Computers: The Fun is Gone

Taiwan’s Acer has announced plans to acquire computer-maker Gateway. In its heyday during the 1990s, Gateway ran brash, folksy ads in just about every computer magazine, shipped their computers in boxes covered with cow spots, forced its top managers to park in a gravel lot, and undercut almost everybody’s prices. (One particularly memorable add involved all of Gateway’s executive team dressed up as Robin Hood’s Merry Men.) In bright white, almost art-deco cases, Gateway computers even looked cool. More than anything else, Gateway created a cool, bargain-priced computer brand. A sort of Southwest Airlines of computing.

The company stumbled badly during the early 00s, moving from its cow-surrounded Dakota headquarters to fancier digs in San Diego, buying Commodore’s misbegotten Amiga business, opening a chain of computer stores, and briefly trying to get into the television business. Now it sells, boring, black computers and doesn’t even seem particularly “fun.” Clearly, there’s no particular zing in Gateway’s brand anymore.