0 To present this low-cost computer technology in a setting with which the public is comfortable and well acquainted. The open marketplace arrangement, with freedom of movement and selection, should be as advantageous with computer products as it is, for example, with stereo or photographic gear. 0 To bring together under one roof the preferred items from the equipment lines of several manufacturers. In the old computer world to even suggest crossing the lines of one manufacturer with another is almost sacrilegious. 0 To provide a local and publicly accessible source of computer expertise. The public, particularly in its initial learning stages, is going to be seeking a qualified technician with a layman's delivery. 0 To generate public understanding, confidence, and most of all, enthusiasm about the coming revolution in popular computers. This obviously is a challenge and a responsibility. The psychological factors encountered by springing computers in everyone's face may well be endless, so we'll hold back any discussions on this. 0 To be an innovator in a concept which will alter the lives and thinking of this generation and all following generations. Hopefully, too, this innovation will turn us a tidy reward in our generation. Innovations alone do not pay bills. Okay, so we were convinced. And luckily so were enough investors to get the project off the ground. We then turned to the next question. *** WHAT SHOULD A RETAIL COMPUTER STORE BE? This should certainly be viewed as no small matter. After all, it's not everyday that one can set the philosophical guidelines for a revolutionary (there's that word again!) new concept. In addition to the normal properties any complete retail establishment should exhibit, such as good management, products and reputation, the unique nature of the computer as a product demands additional efforts and responsibilities. These include: 0 A much higher level of competence. The retail computer dealer must become a cross between a personable department store clerk and a seasoned computer scientist (with a touch of showmanship a definite plus). 0 An ability to communicate and to educate. Rarely will the typical consumer know less about what the product is and does than he will in this environment. 0 An understanding of public apprehension and misconceptions about computers. Unfortunately, although through no real fault of their own, computers have received a lot of bad publicity and blame. And too, the "Big Brother" or "Numbered Society" image probably lurks in the back of almost everyone's mind. *** MOVING FROM IDEAS TO REALITY The notions of the armchair philosopher are good only to a certain point. It soon became time to move from concepts into a working concern. Actually establishing a real live computer store involved dozens of mundane questions that had to be answered and literally hundreds of small problems to solve, not to mention a few humdingers. Here is the rationale behind some of our major decisions. 0 WHERE SHOULD THE STORE BE? We felt that the crucial aspect of our business was presenting computer technology to the people. Therefore, we had to be situated in a location with high visibility and accessibility. We finally chose a location in a new, small shopping center in northeast Atlanta. [image] WHAT SHOULD THE PHYSICAL LAYOUT BE? Our store is broken into four sections. The public access is, of course, into the showroom where we continually maintain at least one complete system up and running for inspection and demonstrations. Equipment assembly, checkout, storage and repair is performed in what we call our work room, which is essentially a technicians shop. Then, for solitude and to retain some semblance of mental stability, we have our personal offices. Although tiny in size, this has not been a particularly important factor since we have had little time thus far to sit down. The last, and possibly most unique section of our establishment, is a large combination classroom/conference room. As a conference room, this area has had more or less predictable uses. However, due to the nature of our product, we felt that a classroom was mandatory for public instruction, seminars, and lectures. *** WHAT'S IN A COMPUTER SHOWROOM? ln deciding what products to carry at the store our principle decision was which major line of computers to support. We felt that we could only offer adequate support and services for a single type of mainframe. Also, our supplier would need to offer the computers in both kit and assembled form for a reasonable cost. Lastly, the production and delivery capabilities of the manufacturer would need to adequately support us as dealers. At the time we made our decision, only one company seemed to fulfill these requirements. That was MITS of Albuquerque, New Mexico with the Altair 8800 line of computers. This decision was of course only a beginning, because even though MITS had several peripherals available for the Altair, we could not offer a complete product line strictly using their equipment. Thus we began making arrangements for various terminals (hardcopy, CRT, and color graphics) as well as several "plug compatible" devices such as interfaces to a standard television. We also felt it necessary to carry as many of the publications of interest to the general computer user as possible. Examples of these include BYTE, Peoples Computer Company, and Creative Computing. In the software area, we offer system programs such as monitors, assemblers, and text editors as well as a BASIC language. Computer games is an area of great interest to the consumer, and lends itself to entertaining but informative demonstrations. Consequently much of our initial effort has been in that area. *** HOW ABOUT SERVICES AND SUPPORT? Having the necessary equipment in the necessary place only serves as part of the attraction for any retail operation.