the best computer by the size of the boxes. The bigger the CPU tower, the bigger the monitor, the more drives, the better.   

From the recesses of hazy memory, I remember putting some enormous charge on the credit card (could it be around $3,000?) for a machine with the following specs:

486DX/2 66MHz

Pentium-90 Chip

Enormous CRT Monitor

800 MB Hard Drive

Windows 3.1

16 MB of RAM

Double Speed CD-ROM

Built-In Iomega Zip Drive

3.5-inch High Density Floppy Drive

16-Bit Sound Card

Of course, I was a computer amateur. At one point in my life I was pretty comfortable putting more RAM in a desktop. Haven’t cracked one open in years.  

The really smart grad students (and maybe even some professors?) would build their own machines.  They would order everything separate from those giant Computer Shopper magazines, and build the rigs themselves.  

Nowadays, maybe gamers still build their own PCs. I don’t know.

In the 1990s some sociology grad students were build fast machines to better run SPSS. That was cool.

Part of me finds it depressing that Gateway and the cow boxes have disappeared from our campuses.  

I sort of miss the every expanding CRT monitors that started to take over faculty and grad student desks.

Nobody buys desktops today, save a few high-end video editing gurus and insane gamers.  The big cow-themed computer boxes are nothing but a memory.

Did you own a Gateway rig back in the day?

What are your computer buying memories from the mid 1990s?



Be the first to know.
Get our free daily newsletter.


Back to Top