Michael Aldrich BiographyHistory of ROCCAcknowledgementsFeedbackBack to Aldrich Archive Home

  University of Brighton Press Release

  University of Brighton Web Release

  Gateshead Press Release

  Gateshead Web Release

  ROCC Press Release

Press Releases

Gateshead Celebrates World’s First Home Shopper

Gateshead Council is about to celebrate an amazing technological milestone after tracking down the world’s first ever online home shopper.

The council’s Shopping and Information Service (SiS) paved the way for the $500 billion business we know today as internet shopping, and the first ever home user of the service made her first purchase 25 years ago this month.

Proving itself just as caring, innovative and forward-thinking a council as it remains today, Gateshead Council used the service to provide elderly, and socially and physically disadvantaged residents of the borough with an easier way of buying their groceries. And Mrs Jane Snowball, then 72, bought the first item from her local Tesco supermarket in May 1984, by using her television set and remote control.

Although Mrs Snowball, along with her husband Ned, who lived together in Underwood on the Leam Lane Estate in Gateshead, have since passed away, Gateshead Council are due to present her children, Derek, (61), from London, Alan (74), of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, and Marion Alderson (63), of Southampton, with a commemorative gift to mark their mother’s contribution to the beginnings of what is now a worldwide market used by millions of people each day across the globe. The event will take place at a special private reception in the Mayor’s Parlour at the Civic Centre, on May 12.

Originally pioneered by senior geography lecturer at Newcastle University Ross Davies following a social study into shoppers’ needs, the hardware and software for SiS were developed by Rediffusion (later ROCC) Computers using the online shopping system invented by the company’s founder Michael Aldrich in 1979. Tesco, together with Greggs the Bakers and Lloydspharmacy, were the first retailers to sign up to the project. All in all, Rediffusion loaned Gateshead Council £80,000 worth of equipment and training to start SiS, which today would be around £185,000.

Gateshead Council still offers a shopping service today, for older people who find it difficult to get to the shops due to a disability or as a result of being housebound, and most of the service staff have been in post for over eight years, ensuring they are committed to providing a great service and giving the customer value for money.

Leader of Gateshead Council Mick Henry said: “Gateshead has a long and proud history of looking after its citizens in all circumstances, and this innovative project demonstrates that. Today the council remains just as committed not only to the welfare and quality of life of its residents, but also to utilising the latest technologies in order to help make Gateshead the best place to live, work and visit.

“One example of this is the Gateshead Technology Innovation scheme*, which was launched last year at the borough’s Baltic Business Quarter. Strides like this could not be taken without the enthusiasm and open-mindedness of residents such as Mrs Snowball, and it is a great honour to be able to mark her contribution to the development of Gateshead, by welcoming her three children to the borough for this very special event.

“By recognising Mrs Snowball in this way, we celebrate our responsibilities to the less advantaged and our success at finding innovative new ways to be of assistance to them.”

Michael Aldrich, who now lives in Arizona, said: “I was prompted to develop the system because I disliked the weekly family supermarket expedition, and within five years Gateshead Council was providing it as a home shopping service for its less mobile citizens, with Mrs Snowball launching a worldwide industry. The north has more than one angel.

“It has been hugely satisfying finding Mrs Snowball after a long search and I am very proud to have been associated with the Gateshead SiS. It was born out of the desire to provide a true public service and supported by the partners as such. It helped people who needed helping.”

Derek Snowball, on behalf of his siblings added: ”My mother was a devoted to her home shopping system and demonstrated it to everyone who came to the house. It helped tremendously when my father needed round the clock care.

“My wife and I worked in the IT industry at the time and were frustrated that we had to queue at the supermarket checkouts. When SiS came to our town we placed an order in the first week. If others had seen the system in operation in Gateshead, the take up of home shopping may have been more rapid, but my Mam certainly thought it was smashing.”

A Newcastle University spokesperson said: “Professor Ross Davies was one of the first entrepreneurial academics, encouraging Tesco and Gateshead Council to undertake a groundbreaking experiment in social inclusion which laid down the foundations for e-commerce in the UK, and opened up new horizons for many people.

"Decades after his achievement, the University's staff continue to lead the way in new research areas and technologies, always striving to ensure our work will benefit the communities around us. The late Professor Ross Davies, a leading UK academic in the field of retail management, spent over 10 years at Newcastle University, where he established a reputation as a retail geographer.”

Graham Randell, Corporate Social Responsibility Director for Greggs said: “As a responsible business rooted in the North East community, Greggs has always admired the way that Gateshead Council take a lead in enhancing the quality of life of its residents.

“Greggs are proud to have supported such an innovative scheme 25 years ago and we will continue to find ways to serve the wider community as well as our customers now and into the future.”

And Iain Bowie, Area Manager for Lloydspharmacy added: “As a business, we were delighted to be a part of the SiS initiative 25 years ago. Lloydspharmacy is always looking for ways to make customers’ lives easier and with SiS, Gateshead Council provided an innovative opportunity not to be missed.

“We can all see now how pioneering the service was. It’s amazing to see how far internet shopping has progressed. Lloydspharmacy now has its own website where visitors can buy products, find out about healthcare services, order Express Prescriptions and even speak to a doctor all online. For those who have difficulty getting out and about it’s invaluable.”


Media contact: Judy Stirling, Communications Officer, Gateshead Council
Tel: (0191) 433 2026 Email: judystirling@gateshead.gov.uk

Notes to Editors:

• In 2008, Alcatel-Lucent, one of the world's largest telecoms companies, joined forces with Gateshead Council in a joint venture company to develop a superhigh-capacity network serving the Baltic Business Quarter development. When complete, the state-of-the art optical network will support services such as video conferencing, video on demand, streaming media, data storage and protection, disaster recovery and image processing. The system will be of a standard available in only a very few locations in the UK, and as good as the best in the world.

• The SiS project began on a trial basis in 1980 at a local community centre, and involved orders being taken from a Tesco catalogue and recorded into a computerised cash register using a bar code reader. The process was largely manual, with orders physically transferred to the Tesco store where they were packed and delivered.

• On April 1, 1981, a microcomputer at Sunderland Road Library later linked with the microcomputer in Tesco’s Gateshead branch. The scheme was then extended to Chopwell Library, Felling Library and Fountain View Day Centre in Bensham using a telephone exchange system to record the items ordered and send them to Tesco’s microcomputer.

• Additional retailers Greggs the Bakers and Lloydspharmacy came on board in the summer of 1983, but the system lacked an interactive link to the retailer and it was decided the system should focus on residents that were housebound.

• Gateshead Adult Social services adopted the scheme using Rediffusion’s £80,000 videotex system, which was physically installed in people’s homes, and in sheltered housing schemes at Bill Quay and Saltmeadows, using a TV set and remote control, and in phase three, three years after its original inception, Mrs Snowball became the world’s first online home shopper.

• The modified TVs used for SiS were made at the Rediffusion factory in West Auckland, County Durham and the Aldrich’s lived in Yarm between 1967 and 1971, current CEO of ROCC Luke having been born at Stockton General Hospital.

• 1,350 products were available and could be delivered from the retailer to the resident within hours of placing an order.

• The scheme in this format ran until at least 1996 when the internet as we know it today was born.

More information on the birth of home shopping can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_shopping

About Gateshead Council’s current shopping service:

• The service helps you to keep your independence by making sure you can still access all of the goods sold at supermarkets and in other local stores when you are not able to go yourself.

• We will need to do an assessment to see if you can get the service but after that it’s really easy to use:

• Step one: You will be given a catalogue, which acts a guide to the products available, and all you have to do is select which ones you want.

• Step two: An operator will phone you on the same day each week (or however frequently you use the service) to take your order.

• Step three: A member of our team will collect your requested items then deliver them to your door.

• Our staff are always careful to check use-by dates to make sure you get the best value for your money and our refrigerated vans ensure all products reach you in good condition. What’s more, if an item is found to be out of stock, they will do their best to get you a suitable alternative.

• There is a small cost of £5.45 for the service but there is no minimum order.

About Lloydspharmacy

• Lloydspharmacy has around 1,700 pharmacies across the UK. These are based predominantly in community and health centre locations. The company employs over 16,000 staff and dispenses over 145 million prescription items annually.

• Lloydspharmacy, which is a community pharmacy, has primary care at the heart of its business. This is why it has launched a range of products aimed at improving community health such as affordable blood pressure monitors and allergy relievers, as well as a suite of convenient professional health check services including free blood pressure and diabetes testing, and cholesterol and heart checks in the comfort of a private consultation room.

• Lloydspharmacy is the trading name of Lloydspharmacy Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Celesio AG based in Stuttgart. Celesio is the leading pharmaceutical distribution company in Europe and is represented in 16 countries. With its three divisions, Celesio Wholesale, Celesio Pharmacies and Celesio Solutions, the group covers the entire scope of pharmaceutical-related services.

Some key facts about Lloydspharmacy:

• In 2007/8 Lloydspharmacy had turnover of £1.7 billion
• Prescription processing is up 9% to 145.4 million.
• Over 1.25 million free Type 2 diabetes screening tests and 1.5 million blood pressure tests completed to date.
• 18,700 cholesterol and heart checks completed to date
• Lloydspharmacy offers more private consultation areas than any other pharmacy – currently they are available in 95% of Lloydspharmacies (1,630)

Lloydspharmacy media contact: Claire Connoly, press officer – 024 7643 2192, 07798 826 332, claire.connolly@lloydspharmacy.co.uk

Media contact: Jule Wilson, Communications Officer, Gateshead Council
Tel: (0191) 433 2026 Email: julewilson@gateshead.gov.uk



Biography                  History of ROCC                  Acknowledgements                  Feedback                  Copyright

© Michael Aldrich 2011