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Pioneers of Online Shopping
Back in 1979 the first wave of personal computers had appeared. There was not much useful software but there was sufficient evidence of potential to enable many people to ask ‘what if.’ One idea being considered in academe and among futurists was teleshopping. The dream had to include an affordable and usable computer device in the home. At the time the personal computers were expensive and distinctly nerdish. Also some relatively inexpensive telecommunication link in the home was needed together with networked computers that could handle very high volumes of transactions being processed simultaneously. And it all had to be very safe and reliable. It was a tall order in 1979 and that was why it was a dream.

This section of the Archive is about how the dream became a reality. It is the stories of the organizations and people who did it and the stories rely on contemporaneous accounts of their experiences. This is the real story of the beginnings of a huge world-wide business technique.

Michael Aldrich not only invented online shopping in 1979, he also designed, sold, installed and supported all these pioneering users and recorded their stories through his journal ‘Information Management. ’Sadly all the stories were not recorded and much has been lost or destroyed but enough evidence remains to ensure that the pioneers will not be forgotten.

The story is particularly British, never told before at length. It all happened in the UK. The inventor was British, the hardware and software were British, the systems were sold mainly in the UK although sometimes installed in continental Europe. Except for those involved few people understood what was going on. Most of the things that have been written about videotex technology have been either incomplete or oddly misguided or both. These pioneers were real not theoretical and their achievements at the start of the IT age are worthy of note.

ROCC Information Management



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