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

111915blog steve ballmer windows ad
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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