Michael Aldrich BiographyHistory of ROCCAcknowledgementsFeedbackBack to Aldrich Archive Home

  Internet Online Shopping

  Inventor's Story

  Online Shopping in the 1980s


  E-commerce, E-Business and Online

  What is Videotex?

  Videotex New Generation Terminals

  Videotex Chips

  "Videotex: Key to the Wired City"
        USA Book Review

  "Videotex: Key to the Wired City"
        German Book Review

  I Hate Shopping

  Software Anecdotes

  Emerging Digital and Social Markets
Digital People Power Changes the World

  Online Shopping FAQ's


On-line Shopping
Frequently Asked Questions

There are 3 main urban myths about the Aldrich systems – they were Prestel-like, Aldrich used Prestel and Aldrich was connected to the Prestel industry.
All these myths are untrue. The misunderstandings probably arose for two main reasons. Firstly Aldrich borrowed the Mullard Lucy chip set that was being mass-produced for Prestel and Minitel. It included a chip modem, auto-dialler, character generator and national character set [hence the Russian Cyrillic Teleputer]. It was ridiculously cheap for the time. He put the chip set in the Teleputer and variations thereof. He then connected the resulting terminals to a standard commercial real-time transaction processing computer that he manufactured. Hey presto, he had an online shopping system or anything else he cared to program. He sold several hundred of these systems over 10 years with the Lucy terminals. In the Archive you can see some of them in the Innovative Information Systems Section. Secondly Aldrich had no advertising budget and relied solely on editorial coverage for publicity. He shamelessly used the terms Videotex and Viewdata Plus often confusing everybody. Prestel was a page-driven information dissemination system concocted by the telecoms industry. It was unbelievably hyped so there was lots of free publicity around. The computer industry largely ignored it.

Aldrich released his system twice because the media did not understand the first time
This is true. In March 1980 Aldrich released his system at Quaglinos Restaurant in London on to an unsuspecting world, and the world’s media were bemused, baffled and confused even though the coverage was extensive. So he released it again in July 1980 and drew from the Financial Times this report:

‘If Mike Aldrich is to be believed the days of the supermarket are numbered. He foresees a future when housewives will do the week’s shopping from the comfort of an armchair…’
Financial Times 12th July 1980

In 1981 Aldrich installed the world’s first business-to-business on-line shopping system at Thomson Holidays. In May 1984 he installed the world’s first business-to-consumer on-line home shopping system for Gateshead SIS/ Tesco and Mrs Jane Snowball, a 72 year old great-grandmother, became the world’s first on-line shopper buying groceries from Tesco from her armchair. This was shown on network TV. The Financial Times and the other print media never reported it.



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