The home computer industry might have never got its start if it wasn't for Computerland, the first retail chain of stores to sell personal computers.
William "Bill" Millard began selling make 'em
yourself computer kits in 1976. His IMSAI "computer" was based
around the Intel 8080. He sold them through a mail-order company in
The kits sold so well, Millard decided pre-made micros
would sell even better. Since pre-made micros could carry a higher profit
margin, Millard reasoned they could support a storefront operation. Millard
planned a franchised chain called Computer Shack. Tandy however sued for
violation of its Radio Shack brand name. He changed the name to Computerland
and opened his first franchise in
The stores did well but Millard almost cooked his own
goose. He made the classic Osborne Error. He announced an improved version of
his IMSAI computer long before there was product to ship. Sales vanished
nearly over night. Computerland was nearly ruined. Fortunately, the Apple II
hit the market. Computerland helped bring the Apple II to consumers. When the
By 1984, Computerland hit a billion dollars in sales.
Millard became the tech world's first Billionaire Bill (Forbes listed him as
the 31st richest American in 1984). Unfortunately, Computerland became
embroiled in a heavy duty lawsuit and franchisee revolt. Former early
employees began to sue for stock they swore they were promised. Franchisees
banded together into an association to demand a better deal from head office.
The lawsuits and franchisee revolts sapped much of the spirit out of the
company. Millard eventually sold the company for $200 million, moved to
-- Karl Mamer