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In the US, the personal computer revolution was kickstarted by mail order, which is the channel through which the Altair was sold. However, it did not take long for the new industry to be augmented with retail stores, such as the famous Byte Shop in Mountain View, California in December 1975.

What were the Australian equivalents? The personal computer industry there in general lagged the US somewhat, but when it did get going, did it mostly work by mail order, or have a strong retail presence early on? What were the first personal computer retail stores in Australia?

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    The premiss of this question might, if at all, only be true for a very specific definition of Personal Computer, Revolution and Retail Store, as all of that was already present in the 1960s. In the US and worldwide. Just think the Olivetti store on Fifth Avenue, present since the mid 1950s, selling the Programma 101 in 1965 and many other that followed. Similar (well, less spacious, luxurious than the NYC one) existed all around the world. From Olivetti any many other companies. So if your question is based around a very narrow and specific definition for shop and PC, you may want to add that
    – Raffzahn
    Apr 11 at 19:37
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    @rwallace in most parts of the world office machinery stores started selling computers as soon as they were available - already way before those were micro processor based, or made from hobbyist kits, like S100. Professional business has always been there, it was never glamorous (ignoring the Olivetti flagship store) or considered revolutionary. Only tools. After all, most of the so called micro computer revolution was a different viewpoint, then it was really a fundamental change. At a time the Altair was introduced with 256 bytes, a TA 1000 system was already available since several years.
    – Raffzahn
    Apr 11 at 21:46
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    Starting in the early 1980s and going into the early 2000s, it wasn't unusual for home and office computers to be acquired via a local OEM store. Such stores would make a bespoke "IBM compatible" computer to the specifications the customer wanted, or close to it, depending on what was technologically possible at the time. The operation system was usually MS DOS but some OEM stores suggested DR DOS.
    – Fred
    Apr 12 at 2:58
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    Didn't Radio Shack/Tandy have presence in Australia?
    – chthon
    Apr 14 at 9:39
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    @chthon: Tandy did operate stores in Australia. They began operating in November 1973. Their TRS-80 series of computers was particularly well known.
    – Fred
    Apr 15 at 17:18

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It seems the first personal computers to be launched were the Tandy TRS-80 and the Commodore Pet. The first TRS-80 computers were delivered in November 1977 and the Commodore Pet was delivered in early 1978.

Tandy opened its first Australian store in November 1973.

Tandy in Australia were especially well known for their audio and radio products, most of which carried their Realistic own brand label. Their business expanded rapidly during the CB radio boom of the middle of the 1970s, and the personal computer boom later. Their TRS-80 series of computers was particularly well known.

Dick Smith started its first store in 1968. It was a serious competitor to Tandy. Both stores had similar products for sale. It made a clone of the TRS-80, called the System 80, released in October 1981. It also made a clone of the Apple II called the Dick Smith Cat. The reference for the Dick Smith Cat claims the System 80 was released in 1980.

Either way, Tandy with its TRS-80 computer would have been the first personal computer store in Australia.

However, such computer stores were not the only way Australians acquired personal computers for home or the office.

Starting in the early 1980s and going into the early 2000s, it wasn't unusual for home and office computers to be acquired via a local OEM store. Such stores would make a bespoke "IBM compatible" computer to the specifications the customer wanted, or close to it, depending on what was technologically possible at the time. The operation system was usually MS DOS but some OEM stores suggested DR DOS.

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  • Fred, corrected a spelling error and changed the sense of the "However, such computer stores ..." paragraph. Based on the paragraph after that, I think you meant "were not the only way" but feel free to change that back if I misunderstood.
    – paxdiablo
    Apr 16 at 14:08
  • @paxdiablo: thanks for the correction.
    – Fred
    Apr 16 at 16:28
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    Tandy shops had TRS-80 machines from the late '70s. I used to type in an "avoid the objects scrolling up the screen" game I wrote in Tandy shops all the time when I was about 12 or 13 years old in the early '80s. Tandy already sold electronic devices and components. Their big competitor was Dick Smith who sold TRS-80 clones sourced from Hong Kong or Taiwan and other clones. They would've sold computers later than Tandy since they had to wait for TRS-80s to be cloned. Big chains that sold appliances sold other brands of computer in the early '80s such as Kmart and Myer. Apr 17 at 1:40
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    I don't know who sold Commodore PETs or even Apple IIs in the early days. There were 8-bit kit computers with hex keypads and LED segment displays, some developed in Australia. I seem to recall a Z80 based one called "Dream" but can't find it online so I must have something wrong. This was probably sold mail-order but I can imagine Dick Smith selling them too. This would be mid to late '70s before the PET, TRS-80, and Apple II... It turns out the Dream was 6800 based and dates from '78 so doesn't pan out. Apr 17 at 1:46

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