90s computer brands

Compudyne PC from CompUSA

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 CompUSA?

What happened to CompUSA? Liquidation.

Readers of a certain age will remember CompUSA, a defunct big-box computer retailer. What happened to CompUSA? It went out of business, then came back as an undead brand, then went away again.

In some ways, CompUSA was the epitome of 1990s computer retail. It had huge big box stores with aisles of software and upgrades. It sold desktop computers, including its own house brand, Compudyne, manufactured for CompUSA by Acer. But the business model didn’t work as well in the 21st century.

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An insider’s account of the fall of Radio Shack

When I heard Radio Shack was going to be open on Thanksgiving day, I wondered why they would bother. The few Radio Shack stores near me are deserted on normal days, so I didn’t know why anyone would take time out of Thanksgiving Day to go to Radio Shack.

Based on this sad account from an employee who spent hard time working at Radio Shack, I was probably even more right than I thought. The first story, from Black Friday 2004, tells the tale of a store that, when all was said and done, probably lost money on Black Friday. And this was in an era when tech blogs would say, “Believe it or not, there are worse places to be at 6am on Black Friday than Radio Shack.”

I’m not sure anybody believes it now.

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Remembering Dolgin’s

Dolgin's in Clayton, MO

Growing up in Missouri, a lot of my Christmas gifts when I was young came from a catalog showroom called Dolgin’s. One of my earliest memories is going to Dolgin’s with my mom and aunt, who showed me some Tonka trucks and asked me which ones I liked best.

I know a lot of people remember going through Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, but I remember Dolgin’s catalogs the best.

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Memories of the land of blue shirts

Can Best Buy survive

Internet pal Rob O’Hara reminisced about opening a Best Buy (presumably) megastore in 1994. Interestingly, that summer I was doing basically the same thing, only in Illinois. And I lived within driving distance, so they didn’t put me up for the night, though as I recall they did provide at least one meal a day, and I really think they provided two. After all, we worked really long shifts.

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Best Buy has one foot in the grave?

In a highly publicized article, Forbes argues that Best Buy is not long for this world.

I can’t disagree with any individual point in the article. Some of the problems Larry Downes identifies existed when I worked there in the early 1990s–I’d spare you the joke about being young, naive, and needing the money, but it’s too late now–but in the 1990s they could get away with that, sort of, because there were competitors who tried to get away with worse.

Sears/Kmart is a favorite whipping boy, but they have one very big thing up on the land of the blue shirts. I can make a five-minute trip to Sears or Kmart–particularly Sears Hardware–to pick up a couple of things, and I do so fairly frequently. I tried a couple of weeks ago to do that at Best Buy, and, like the author said, calling it a miserable experience is putting it mildly.

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Rest in pieces, Borders

The Borders at my local mall is closing today. I’ll miss it.

I still remember when the store was being prepared. It was around the time I got married. My then-pastor said he was really looking forward to it opening. While his wife and his daughters shopped, he could hang out in there. I agreed with him. Nearly every time I went to the mall, I would sneak over to Borders for a while.

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Why I generally buy AMD

I was talking to a new coworker today and of course the topic of our first PCs came up. It was Cyrix-based. I didn’t mention my first PC (it seems I’m about four years older–it was an Am486SX2/66).

With only a couple of exceptions, I’ve always bought non-Intel PCs. Most of the Intel PCs I have bought have been used. One boss once went so far as to call me anti-corporate.

I’m not so much anti-corporate as I am pro-competition.

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Confessions of a former Best Buy salesman

The State of Ohio is suing Best Buy. One former employee talked about his experiences working for the company.

I last worked for the company in 1995. To its credit, the company did much to persuade me to finish college: It motivated me to get an education so I could get a better job. A few things have changed since 1995, but what I’ve read today about the company rang so true.