Central Hardware, St. Louis history

Central Hardware, St. Louis history

St. Louis-based Central Hardware was one of the first big-box home improvement chains. It peaked in 1993 at 39 stores in six states in the midwest, employing 3,700 people. It was once the 19th largest hardware retailer in the United States.

Central Hardware’s motto was “everything from scoop to nuts,” a play on the English idiom “soup to nuts,” which means beginning to end. Their inventory was over 40,000 SKUs, comparable to today’s home improvement stores. Its stores regularly exceeded 50,000 square feet. That’s about half the size of a typical home improvement store today, but it was large for the 1970s and 1980s. Traditional hardware stores ranged in size from 2,000 to 10,000 square feet. Its employees wore orange vests so customers knew who to ask for help.

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Coleco Gemini: An Atari 2600 clone from 1983

Coleco Gemini: An Atari 2600 clone from 1983

I spotted it on page 597 of the 1983 Sears catalog. “Two big names play the same games,” the headline boasted. Next to the venerable Atari 2600, Sears presented the Coleco Gemini, an Atari 2600 clone.

In 1982, Coleco built an add-on to make its Coleco Vision game system Atari 2600-compatible. Atari sued. And then Coleco poked the bear by making an outright clone. Sears had sold Atari 2600 clones before, but they were actually a private-label version of the real Atari 2600. The Gemini was more of a true Atari 2600 clone.

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90s computer brands

90s computer brands

Some 90s computer brands are the same as today, but a lot more companies played in the field than now. Profit margins were higher then, so industry consolidation wasn’t the matter of survival that it is now.

Here’s a look back at some of the brands of old, including some famous PC brands, some not-so-famous, and some notorious. The 1990s were certainly a make or break time for many of them.

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What happened to Compuserve?

What happened to Compuserve?

Compuserve was an online service for dialup modems from the 1970s to the 1990s. It was a way of getting online and communicating with others before the Internet was generally available to individuals. Later, it became a primary way for individuals to connect to the Internet, turning itself into an Internet Service Provider. But over time, it faded away into history. Here’s what happened to Compuserve.

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Radio Shack computers

Radio Shack computers

Radio Shack released one of the first home computers, the TRS-80 Model I, in 1977. Between 1977 and 1979, it sold 100,000 units. Radio Shack sold them just as quickly as Tandy could make them. You can count Radio Shack and its parent company Tandy among computer companies that failed, but they enjoyed a good run. For a time, Radio Shack computers, later marketed as Tandy computers, were very popular.

Radio Shack and Tandy computers included the TRS-80 Model I from the inaugural class of 1977, the pioneering Model 100 portable, and the Tandy 1000 series, which helped bring PC clones into homes.

There were several reasons why Radio Shack computers were hard to compete with in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.

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What is Spectrum, or Charter Spectrum?

What is Spectrum, or Charter Spectrum?

What is Spectrum? Charter Spectrum, or simply Spectrum, is a new name to many parts of the country. Spectrum is the brand name for cable, Internet and phone service from Charter Communications.

Although Charter started using the Spectrum name prior to its merger, the name Spectrum gained prominence as a result of the second, fourth, and sixth-largest cable operators in the United States merging in 2016. Post-merger Charter is now a Fortune 100 company.

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Netgear vs TP-Link

Netgear vs TP-Link

If you’re looking for the pros and cons of Netgear vs TP-Link, I have experience with both and I’m glad to share it.

Netgear is a well established brand, having been on the market since 1996.

I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of TP-Link. They were founded in 1996 but if you were buying their stuff before 2005, you’re well ahead of me. But I like them a lot.
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When KB Toys closed

When KB Toys closed

When KB Toys closed is a relative question. While KB Toys went out of business in 2009, the store closest to you may have closed earlier than that. It was a sad end for a staple of my childhood, and possibly yours. KB Toys isn’t the only toy store to go out of business of course, but it was one of the more notable ones.

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Marx vs. Lionel

In the 1950s, Marx and Lionel took turns being the biggest toy company in the world, largely riding on the popularity of O gauge trains. Neither company particularly liked the other, but both owed some degree of their success to being compatible with one another. Because of their interoperability, the two makes of trains are frequently compared and contrasted even today.

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Women in tech: The forgotten story of Vector Graphic

Women in tech: The forgotten story of Vector Graphic

I frequently hear lamentations about the number of women in the technology field–or the lack of them. Although there have been a number of successful women in the field, such as Meg Whitman, CEO of HP and formerly Ebay; Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo; and Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP, men outnumber women in the field and often by a large margin.

That perhaps makes it even more sad that Vector Graphic is largely forgotten today. Last week Fast Company profiled this pioneering computer company that time forgot.

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