You Can Buy Reproduction Retro PC Stickers to Live Out Your 90s Dreams

You Can Buy Reproduction Retro PC Stickers to Live Out Your 90s Dreams

Header image from Geekenspiel

One of my favorite email newsletters is Ernie Smith’s Tedium. In Smith’s own words, the newsletter covers “the history of things that don’t usually have histories about them.” One such thing, covered in today’s piece by Yuri Litvinenko, is the PC stickers that appear on nearly every new non-Apple computer. I’d never given them much thought before, and I imagine a lot of other people haven’t either — that’s how you know something’s good Tedium fodder.

The piece gets into the origins of the Intel Inside campaign, Microsoft’s infamous “Vista Capable” sticker, and the “AMD Game!” program. But what struck me the most in the piece was the mention of their role in the retrocomputing community. After all, if you’re trying to build an era-accurate PC, then it should look the part. That means hunting down the right stickers, whether they’re for your 3dfx graphics card, Sound Blaster, or sick 486 processor.

Where do you get those stickers? Well, I guess you could salvage them off of old cases, but a submarket of reproduction stickers has sprung up to fill the demand. At Geekenspiel, for instance, you can purchase all manner of stickers and badges, from the subtle, clear Intel ones to the louder, puffy stickers intended to sit in recessed spaces on the case. (This latter type always looked like glittering jewels to me as a kid.) And if it’s not authenticity you’re after, but authentic-looking pop-culture references, then you have your pick of fictional corporations like Ingen, Weyland-Yutani, and Cyberdyne.

Scrolling through these PC stickers is like taking a walk through history. I can remember — just barely — when the 486 was superseded by the Pentium. The graphics card stickers remind me of visiting a friend’s house and seeing their family’s top-of-the-line gaming PC, emblazoned with a 3dfx badge that indicated it could run games that were so advanced they seemed real. (Tribes 2 looked pretty wild back then.) And the little gold Sound Blaster badge recalls all of the trouble I had over the years trying to get our terrible 90s sound cards to work right.

I live a PC sticker-free lifestyle now, having been mostly a Mac user for the last decade or so. Even my desktop Windows machine is more or less unadorned, being a custom build and all. But looking through these, I’m finding it hard to resist the urge to buy one or two. I can’t help but smile imagining how stupid a big shiny Windows NT badge would look on my tower. Oh, and if you’re into this sort of thing, then check out my Throwback Thursday column, which explores edutainment, freeware, and other underdiscussed games and related culture from the 90s and 2000s.