Computer Shops From Back In The Day

on-topic Acorn-related news and discussions not covered by the other forums
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martinw
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Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby martinw » Mon Oct 13, 2014 9:29 am

I was just doing a bit of reminiscing with Rich. at Classic Acorn via e-mail and it occured to me there must be quite a few of us that crossed paths but never met each other in the old computer shops where we got our weekly 8 bit "fix".

My 8 bit journey started off in Leeds where my father and I (I was 14) went to buy my BBC B at the tender age of 14 (that's me BTW :))

I vaguely remember the strange shaped building and I therefore think it was Micro Power, Christmas 1981.

Micro Power Leeds Shop.jpg


I lived in Heckmondwike so it was a bit of a treck to Leeds every week, so my regular haunt was thoughts and crosses (where one of my mates at the time worked ;)) in Heckmondwike (a bit less of an architectural statement).

Thoughts & Crosses.jpg


Then every now and again I would venture to Bradford to Manningham Lane (I think, and no not for that reason, I didn't know about that kind of thing then!) to Eltec computers where I heard the "Golden Brown" tune for the first time in the shop and was blown away :shock:

This shop looks even worse than thoughts and crosses these days so no picture :)

It's all a bit blurry, I'm 47 now, but I think those locations were where I headed to get my game tapes and what have you.

Did anybody else venture to these places and what other places were on your bus journeys back in the day?

Martin

BTW isn't Google Maps an amazing thing 8)

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby flaxcottage » Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:21 am

My 8-bit shop was Leasalink Viewdata in Sandiacre, near Nottingham. I remember it a small shop selling Acorn Atoms and drooling over the window display on my daily bus journey to work.

They eventually expanded and moved into larger, newer premises by the canal and became our sole distributor for educational software in the early to mid eighties.

Shortly afterwards they expanded too much, the bubble burst and they disappeared.
- John

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby Pernod » Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:28 am

I also visited the Micro Power building in Leeds, though not often, and more frequently Eltec in Bradford (which later moved to the town centre).

I remember buying various items from Eltec, Acorn joysticks, Speech upgrade, Elite, Starship Command, all of which I still have.

The WHSmith in Bradford (demolished after the riots) had Beebs setup and this is where I got the F**K version of Frak as it was being played when I once visited, so bought an expensive box of floppies and asked for a copy :D
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BBC Model B, ATPL Sidewise, Acorn Speech, 2xWatford Floppy Drives, AMX Mouse, Viglen case, etc.

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martinw
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby martinw » Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:46 am

Wow Pernod we may have brushed past each other in Eltec over 30 years ago!

I just spotted this advert for Micro Power too.

Micro Power Advert.jpg
(37.87 KiB) Not downloaded yet


How weird in Google maps I had so many choices of angle to do the screenshot from and I chose the same as the advert ... spooky!

I'm reading about Bob Simpson who was the MD of Micro Power and originally an accountant. He got into selling computers in the very early days, pretty astute guy!

Bob Simpson MD of Micro Power.jpg
(16.72 KiB) Not downloaded yet


Martin

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby roland » Mon Oct 13, 2014 12:41 pm

I'm very sure that I have never been there. However, the shop where I bought has closed a long time ago. The shop where I bought many component still exists and I visit them regularly. They even sold me some components for my new Atom design :D
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby sweh » Mon Oct 13, 2014 2:01 pm

As a kid I spent a fair bit of time in WHSmiths and Dixons, but I actually spent a lot in a place called "Keddies", on Southend High Street
Image

Keddies had a small computer department (on the 1st floor, if I remember correct; though it moved a couple of times!) and had quite a selection, both of home computers and work devices. They had a C64 with an assembler ROM in it, VIC20s, Dragons... pretty sure I got to play with an Epson HX-20 there and so on. I _think_ my BBC was ordered from there; not sure!

Also spent a bit of time in Tower Radio on Canvey (my home town)
Image but the manager there wasn't very friendly to having kids hanging around. At one point the guy running the computer department loaned me a copy of Manic Miner for the Beeb; someone had stolen the "colour chart" used to unlock it, so I took it home, hacked out the protection and copied it to floppy :-)
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martinw
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby martinw » Mon Oct 13, 2014 2:17 pm

Looks like Keddies has had quite an illustrious history ... reproducing the frontage of Selfridges no less :)

http://www.southendtimeline.com/keddies.htm

Martin

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby paulv » Mon Oct 13, 2014 5:19 pm

8-bit

Just Micro (Carver Street)
Laskys (Leopold St)
Sharps (West St)
WHSmith (Fargate)
Boots (Fargate)
Debenhams (The Moor)

16-bit

Gemsoft (Division St and Furnival gate)
Gordon Harwood Computers Alfreton

Paul

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby RobC » Mon Oct 13, 2014 6:32 pm

It was always Swansea Microstore for me. About a 40 minute bus ride from home but I must have gone there every 2-3 weeks from about 1984 until about 1992...

In late 1991, I found a Master Replay device there that had fallen down behind a shelf - probably the last piece of 8-bit kit I bought BITD!

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby CMcDougall » Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:12 pm

Got my beeb in Feb'84 from John Menzies in Edinburgh.
Watch the film Trainspotting to see it, when they are running along Princes street :lol:
Bought some games from there also.

Also some games, joystick and dust cover (pictured) from here:
Image
more games from WHSmith in Haddington, newsagents in Haddington & Tranent, a fix it shop in Portobello and also East Fortune (national museum of flight runway) Sunday market ((all originals (no copies then like Sony PS1 :cry: )
ImageImageImage

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby richardtoohey » Mon Oct 13, 2014 10:19 pm

Has anyone mentioned south of the Thames yet? :shock:

There was a place in Guildford - on the way between the train station and the town centre proper. Sold 8 bit computers and software. Don't think I bought much there, they were a bit serious. But can't remember the name of it.

Otherwise it was WHSmiths and Boots.

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby paulb » Mon Oct 13, 2014 11:09 pm

I don't think davidb and I really spent a lot of time in specialist shops until the 32-bit era when we were patrons of Dabhand Computing (run by "the Daves" Atherton and Tomlinson who were also running Dabs Press at the time) in Whitefield, Manchester.

Back in the 8-bit days, having procured an Electron at a Micro User show in Manchester, apart from such annual events it was mostly a matter of going to John Menzies, WH Smith or Boots for games, although you'd find games and other titles in various bookstores (such as Sherratt & Hughes) and markets in and around Manchester, too. I remember buying Acornsoft products from a stall on the indoor market in the Arndale Centre, Manchester, for instance, and I think even smaller newsagents had small games selections.

There were computer shops, too, and having reminisced with davidb, I think it must have been Micro C in Manchester that had the more unusual machines like the Newbrain (built-in LCD text display!) and probably Atari products. We went on a leaflet/flyer collection spree in our primary school days and undoubtedly got some Atari literature from there. Laskys also had a store in the Arndale Centre, and we tried out the Mac when it first reached the UK in their business centre (which was elsewhere, if I recall correctly).

I seem to remember a computer store in Oldham, on Yorkshire Street perhaps, that did sell Acorn stuff but had mostly given it up when they entertained a few different vendors in some kind of mini-exhibition in the second half of the 1980s, and that's when we managed to buy our Slogger Pegasus disk system direct from the Slogger bloke himself, or so it seemed at the time.

It's remarkable how one often forgets that there were so many people wanting in on the action of the 8-bit era, and how specialist stores, despite ending up pushing the same beige boxes to business customers, started out offering exotic products from lots of manufacturers in what was undoubtedly a very exciting time when nobody knew what would sell and eventually become popular.

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby sweh » Tue Oct 14, 2014 12:21 am

paulb wrote:It's remarkable how one often forgets that there were so many people wanting in on the action of the 8-bit era, and how specialist stores, despite ending up pushing the same beige boxes to business customers, started out offering exotic products from lots of manufacturers in what was undoubtedly a very exciting time when nobody knew what would sell and eventually become popular.

That was the fate of Solidisk (who claim to have sold the first Beeb Winchester). BITD I really liked their products; even visited their store in Southend a couple of times (once because their SWR board didn't work in my machine so I carried into their store and said "fix it"; they did! I went to their back room where they had a bunch of guys doing upgrades - I guess for mail order customers - who fixed my machine up; they also gave me a bunch of floppies).

Today they appear to be focusing on the "school" market (well, Southend Tech is just round the corner) and are otherwise just another PC builder.
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby tricky » Tue Oct 14, 2014 6:04 pm

I worked in a computer shop in Torquay 30 years ago as a weekend job whilst attending South Devon College of Arts and Technology (or something like that). We were supposed to get 5% commision, but weren't allowed to use the credit card machine, so the "boss" got the commission for anyone paying that way. I did sell a couple of BBCs, but we were mostly out of stock and usually only had lynx in stock - quite a hard sell, especially when all the educational software (games) we had were for the spectrum or BBC!
I got my first BBC several years earlier by going to Cardiff and waiting for a transit van to arrive from the "first container in the country" and unload from the drive into the kitchen, the queue went from the lounge out the front door, down the garden and by the time we left, down the road (there were going to be quite a few disappointed people). They were selling them as fast as they could solder resisters into the cassette leads and say "sorry, cash only, the machine's broke" in a south London accent!
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby iainjh » Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:11 pm

I also worked in a computer shop, in my case in Potters Bar in Herts and imaginatively (or superb marketing-ly) called.. "The Computer Shop"

This was after I messed up my A levels. A friend worked for them so I just kindof started there. Nice people. The first computer I sold was a Dragon 32, the second was an Atari XL. BBC's came a bit later, definitely a better class but I coudnt afford one. i think the one I did get turned up unannounced when the repairer sent one too many back to the shop in error :) I recall the first xmas we couldnt get enough BBC's to sell and the second we couldnt sell any of them! The next year it went bust.

One vivid memory is jamming my sister's estate car to the roof with BBC's B's and spectrums etc to get stock for that 2nd xmas from a distributor (Spectrum in welwyn)- drove half way back before finding the boot was half open. Oh how we would have laughed.

before that I recall (cue yorkshire accent surely?) riding bike down to East Barnet Compshop to lust over the UK101's for sale in the window. My old dad was in the mini computer trade and I used to go to the 'showroom' to see the big iron working away so got the bug from him really.

And! after that going up to silica shop in selfridges to swap games. tut.

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby flynnjs » Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:46 pm

Southend was jammed with computer shops....
There was Keddies, Dixons and Tandy but also Solidisk, Computerama and Estuary.
The latter still seems to get hits on a search engine so may still be there in the plaza.

Solidisk inpired me from being a software geek to wanting to know how it all worked.
I got a 32K SWR unit from them and did PCB track damage trying to fit it. They repaired my Beeb by cutting out a couple of 74series and popping in a few rework wires. The didn't charge for the repair I went away seriously wondering how I could learn enough electronics to be able to fix stuff like that.

IIRC my B and floppy drive came from Computerama but I seldom went back there as I didn't like their attitude.

One of the co-owners of Estuary was also a teacher at my school and partly led to me ending up being a radio ham.

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby sweh » Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:54 am

Huh, Computerama; I don't think I ever went in there. Indeed the only times I went down that way was to walk to Maplins. As for Estuary... the Victoria complex was a complete dump in the 80s; I only ever went in there for Argos :-) I'm surprised the whole complex never closed down!
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sweh
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby sweh » Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:53 am

Hmm... all this talking of Southend... I wonder if I'm becoming home sick? Maybe I've had enough of New York. Hmm...
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby richardtoohey » Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:17 am

Go back and get stuck on the M25 for a few hours, that might cure it. :twisted:

I was going to say the UK is very populated these days, but then I guess New York might be pretty busy too. :wink:

Weather about the same?

Easier/cheaper to buy stuff off eBay (is that a good thing?!) AND you'll be able to go to the retro conferences/shows/hackdays ... :-k

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby SimonSideburns » Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:49 am

When I was young my family was heavily into the 8-bit micro scene.

My mum and dad bought a ZX Spectrum (not sure where from, but probably W H Smith) and I got a ZX-81. In the Havant area of Hampshire there were quite a few choices for tapes and such. I recall the odd trip into Waterlooville to marvel at the computers at G.B. Microland and the Baytree Bookshop had tapes on the first floor.

In Park Parade (Greywell precinct) there was a video shop that sold tapes. Can't remember exactly but I'm pretty sure there was a shop selling computer tapes in the pedestrianised part of Havant town centre in the bit by the steps that lead up to Havant train station.

We didn't have a car so we would walk to these places or if we were really lucky we'd get on the bus.

That's about all I can remember from the 80's but by the '90s I had ventured a little further afield and had bought a pair of Voltmace Joysticks, a dot matrix printer and an Apex Rom/Ram board from WeServe in Portchester.

All of these places have long since vanished, but the buildings still exist in one guise or another.

Oh, and one last thought. Although I never visited them, the software house Automata UK (Famed for their games Pimania and My Name is Uncle Groucho, You Win a Fat Cigar) were based in Highlands Road in Southsea, Portsmouth.
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby mjforbes » Wed Oct 15, 2014 5:40 pm

My first Electron came from the (aptly titled) Electronequip in Fareham's West Street, as did my BBC B a few years later. As far as I can remember, that was the only dedicated computer shop in Fareham (apart from the obvious WHSmith, Boots etc.), but I seem to remember there was an independent retailer down the road in Gosport, but thirty years on, I can't remember for the life of me what it was called. I *think* it was in the little South Street precinct, which is amazingly still there, although all but deserted these days.

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby leenew » Wed Oct 15, 2014 6:03 pm

The shop I frequented was called Com-Tec on Sheffield Road in Barnsley.

I used to pop in regularly (along with what seemed to be every other college kid in the area) to pick up tips / show off / solve problems / play games / oh, and occasionally buy stuff :D
After calling in regularly for a month or 2, and getting friendly with the staff, the boss noticed my skills ( :lol: ) and employed me for a year or 2 until they eventually went the way of so many other little computer shops :(
It was a great time for a young lad like me. Looking through the mags and deciding what games to order. What a job! It was great apart from the pay - but I wasn't bothered. I would have gone in for nothing :wink:

We sold Beebs, Speccies, Dragons, and Orics and the posh Beeb based Torch disc system.
After work, me and Martyn the head sales guy, would stop behind voluntarily and (try to) crack the latest games. We did pretty well, but I do remember failing miserably with the Ultimate stuff.
I did brute force Alien 8 though, which I remember involved pulling the OS out and swapping it for a dodgy one :-k
I still have memories of cracking Frak! with all its little messages of encouragement and its now famous "Captain Pugwash" pirate tune.

Good times.

Unfortunately the town has been re-developed and that part of the road does not exist any more. I can't find any old photos of it either :(

Lee.

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby steve3000 » Thu Oct 16, 2014 6:02 pm

Although we lived in Northern Ireland when my parents bought our first Beeb, this is the place our disc interface came from by mail order and the first upgrade I fitted myself - 16k sideways ram.

When we moved to England a few years after, I visited a few Acorn shows in this building.

It took a while to find the building on google - the road name has changed, and post code too. But this is definitely the place.

tn_pic1.png


Think those boards on the building used to say the company name :).

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby Arcadian » Thu Oct 16, 2014 6:23 pm

^^ whereabout is it? And what was the name of the company just out of interest?
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby steve3000 » Thu Oct 16, 2014 7:50 pm

Arcadian wrote:^^ whereabout is it? And what was the name of the company just out of interest?

That would give it away though... :wink:

Here's a picture of the disc which came with my first disc drive, maybe that'll help...

we.JPG

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby steve3000 » Thu Oct 16, 2014 8:53 pm

For those who couldn't work it out, that was the original Watford Electronics building from the 80's - which was actually in Watford, on Watford High Street (but the High street has now moved and the building is now on Lower high street).

W.E. moved in the early 90's to Luton - I've been to their Luton building a few times in the early 90's for Acorn shows and various purchases and then I visited the same building once much more recently - about 3 years ago. It's now under the name of saverstore.com.

weluton0.jpg
From 2007, when it was last known as Watford Electronics


When I visited there 3 years ago to collect an online purchase I didn't realise the saverstore.com company was formerly W.E., until I turned onto the road, and saw the building!... I was even more surprised when the same guy who was serving at W.E. in the mid 90's came out to serve me on the day.

weluton.png
Recent google image

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby 1024MAK » Fri Oct 17, 2014 12:31 am

Our Company

Saverstore.com is one of the largest online resellers of IT and consumer electronics products. With roots dating back to the mid 1980s. Saverstore’s philosophy is simply to offer consumers, businesses and educational establishments the best possible range of products at the best possible prices.

In February 2007 Saverstore.com became part of the OnlineDistribution Limited. This change of ownership marked an exciting new phase in the company's history.
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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby RobC » Fri Oct 17, 2014 6:44 am

One thing that's always intrigued me about WE is their poor reputation in some quarters - I've seen them called "WhatFraud" etc. in various places/posts.

I bought a few things from them in the 80s and 90s and never had any problems.

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby Zarchos » Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:48 am

Seeing all these buildings reminds me I 'visited' the Acorn building in Cambridge 5 or 6 years ago.

An Ebay seller from whom (correct ?) I had bought an expansion board (an IDE or SCSI card with cache) happened (correct ?) to work in the building, and it was the place to collect it !

Oh Gosh, I really felt strange while wandering around the building and its pond ...

Now many years later I think it's a pity I haven't been to the famous pub in Cambridge where there's been this famous argument between Sir Clive and Acorn's boss.
But well my week spent in the UK at this time was intended to drive from place to place to collect various items bought on Ebay uk during the past months.
Oh yes I was crazy at the time.
So goood ! I'd love to do it again.

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Re: Computer Shops From Back In The Day

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Fri Oct 17, 2014 12:17 pm

I used to work in that pub!

Never knew anything about the infamous fight back then though. Never saw Sir Clive come in for a cheeky half either - maybe he was banned for life! :lol:


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