Archive for the ‘computers’ tag
Once upon a time, computers were magical devices, "Electronic Brains", spoken of with tinges of awe and fear. See for instance the classic Hepburn / Tracy movie Desk Set. Nobody, in their day-to-day lives would expect to see a computer, and few people had any idea what they actually looked like. Everybody was sure, however, that they involved lots of blinking lights (and tape drives moving forever back and forth).
That first actually wasn't far from the truth. Early computers did have many lights, often signifying bits in various registers and program counters. They also had toggle switches (like the much missed computer in the old Columbia Science Museum) for setting all those bits.
The illuminated front panels of early computers loomed large enough in techie culture that you often found variations of the following sign posted in a computer room:
ALLES TURISTEN UND NONTEKNISCHEN LOOKENPEEPERS!
DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN!
ODERWISE IST EASY TO SCHNAPPEN DER SPRINGENWERK, BLOWENFUSEN UND POPPENCORKEN MIT SPITZENSPARKSEN.
IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.
ZO RELAXEN UND WATSCHEN DER BLINKENLICHTEN.
and the portmanteau word blinkenlights permanently entered the hacker lexicon.
So people were interested, a bit awed and a bit scared by the idea of computers, and had only a very general idea of what they could do and how they looked. Thus: The TELEVAC 86000.
This amiable faux computer has been making the rounds for as long as I can remember, which is to say, at least since 1965 or so, and probably prior to that. Every year, it would set up shop in the Steel Building or the Ruff Building and dazzle the passers by. How could you possibly doubt a handwriting analysis from the TELEVAC 86000? IT'S A COMPUTER! IT'S SCIENCE! IT HAS BLINKING LIGHTS!
While we never did spring for the analysis when my parents took us to the fair back in the day, I have the feeling that at the time, this wonder of technology dispensed pre-printed cards dissecting your penmanship -- certainly there were no portable printers available for such a travelling roadshow.
As the years went on, the TELEVAC did add a printer, and astrological predictions as well as handwriting analysis, but the basic blinkenlights front panel stayed fundamentally unaltered, even through the name change to the less antique sounding CENTAURI-68000.
By the time I actually dropped $3.00 in 2012, the whole concept was not too credible. Whereas in 1965, nobody had seen a computer, much less had a computer, and the blinkenlights represented (to this 5 year old anyway) the apex of science, by 2012 most everybody (including lots of the 5 year olds) had a computer, and everybody knew what one looked like.
Sad to say, the TELEVAC / CENTAURI did not make an appearance at the 2013 State Fair, and I'm afraid it is the end of an era.
I've noticed Maunz Electronics off and on over the years as I drove down Sunset. The building has some nice retro touches (which may have been current when it was built), and it would catch my eye, as would the strong blue of the roadside sign.
The notices on the door list 12 October 2012 as the last day here, with the nice touch of referring people to another local business for future work.
(Hat tip to commenter MB)
Well, that didn't last too long. On the other hand, I suppose it wasn't intended to since similar exhibitions zip in and out of Jamil Temple fairly often. (Not to mention temporary stores like Giant Book Sale in other unused Harbison storefronts).
Anyway, this liquidation center went into the old Office Depot location across from the Harbison Barnes & Noble a month or so ago, and offered bargins on fashion and electronics. I've gotten some good deals on computer equipment at the Jamil sales, but the trick is to remember that you only go if you actually think you'll buy something, as there is a $5.00 fee just to walk in the door. In this instance, there was nothing much I needed, so I never did.
I see from a sign that the building is still available for short-term leases, so perhaps the lidiquation company (apparently out of Ohio) will lease it again sometime.
Now computer store PC Corner (which was *not* in a corner spot.. ) has joined them, and fairly recently I think, as it was listed in this year's (February 2012) phonebook.
UPDATE 13 May 2012 -- Commenter Terry sends in this 1994 receipt for a top-of-the-line PC Corner system. Hey Terry, I think you can let that receipt go now -- I'm pretty sure the warranty has expired!
Get U Out Bail Bonding / Cdn Communications / iTecRepair, 1208 C Avenue: Early 2012 (etc) no comments
This little building sits on C Avenue in Triangle City just west of the Charleston Highway, and has apparently most recently been a cellphone, game console and computer repair operation called iTecRepair. I believe this was the last tenant, as they booked an oline ad as recently as 30 January 2012.
I am unsure if Cdn Communications was a totally different operation, or just a different DBA name for iTecRepair.
Before the newfangled stuff, the place was one of those urban staples, a bail bonding office called Get U Out Bail Bonding (some google hits give it as Get U Out Fast, but I think that was just their slogan, as pictured in this real estate listing).
There's an interesting little history of CompuZone at their web site. I did not know this, but the store started here in Columbia as The PC Store in 1992, though they eventually ended up with more stores in the Charleston area than here. As far as I know those other stores are still open.
I don't believe I ever shopped at this store though I certainly have bought my share of computer parts. I was living out of town for a good part of the time it was open, and when I got back to town, there was a Best Buy much closer to me. Their site does show some nice looking SATA drives -- eventually I will upgrade and have me some terabytes on this table..
The place has been thoroughly gutted in advance of the next operation, BatteriesPlus moving in. Their sign says they will have lightbulbs as well -- I wonder if they will import some 100W ones (though I stocked up on a enough to last me a good long time!)?
(Hat tip to commenter Badger)
G-E-X Membership Department Store / Intertec Data Systems / Home Gold Financial / Phar-Mor / Home Quarters Warehouse / Blue Cross Blue Shield / Palmetto GBH, 2340 Broad River Road: 1973 35 comments
I never heard G-E-X pronounced Gee-Eee-Eks as the spelling here would imply. It was always just "Gex" to rhyme with "Vex". Not that I heard about it that often. Given the 21 Dec 1969 phonebook listing (ie: for 1970) above, it sounds like it was a Costco or Sam's before its time -- certainly we did not have a membership, and I never went with anyone who did. (There are some pictures of the membership cards here.)
The building (behind Applebee's just North of I-20) is certainly massive, and it seems to have had a department for everything, including groceries and meat, which really makes it sound ahead of its time. Wikipedia says G-E-X was another label for G.E.M the Government Employees Mart and that the electronics department eventually morphed into Circuit City by way of Ward's. The December 1972 phonebook is the last one to list the Columbia G-E-X which meshes with Wikipedia's claim that the chain went under "during the discount store shakeout of 1973".
After G-E-X the spot seems to have been a number of different operations including Home Quarters and Blue Cross. In fact, LoopNet says Blue Cross has a lease on the whole building that lasts until September 2012. Currently the building seems to be empty, with the last branding on the street sign as Palmetto GBH which seems to be some sort of Medicare related operation (their sign is still on the storefront in the LoopNet listing).
UPDATE 21 March 2011: Added "Intertec Data Systems" & "Phar-Mor" to the post title. Those apparently closed in the early 1980s and 3 October 1992 respectively. (Also fixed spelling of Applebee's..)
UPDATE 6 April 2011: Added the 1970 Bellsouth Yellow Pages ad for the pharmacy department (which apparently was open to the general public).
The Daily Grind was one of probably hundreds of coffee-shops of that name across the country. Not that it was part of a chain -- it just seems to be a mildly clever name for a coffee-shop. I only stopped there once. As I recall, it opened when the concept of espresso drinks was pretty new, at least for those of us not in New York or the Pacific Northwest. (If you'll recall, in the terrible Bruce Willis movie Hudson Hawk they had to explain to the audience what a cappucino was). Certainly it was long before Columbia got a Starbucks. Frankly, I can't remember being either pleased or displeased at the coffee, and Rosewood was enough out of my Columbia haunts (which I was only hitting on weekends anyway as I was out of town at that point) that I just never got back. I'm not sure when the place closed. It's listed in the 1998 Bellsouth phonebook, so I'm saying early 2000s.
Compusouth I wasn't aware of at all. I have never had any luck getting parts at these small computer storefronts. They can fix your PC or sell you one, but if you want an EIDE controller or whatever, you'll have more luck at Office Depot. (I really miss CompUSA in Augusta which was very good for parts, Best Buy -- not so much). Again, I don't know when it closed, but as they haven't gotten around to taking down the sign yet, I'm saying late 2000s.
The place is currently a lacrosse equipment store. I didn't even know we had lacrosse players in Columbia..
Sound Advice / Dugan's Sports Bar / PowerOne Computer Warehouse, 1807 Bush River Road: December 2009 23 comments
PowerOne Computer Warehouse was a rebuilt PC store that I believe opened on Saturday 29 August 2009. I say that with some confidence, because I had taken a bunch of pictures of the nearby The Aquarium & Pet Shop on that day, and stopped in at PowerOne on my walk back over to Fuddruckers where I was eating lunch.
I found them in the midst of something of a mini-crisis because they had not intended to open on 29 August, but there was a printing error in all the flyers that were distributed in the paper forcing them to open several days before they were ready. This meant that almost nothing in the store had a price on it, and in many cases not even of description of the PCs processor speed, amount of RAM, OS version etc. It looked like they had some pretty good stuff in the store, but as I didn't really need anything, I didn't persue the prices of any the systems.
I don't know if the unplanned opening somewhat "wrong-footed" them as the Brits might say, but for whatever reason, they didn't make it to New Years.
I recall seeing Dugan's Sports Bar from time to time as a drove Bush River Road, but I don't know anything about it other than that it preceded PowerOne into the 1807 storefront.
UPDATE 4 Jan 2010: Commenter Jeff notes that home theater company Sound Advice was once in the space.
UPDATE 22 August 2012 -- It appears that the place is preparing to open as one of the many new (and controversial) "Internet Sweepstakes" operations in the Columbia area:
UPDATE 24 October -- Well the sweepstakes thing never happened; I believe the law came down on all of them before this one got opened. Anyway, it's Sissy's Furniture now.
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.