What happens when you email the people in the I’m a PC commercial?


In 2008, the first I'm a PC ad aired, opening with Sean Siler doing an impression of John Hodgman portraying a PC, and continuing with montage of people proudly announcing, "I'm a PC!"

Accompanying the first four people to appear on screen are email addresses. The addresses are live (or at least they were when the campaign launched), and if you write to them, you get an autoresponse.

I've heard that the most popular of the four email addresses in terms of incoming volume was not Sean Siler's, nor was it the one belonging to Bill Gates. Rather, the most messages arrived from people trying to contact the young woman in the server room.

And it wasn't even close. We're talking a factor of like 5.[citation needed]

As it happens, she is a developer on the shell team, and by an astonishing coincidence, her office number at the time was 1337.

Sadly, that one second of fame took its toll on my colleague, who now deeply wishes for the permanent destruction of that brief clip of her saying "I'm a PC."

And no, I won't forward your email to her.

Comments (20)
  1. Alex Grigoriev says:

    Any intelligent being would like that woman.

  2. Matt says:

    I went to high school with that woman in the server room. No lie.

  3. Matthew W. Jackson says:

    Matt, you went to high school in the server room?

  4. Nemo says:

    I gotta say, I hate those ads, because they seem to fundamentally misunderstand the commercials they're responding to. You've got people portraying themselves, as humans, saying "I'm a PC!". No, you're not; you're a PC <i>user</i>. The Apple ads featured personifications of the <i>machines themselves</i>. That's the central premise, and it's hard to miss, and it makes the Microsoft campaign a major fail IMHO.

    For a <i>good</i> parody of the Apple ads, see the current T-Mobile campaign.

  5. A. Skrobov says:

    The [citation needed] tag in this post is most awesome.

  6. GSerg says:

    Any intelligent being would like that woman

    Is she so good that you could omit "human?"

  7. Steve says:

    Sorry, meant to say, the REST OF….

  8. JJJ says:

    @Nemo:  You know, the Microsoft ads are not a parody of the Apple ads.  So yeah clearly if the T-mobile campaign is a parody then it's a better parody.  Because the Microsoft campaign isn't a parody at all.

    The ads are a response.  They say, "Your stuffy-suit PC guy is dumb, and here are better choices to represent a PC:  normal people."  And they're saying "You can't represent a PC by a middle-aged suit or 20-something hipster because there's so much variation in how different people use a PC."

    I think it's pretty clear that Microsoft understood the Apple ads.

  9. Ens says:

    @Nemo:  It sounds to me like you don't understand either the Microsoft ads, or the Apple ads.

    I dislike most of the Microsoft commercials for a long time, but I found those commercials were spot-on (the other exception:  the Kylie commercials, eg. "more happy is coming").  Apple's marketing used to be explicitly about non-conformity with their "Think Different" slogan and that 1984 ad and everything, but the Mac vs. PC ads were extremely pro-conformist and anti-diversity, even if you're conforming to hoodie-guy and not to suit-guy.  I remember when they represented the PC guy as hanging out with a transwoman and the hoodie guy as hanging out with the supermodel.  The intended symbolism was obvious, but it also provided a bit of cognitive dissonance — "so…you're saying that unconventional people aren't welcome in a Mac world and should stick to PCs?".

    Then the I'm a PC ads came and they were positioning Microsoft as the company of diversity and non-conformity, finally pointing it out after years.  The difference with the old Mac ads is that Apple had historically positioned itself as an elite brand, with their posters of Einstein and other great thinkers, and their poetic lauding of artistry; whereas Microsoft was positioning itself as being for anybody and everybody, from the guy who sells fish to the girl who dives with great white sharks.

  10. Ian Boyd says:

    "wishes for the permanent destruction of that brief clip of her"

    Does she regret it because she had to get a new e-mail address, or is there a larger issue of being recognized in public?

  11. Andre says:

    Huh, she looks like my friend who lives in the midwest. Sounds like her too.

  12. Nick says:

    @JJJ:

    You're right, and I would only add that they are also people *getting things done*, not just standing around talking about making a slideshow or some other triviality.

  13. Morten says:

    > Any intelligent being would like that woman

    Is she so good that you could omit "human?"

    I'm pretty sure that at least one other species is quite happy about her: she spoils her dog. And dogs can be quite clever. QED.

  14. Erzengel says:

    "Apple's marketing used to be explicitly about non-conformity with their "Think Different" slogan and that 1984 ad and everything"

    I find that hilarious since Apple computers are pretty much DEFINED by conformity (at the time, at least). Windows-based PCs are incredibly diverse, while Macs have extremely limited hardware and software. You get a Mac, you choose to conform to Apple's rules.

    Wow, so Apple is the People's Democratic Republic of Computers? That is, if you have to say it, then you aren't.

  15. Bramster says:

    Neal Stephenson, in "Interface" pointed out what any intelligent being should know, that Apple is a hardware company, Microsoft is a software company.

    One of the things I did with the money earned writing software on my PC was to but a sexy iPad, where I'm posting from now.

    Mini-vans are for hauling stuff, Camaros are for hauling ass.  Nobody said you can't have both.

  16. watson says:

    Hello.

    I'm a pc, and i beat you in jeopardy.

  17. Steve says:

    I'm a PC too, I use Linux.

    I'm a PC too, I use Mac OS X.

    We're all PCs, we have been for 20+ years, this is the stupid ad campaign in the world.

  18. Worf says:

    I don't know… does PC refer to a specific instantiation of the x86 architecture, or a computer for personal use?

    Watson's a pile of 90 POWER7 servers with 15TB of RAM… though, you could make the tenuous link that Macs are PCs now, but were based on PowerPC chips, which are a subset of an POWER architecture that Watson evolved from… (POWER5 I think is what PowerPC is based on…)

  19. "I find that hilarious since Apple computers are pretty much DEFINED by conformity (at the time, at least). Windows-based PCs are incredibly diverse, while Macs have extremely limited hardware and software. You get a Mac, you choose to conform to Apple's rules."

    Which is useful in many ways – it's a large part of the attraction to games console platforms, for example. You test on Xbox 360 – no need to worry about a hundred different graphics chips, ten different library versions, Windows XP/Vista/7, Home/Pro/Ultimate … much simpler. I've already burned a few support hours this year with problems which ultimately turned out to be graphics drivers being too old in one case (and thus having an odd unfixed bug crashing the system after a few hours) and another system having too new a driver causing crashes after a minute or two. Then a third machine, where the manufacturer's own SATA driver causes random 30 second freezes.

    Now ask yourself: does (or can) Microsoft fully test each new Windows (XP, Vista and 7) patch on that particular revision of, say, Dell XPS M1330? With that choice of WiFi card, from the four available? I doubt it, even with the enormous QA efforts they do put in … but can they test everything against all the handful of almost identical Xbox 360 variants? Trivial, by comparison, just like I imagine Apple can test against every piece of hardware they have sold in the last 4-5 years.

    It is a mixed blessing, of course. With a Windows desktop machine, I can shove in the latest graphics card, and crank up the performance on some game … or get tripped up by some new driver bug. I can't get either of those with a console, or a more restrictive platform.

    @Worf: other way round – POWER5 is a high-performance instance of the PowerPC family, and was released around the time Apple was working on migrating *away* from PowerPC (POWER5 was released in 2004, the first x86 Apple system in Jan 2006).

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content