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In the episode Lisa Gets an "A" of The Simpsons, there is a fictional computer called Coleco:

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Is that computer based on a real one or are there any records of computers resembling that?

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    Looks a little reminiscent of the Commodore PET. – Dranon Aug 8 at 2:03
  • Thanks, @Dranon. You are right, there are some similarities. I've just asked for this info to be included in the most voted answer. – guest Aug 8 at 23:36
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    Does resemble some of the early Apples. – Hot Licks Aug 9 at 0:25
  • @HotLicks yes, even that. An Apple II+/IIe with Monitor /// could as well fit - Generic boxy shape. – Raffzahn Aug 9 at 21:17
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    I'm learnding! – Robotnik Aug 10 at 3:07
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Is that computer based on a real one or are there any records of computers resembling that?

Yes and no.

There is no computer exactly like the one shown, but Coleco was a successful video game company, rivaling Atari with their ColecoVison system. It may have been the best system available in 1982, selling half a million units between August and Christmas.

In Summer 1983 they presented the Coleco Adam computer as well as the Expansion Module #3, which would turn the ColecoVision into a computer system compatible with the Adam. Generally a great idea (*1), if it wasn't for two issues: for one, it was just before the video game crash of 1984, and the Adam was quite bug ridden - or at least, that was the impression customers got from media reports about the system.

So while the device shown in this Simpsons episode is rather generic (apart from the sticker/logo) and has no resemblance to either Coleco system, the story shown clearly references to the perceived bad quality as well as the non existent sales.


*1 - In fact, the Adam had quite competitive specs for the time. While CPU, Sound and graphics hardware is comparable to later MSX systems it also featured two fast, build in cassette drives, 80 KiB of RAM, a network interface, a Printer included and quite a lot of software - including the ability to run all ColecoVision games. Everyone seeing the system in 1983 was easy convinced that it would be a huge success.

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    I had a Coleco Adam, I did not notice many bugs with the development system and environment (and I am and was a professional programmer). However, using cassette tapes for data storage/retrieval is another story, they are inherently unreliable and IIRC, the Adam used longer (rather than shorter) tapes which are even worse. – RBarryYoung Aug 8 at 17:08
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    Thank you. Could you consider adding that that bears a resemblance to the Commodore PET, as pointed out by @Dranon? I've seen some pictures and they are indeed similar. – guest Aug 8 at 23:35
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    Maybe you could cite all these as examples of "generic blocky cases"? I ask because, although they may be obvious examples for people in this community, they aren't for me. This is the very reason I made this question in the first place: the computer in the show looks old school, but I couldn't find examples like the ones you just cited searching on the internet. – guest Aug 9 at 0:03
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    Atari did offer some great games. Defender, Berzerk, Missile Command are just three examples. Number sold doesn't mean a lot either; NES way outsold the 7800 despite the 7800 having far suprerior hardware. 64 hardware sprites vs 8. – Almo Aug 9 at 2:52
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    @Raffzahn, I have to agree with that. Coleco came up with a strong catalog very early on. As a kid I had a 2600 and I remember seeing the Coleco at the shop with dk, dk jr and zaxxon and I thought it was amazing. – Thomas Aug 9 at 21:16
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The only Coleco computer I know of is the Coleco Adam, but it did not look like the computer in the Simpsons. The Coleco logo is very similar to their actual logo though.

Of course Coleco is most known for their home video game system the ColecoVision.

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The script is clearly a reference to the Coleco Adam, but the computer design doesn't resemble the machine. Most likely the animation department had no idea what such a machine would actually look like. While it probably wouldn't have been hard to find reference material for the artists, having an arbitrarily-chosen case design that would have been considered out of date even when the Adam was new probably makes the show even funnier than it would have been with a historically accurate picture. Perhaps poor Gil wasn't actually hawking real Coleco Adams, but instead got snookered in the 1980s into buying some fake Coleco Adams he's been trying to offload ever since.

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  • Who is Poor Gil? – OmarL Aug 10 at 19:49
  • @OmarL: Gil Gunderson simpsons.fandom.com/wiki/Gil_Gunderson is the character who was trying to foist the computers onto the school. I'm not sure why nobody seems to like my observation that there's no need to have the artists drawn anything that actually resembles a Coleco Adam, since using a historically-accurate likeness of the Adam wouldn't have made the scene any funnier. – supercat Aug 10 at 20:46

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