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The Byte Shop, 7130 Fire Lane Drive / 7372 Two Notch Road: 1980s   8 comments

Posted at 11:47 pm in historic,stores

The Byte Shop was Columbia's first computer store, or at least that's the way I remember it. You may have been able to get a TRS-80 at Radio Shack by the time The Byte Shop opened, but Radio Shack was not a computer store.

The place opened in the late 70s, and was very much an Apple shop basing their product line, if I recall correctly, around the Apple IIc. I was in high school at the time, and was, in theory, very much interested in computers. In practice, I knew nothing about them, and had no real way to learn anything. I recall that one of my classmates had a TRS-80 and bought it to school for a presentation in science class. Everyone was fascinated, but looking back, I don't think the machine actually did anything. I think there was a BASIC program which asked a few number questions and computed an answer and that was about it.

A few years after that, one of my friends got an Apple IIc with with a logo interpreter and learned how to write programs using the language's turtle graphics which I thought was amazingly neat. It was out of the question given my total lack of money at the time that I would get a computer, but eventually I did take a "continuing education" class at USC that involved using a statistical analysis program to massage numbers we entered on punch cards and produce ASCII (EBCIDIC, actually..) "graphs" on green and white fanfold line-printer paper. Luckily, this did not quite kill my interest in computers though it came close.

In 1979, VisiCalc for the Apple became the first electronic spreadsheet, and suddenly there was a reason to buy personal computers other than the fact that they were "neat". As displays improved, and daisy-wheel printers became available, word processing provided another reason.

I was only actually in The Byte Shop once that I can recall. After I started college and picked a Computer Science major, I became enamored with the ease of writing with text editors and text processors (the names vi and nroff will be familiar to some..) and convinced my sister that she ought to look into getting a computer for word processing. I still didn't have a computer of my own because I had easy access to school computers, and didn't actually know that much about personal computers, but I think I had in mind that an Apple II with an 80 column CPM card would be a good platform for Wordstar.

I think that when we went to The Byte Shop, she was willing to be talked into a purchase, but in the event it didn't happen because of the staff. Now anyplace can have a bad day, and perhaps we just walked in on theirs, but the staff that day struct me as actively rude. First we were ignored totally for a good while, and then when someone deigned to talk to us, and I started to explain the capabilities were were looking for, the reaction I got was more or less If you don't know exactly what you want to buy, why are you here?. Now I'm a doormat in these situations, but after a few minutes of this, my sister got her dudgeon up and we walked out and never went back. In the end, we waited another year, I learned a bit more about PCs (and IBM compatibles started to appear) and I set her up with a Leading Edge Model-D with NewWord and a Brother daisy-wheel printer from Softek. After using that for a surprising number of years, she did eventually end up with an Apple (Mac), but not from The Byte Shop, which had anyway gone out of business in the interim.

I had completely forgotten that the original location of The Byte Shop was on Fire Lane Drive. When I was taking pictures of the old Taylor's Restaurant the other day, I saw a building down past the firehouse with a kind of new-agey mural. I had noticed it off and on when I would go to Lowes, and it had always seemed to be empty. I got to wondering what kind of place it had been, walked over, saw the nameplate on the front stoop, and it all came back to me (though the mural may postdate The Byte Shop).

There's currently a builder's permit on the building, and some sort of renovation is going on, so perhaps something new may show up here. On the other hand, the permit is more than a year old, so I wouldn't hold my breath. I'm not sure if the horseshoe pitch dates from The Byte Shop era, or if they firestation next door unwinds there. The final picture is the Two Notch location where, I believe, The Byte Shop ended its tenure.

UPDATE 22 March 2010: Added full street addresses to post title, and added some tags.

Written by ted on September 5th, 2008

Tagged with , , ,

8 Responses to 'The Byte Shop, 7130 Fire Lane Drive / 7372 Two Notch Road: 1980s'

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  1. Over in Intersection City there was Bytes and Bits. That was a PC oriented store. Not sure when it opened, but I went there in the 80s, whenever mom would head to Dutch Square.

    ChiefDanGeorge

    6 Sep 08 at 5:38 am

  2. Harry Tokunaga ran The Byte Shop, and I think the rest of the staff were his siblings and cousins.

    He had a very cool motorhome with big The Byte Shop logos on the sides that they drove all over town. It was big and white and very modern and sleek looking for the times. Got a lot of attention, which was the point I presume.

    Photo of one just like it:
    http://www.bdub.net/publications/1976%20Birchhaven%202/1976%20Birchhaven%202_1.JPG

    Dennis

    6 Sep 08 at 8:00 am

  3. I remember The Byte Shop! My dad bought his Apple 2+ there, in 1981.

    I inherited it in 1993, when my dad bought his first IBM clone. I still use it, to this very day!

    Mike

    11 Sep 08 at 4:29 pm

  4. Wow, I thought I had some old hardware, but nothing that old, and the stuff that's close I haven't fired up in years.

    ted

    11 Sep 08 at 6:01 pm

  5. Terry Edwards

    19 Feb 09 at 5:09 am

  6. In the early 80's there was a Byte Shop on Devine Street, too, I think possibly in the same building where the Publick House is now.

    CJD

    19 Feb 09 at 5:08 pm

  7. The Byte Shop first opened on the corner of Blossom and Saluda in a 200 square foot location in 1976. It initially carried every microcomputer available with brands like Imsai, Altair, Processor Technology, Polymorphic Systems, etc. but ultimately settled upon Apple exclusively. It moved to a larger location adjacent to Master Cleaners in 1977 and several years later moved to the building adjacent to 2301 Devine where CompuSystems, its owner, was located. In 1983 they both moved into the building pictured at 7130 Firelane Road (although it did not look like that back then) with the Byte Shop occupying one of the 3 pyramid shaped pods. A year or so later it moved to the Tilman's Plaza location formerly occupied by The Computer Store. About 1994 The Computer Store acquired the Byte Shop and merged it into their company. The Byte Shop's parent company, CompuSystems, INC, moved from the Firelane building into its new building at 1 Science Court in the Carolina Research Park in 1990 and merged with with Medic Computer Systems in 1996. Medic, a public company, was acquired by Misys PLC in 1997.

    Nick Johnson

    6 May 10 at 11:57 am

  8. My friend Jerry used to work here. They were one of the only places you could get a Mac at the time.

    Tim

    12 Jan 11 at 11:17 pm

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