What's in the 1983 Sears Catalog?


How did I miss the computer glossary in the Sears catalog? Especially in 1983, which I’m pretty sure is the year I bought a book of computer terms. It cost me $2.99, which, for me, was quite a chunk of change–and I mean that literally, because at the bookstore I dumped a bunch of pennies on the counter. I quickly realized that having a cool book of computer terms was pretty useless when I didn’t have a computer, and only got about five minutes once a week to use the one we had at school. It took me longer to figure out that by punching in the right numbers and turning it upside down I could make my Texas Instruments pocket calculator spell “Oh hell”.

It still stings, especially when I now know that an equally useful glossary was just sitting there in the bottom part of the den cabinet. The upper part held my father’s Playboy collection.

So, as amusing at it is to laugh at the clunky old technology used by our forefathers, when the hell did boomboxes become some tool of the ancients worthy of our derision? Hell, besides the plain rectangular shape, the only difference between the ones in that article and the ones for sale on BestBuy.com right this minute is that the new ones play mp3s.

And 10-speed bikes? What the eff? You can walk into any Walmart in the country and buy a bike identical to the one in this catalog. “Amazing and ridiculous” my arse.


I assume the bike was included because of the photography and the model, which are very early 80’s.

The rest though, I agree… I prefer the design of many of the items pictured (especially the boom boxes) over the current equivalents. Not that it’s all good - a lot of it is pretty bad - and not that all modern design is bad (much of it is quite good).

It was kind of a half-assed slideshow… but what do you expect :slight_smile: I enjoyed it more than most internet slideshows, and I particularly appreciated that it was easy and fast to navigate through.

That steam cabinet should have a light on the front so you can answer yes-no questions Pike-style.

The Canon AE-1 was the camera to have in the late 1970s early 1980s.

Maybe so, but all the hipster cool kids had the AT-1, which required more manual operation. Good times.

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My first home computer was an Atari 800XL. I played with a Sinclair too. Ah, the golden age of computing.

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The most common one in my photography class at the time was the Pentax k 1000 that is on the facing page…

I had some of this gear, including the Canon AE-1. It was a great camera. And we had a lot of fun with the tiny Timex-Sinclair computer.

Wait - 1983 and they don’t have the spread of Star Wars toys? Fail.

but i still wonder what’s a WaferTape


Mine too! That was when I first decided I might want to be a writer, so I asked my parents for the word processor cartridge “AtariWriter.” I wrote a 60-page novella on it back in 1985. By the end, saving the document on the tape drive took ages.

That was the only software I had for it, other than the primitive games I programmed for myself in AtariBASIC. And that was the last computer I owned until 1996 or so.

I loved the Sears catalogs, particularly the Holiday Wishbooks. My sister and I would go through it and circle all the toys we wanted. Or, more accurately, all the toys we had a halfway-reasonable chance of getting. There was this badass chopper-style bicycle they made in the 70s (very similar to the Sears Spyder pictured below)

that I coveted with all my heart, but knew we’d never be able to afford.

I bought my very first drumkit out of the last regular Sears catalog in 1993. It was a five-piece Gretsch Blackhawk kit I bought for $299 without hardware. My nephew has it now.


yeah, but don’t. those “bikes” are a rip-off.

and favored by Glen E Friedman for their availability at pawnshops and superior Takaumar optics.

I used to make my wish list by just recording the page number and the item letter… page 343 A – Nerdcore!

It’s hard to imagine now in our post-floppy world, but in the early 1980s there were all sorts of bizarre things for computer storage that attempted to bring some of the benefits of floppy disks to those who didn’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a floppy disk drive. Wafertape. Microdrives. Basically all “high-speed” tape drives that used various proprietary formats instead of cassettes. Still slower than floppies, and while the drives were relatively cheap, the media wasn’t.

BlockquoteIt cost me $2.99, which, for me, was quite a chunk of change–and I mean that literally, because at the bookstore I dumped a bunch of pennies on the counter.

I bought a Princess Leia action figure at Sears back in the day doing the same thing with a jar of pennies. The story was popular in college and friends named our bong Princess Leia in homage. She was good to us all.

Here is a link to the entire 1985 Sears Wishbook in all it’s glory. Great memories…


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