TBT: My “Gateway” into Computers

When I was four years old, Green Day was the popular band – and Windows XP was the newest operating system, with the iPod being everyone’s “must have” gadget. Yet, I had something totally different…

My first computer was a Gateway 2000 dating from around 1993 or 1994. It ran Windows 3.11 on MS-DOS (as Windows was still dependent on MS-DOS, and would be for a few more years) and featured a 3.5″ floppy disk drive and CD-ROM drive. It had no method of connecting to the internet – no modem or network card. The monitor was a huge, bulky CRT screen that I was fairly accustomed to. If I recall, the Gateway 2000 featured an Intel 486 processor, and that machine even featured the awesome “Turbo” button found on many old PCs from the 80s and 90s.

Gateway (2000) offered many different desktop form factors with fairly similar bezel designs. The one on top resembles the system I had as a child – including the turbo button and key lock! However, mine had a CD-ROM drive instead of the 5.25″ floppy drive. (Photo: Reese Riverson)

I received the Gateway 2000 from my grandparents back when I was three or four. The computer was formerly located on the top of a dresser in a room that I frequently slept in when I visited them. The computer had taken up the whole dresser.

Gateway 2000 was the predecessor to Gateway. There isn’t anything too special to discuss about them – other than they were founded in a barn in Iowa by Ted Waitt. The company modeled Dell’s custom ordering system (where you could customize your own computer via telephone, and later the internet) and they grew into a large manufacturer during the Multimedia PC craze of the early 1990s. The company continued to grow until the dot-com bubble burst and then they started rapidly declining, buying out rival eMachines in the process. Acer eventually stepped in and purchased Gateway, turning them into what they are today (a badge that goes onto cheap Acer laptops and desktops.)

If you needed to know one thing about Gateway (and Gateway 2000) it would be that they were obsessed with cows. Specifically Holstein cows. Gateway (post 2000 name drop) was really obsessed, with them printing “cow spots” onto their boxes, opening “Country Stores” (an idea which didn’t last long – similar to an Apple store, but selling Gateway equipment), and even giving out cow-spotted mouse pads. They even sold cow merchandise, such as t-shirts and stuffed animals with the Gateway logo on it. However, Gateway 2000 shared this trait. The thing I remember most from the Gateway 2000 I had was the cow wallpaper. (Which, as I found out right before writing this, they had many to choose from during the mid-1990s.)

This image desktop wallpaper closely resembles the one that I had on the Gateway 2000 I had as a kid. (Credit: Jason Scott, FlickR)

The Gateway 2000 eventually got stuck into MS-DOS. My five year-old self, and my technically-illiterate father (who never used a computer) couldn’t fix it. Unfortunately, I could fix it now and feel quite stupid for not being able to fix it then.

The computer was then “shelved” – although it was just relocated into a spare bedroom where it was stored. Later, after we returned from a long evening, one of our cats thought it was a great idea to use the Gateway 2000 (specifically its keyboard) as a litter box.

We finally upgraded to a new HP Pavilion that ran Windows Vista (one of the first machines to be made running Vista from the factory) and used that machine until a fire reduced our house – including the Pavilion and the Gateway 2000 – to ashes.

While Gateway 2000 was no IBM or Apple, they served a similar purpose to Packard Bell or eMachines in many people’s lives. For people who couldn’t even afford an IBM Aptiva or a Macintosh Color Classic or Performa, these lower-budget machines still served their purpose. Many, like myself, learned how to use a computer using one. And for that, Gateway 2000 machines will always have an (odd yet) special place in my heart.