The Best of Creative Computing Volume 2 (published 1977)

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A Retail Computer Store? You Gotta Be Kidding!! (What should a retail computer store be?, Moving ideas to reality, physical layout, computer showroom, services and support)

graphic of page

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.


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.


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

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.

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.

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