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I Hate Shopping
I hate shopping .My wife hates shopping. Everyone I know hates the once or twice weekly trips to the local supermarket to buy staples. Not the wire kind, but cornflakes, tins of beans, jam and onions.

Every week it is the same. It’s all on the list and you navigate that trolley, with its perennially bent left wheel, up and down familiar, crowded aisles. At the end of the whole miserable process you stand in a queue, unload and pack the goods yourself, pay the cashier, hump the stuff miles to the car park and drive home physically and mentally drained.

Is all this human torture necessary? The straight answer is no. As I was saying, it is all on a list that basically does not alter week-in, week-out. If there was a cheap way of communicating that list to a grocery distributor you could go back to the old days and get the week’s shopping delivered to your doorstep. If, in addition, there was some method of paying at the point of order, that would fund the delivery service and you could get it free.

If only something like that existed! But then it does, It’s called Viewdata and it links the friendly TV in your lounge directly into computers.

Viewdata in this context threatens to change the nature of shopping and the very existence of supermarkets. Nobody really needs prime space in High Streets up and down the country to sell packets of soapflakes when you could link everyone’s telly, at little cost, to a distribution depot on the edge of town.

All the housewife would need to do would be to operate a simple handset to set up her shopping list on the tv screen and transmit it to the distribution depot’s computer. In fact she could send the list to rival distribution centres and compare costs.

Logical shopping is just one dramatic example of the way Viewdata is likely to change much of the accepted superstructure of business. That superstructure in very many other instances is no longer needed for the purpose of supporting the business though there are, of course, social implications. Apart from getting a haircut, where clearly you have to be present in person, there are precious few other things that you couldn’t get at the end of a telephone line through Viewdata.

The banks are paperwork and, therefore, logical institutions. Some banking services using Viewdata are already appearing. And now that the High Street branch is no longer a ‘sine qua non’, the banks could find themselves in competition with other organisations.

As telecommunications become even cheaper and conventional transport more expensive the whole concept of buying goods and services is changing dramatically.

The old ways of doing business and the old businesses themselves are under attack and the new ways of doing business will in many cases spawn totally new businesses.

So the next time you sit down in front of the telly, don’t take it for granted. It may not be quite so innocent, or so friendly as you might at first think.

Mike Aldrich June 1981

This short article is part of the Michael Aldrich Archive that has been donated to the Aldrich Library at the University of Brighton in the section titled ‘Pioneers of Online Shopping.’ The website opens in December 2009.

Reference; ‘Doing the Shopping in front of a TV’ ‘Computing’ September 13 1981



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