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6/5/2014
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Throwback Thursday: Vintage Tech T-Shirts

No techie's wardrobe is complete without free t-shirts. Show us your old, weird, and funny tech t-shirts.

What do techies like better than a free lunch? Free beer, of course. But free t-shirts come in a pretty close second. They work all year long -- and if they're dark, they carry you right through a messy lunch. From the early days of tech conferences, t-shirts for tech companies became a way to get the word out on your company and products. And for tech users, t-shirts became a free casual wardrobe. For our newest Throwback Thursday contest, we challenge you to share a picture of your oldest, funniest, or weirdest tech t-shirts. I have shiny new InformationWeek shirts for the winners in those categories. We will trust you to be honest about the approximate carbon dating.

Some t-shirts hold up better than others, of course. But there are some you just can’t part with, right? InformationWeek editor Charlie Babcock hangs onto this beauty, from a Bay Area Linux User Group meeting, circa 1998, where he remembers Linus Torvalds spoke to Linux users to raise money for the Debian Linux project.

 

InformationWeek contributor and Ashheville, N.C., CIO Jonathan Feldman has this t-shirt from Shiva, the makers of dial-up networking on Windows 3 (!).


Does putting the term "next-generation" on your t-shirt jinx your product? Perhaps. Feldman also hung onto this one from Funk Software:


InformationWeek's Lorna Garey prizes this relic from our sister site, Network Computing.


Other tech t-shirts are so old that you can't remember the product:

Image credit: ComputerHistory.org
Image credit: ComputerHistory.org

Still others find homes in family members' closets. Like many tech reporters, I donated most t-shirts to family members and charity clothing drives for years. My dad's wardrobe is full of t-shirts with terms he does not understand. He finds it quite amusing when people come up to him on a cruise ship and praise or complain about the company in question.  (He appreciates the wardrobe assistance almost as much as he enjoys his free tech support.) Just don't ask him what dedupe means.

These days, you can find plenty of clever t-shirts riffing on tech themes. But sadly, you must buy them. Swag budgets, like the dot-com bubble, have popped.

Image Credit: CafePress.com
Image Credit: CafePress.com

But let's stick to old school t-shirts for this contest. And for God's sake, no kittens:

Image credit: Firebox.com
Image credit: Firebox.com

Your significant other may throw out ratty t-shirts. We would never do that.

So join in the fun now. Post your pics and the t-shirt's approximate date and any detail or backstory you'd like to add, using our comments section. [Editor's note: To copy your photo into comments, choose "select all" to copy your photo, then choose copy, and Control + v to paste. Or, use our "insert picture" button and supply a URL for a Web-accessible image no bigger than 500 pixels.] Save your non-t-shirt swag for a later installment of Throwback Thursday. Crazy swag deserves its own separate treatment.

Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators. Read our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue today.

Laurianne McLaughlin currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Editor-in-Chief, overseeing daily online editorial operations. Prior to joining InformationWeek in May, 2011, she was managing editor at CIO.com. Her writing and editing work has won multiple ASBPE (American ... View Full Bio
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SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
6/25/2014 | 6:26:15 AM
Re: About those spots...
Free company t-shirts have always been cute and the best thing about them is that you can wear them to work once you have lacked an outfit to wear. They have always served as good casual t- shirts to wear especially on the weekends. I love how they are usually so different from the norm. I believe the best way to advertise a company is through the company t-shirts. Its free advertising as once you walk around people are always curious to read what is on your t-shirt.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/9/2014 | 4:43:21 PM
Re: MSN Network Beta Tester
I like both of those. It's interesting, but it seems to me that IT t-shirt design has gotten very text-heavy in the last few years. I think I've got pretty close to the entire collection of Splunk shirts -- I still love rotating through those when I need to wear a black tee for two weeks straight...
ANON1243265637224
IW Pick
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ANON1243265637224,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/8/2014 | 8:06:16 PM
MSN Network Beta Tester
This shirt dates from about 1995 when show attendees were invited to beta test the new MSN network.



I particularly like the way we were asked to eradicate bugs.

MSN Network Bug Eradication
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
6/8/2014 | 2:22:04 PM
Re: About those spots...
These are some of the cheesiest shirts I have ever seen. It goes to show how non-timeless technology can really be. FlexOS? I have no idea what the point of that operating system would be. 

As part of a marketing strategy, it might be smart not to make shirts. They surely will not pay off over the long-term. 
David F. Carr
IW Pick
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
6/6/2014 | 2:35:22 PM
The dot-Comference
Back when Oracle was trying to prove itself web-savvy, it gave us the dot-Comference.

dot-conference
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 4:36:47 PM
Re: About those spots...
Ha! I guess I should keep all the branded post-it note pads too, so I can shpow people what you did with them. 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/5/2014 | 4:35:41 PM
Re: About those spots...
Hold on to those pens. In a few decades, they'll be exotic artifacts of an era when people wrote things on paper.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 4:33:44 PM
Re: About those spots...
@Thomas- I have an old U2 t-shirt from the 90's that I keep despite the fact that it has no arm pits anymore. It just tore on both sides after years of use. As for old IT shirts, I haven't keep any earlier than 2008. I guess I failed to realize how useful it would have been to comment on this article. Now I'm going to keep everything in case 20 yeaqrs from now we do a "pens from IT conferences" article. :)
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/5/2014 | 3:40:22 PM
Re: About those spots...
My oldest t-shirt dates back to 1985 but alas it's not IT-related.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/5/2014 | 1:09:36 PM
Re: About those spots...
Charlie, don't worry. A little paint would not throw Linus. He is all about practicality.
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