Technologizer

Technology in the 1990s, as Captured in Obsolete Computer Store Signs

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Harry McCracken / TIME.com

On Saturday, my wife and I went to run some errands at a shopping center in Santa Clara, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. As we pulled into the parking lot, we let out simultaneous little startled gasps: Micro Center, a venerable CompUSA-like computer store, had closed. (It turned out that it had ceased business on July 23rd; it was part of a chain which still has 21 locations around the country.)

I didn’t shop at Micro Center often: It was surrounded by several nearby locations of Fry’s, a far larger and better-stocked electronics chain. But I did stop by occasionally. And my favorite thing about the place wasn’t inside. It was the tech-company logos on the building’s facade.

As far as I can tell, they were put up in the mid-1990s and just stayed there. Frozen in time, they became reminders of a very different era in the history of personal technology.

They included:

  • Three leading manufacturers of dial-up modems — Hayes, US Robotics and Practical Peripherals;
  • IBM (at the time the logos went up, still a big name in PCs) and Compaq (an even bigger name in PCs);
  • Lotus, whose SmartSuite gave Microsoft Office a run for its money;
  • Apple, featuring its rainbow logo (which Steve Jobs axed in 1998) and mention of Power Macintosh (a line that was renamed simply “Power Mac” in 1999);
  • Fuji — no, not as a maker of digital cameras, but, I’m pretty sure, as a producer of…floppy disks.

I imagine that Micro Center left the signage unchanged so far simply because it was inattentive, not as a willful act of nostalgia. But the logos are still there at the moment, which means that they outlived the store itself.

They may well be gone by my next visit to the mall, so I paid them a final visit and took fuzzy photos with my Galaxy Nexus (click on the photos to see them as a slideshow).

8 comments
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Mike259
Mike259

Thanks Harry ! Always giving us good articles on tech nostalgia  :)

kitsune_rx
kitsune_rx

Frys? Perhaps the author doesn't buy many PC components. TVs sure, Frys got MC beat, but as far as hardware, MC is no doubt the place to go and has far better prices. System builders living in the South Bay are now bereft of a major source of parts.

sigaba
sigaba

What, no Palm Pilot branding?

RobertSF
RobertSF

Ah, the memories. Thank you! :)

sirwired
sirwired

I get a kick out of this every time I go into their Northern VA store, which has many of the same old signs.

steve_wildstrom
steve_wildstrom

My local MicroCenter, which actually moved into space vacated by CompUSA, offers something different: A series of large portraits of PC industry pioneers mounted high on the wal you see as you come into the store.  Some are iconic, like Steve Jobs. Others hardly known to people outside the industry, including Bob Frankston and Dan Bricklin. I always think as I come into the store, "Hey, I know these guys."