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Replaying Ballmer’s whacky Windows 1.0 ad and explaining ‘except in Nebraska’

111915blog steve ballmer windows ad
Credit: Microsoft via YouTube

Microsoft Windows 1.0 turns 30 tomorrow. And even though Steve Ballmer’s over-the-top TV ad for the operating system has seen its share of Internet airtime, I viewed it for the first time only this morning. Wow.

If you haven’t seen it, the 1986 production is worth every one of its grainy and crackling 62 seconds:

So, you may be asking, what’s up with the “except in Nebraska” that Ballmer says near the end of the ad?

Mark Harrison has that one covered on Quora:

Ballmer's use was a joke, but for many years, there were a whole bunch of things that were available “except in Nebraska.”

Back in the cold war, when telephone systems were a Bell monopoly, there were, bluntly, not enough phone lines ... except in Nebraska, where the Strategic Air Command had insisted on a huge number in case of a nuclear war. Obviously, nuclear war never spread beyond Japan, and certainly not to Nebraska, so for the vast majority of the time, these lines went unused.

A whole bunch of mail order companies set up call centers there, because it was one of the few places you could actually go and order a whole bunch of lines for a business.

However, owing to a Bell rule, you couldn't use a 800 number for out-of-state calls AND in-state calls. So the companies had two choices - either set up two numbers, one for the 98% of the US who were calling out-of-state, and 1 for the locals... or simply point out (as required by advertising law) that a particular offer wasn't available in Nebraska. Many did the latter, and the meme stuck, to the extent that Ballmer used it as a joke.

And I’ve learned my something new for the day.

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