Forget the arcades of the 80s - remember the computer shops

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DigitalD
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Post by DigitalD » Tue Dec 26, 2006 10:27 am

In Liverpool, the 'Bits and Bytes' store has become part of urban myth. It was great to be able to head to a shop only a bus ride away and try the game out before buying, a change from sending a 40 quid postal order (I was too young for a chequebook) and praying the reviewers hadn't been prone to a fit of overpraising. The guys really knew their stuff, and the walls were lined with glass cases, tantalisingly crammed full of the latest imports. The spines being written in Japanese, I didn't know which was which, but that didn't make them any less alluring. 40 quid a pop! Now I pay 20 for 'Taito Legends' and question why half the included titles made it on there. Age and cynicism...

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The Penultimate Ninja
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Post by The Penultimate Ninja » Mon Jan 15, 2007 6:39 am

I used to buy all my games in 'Computer Plus' in King's Lynn.

There was always something running on the C64, Speccy, Amiga, ST, etc. I would wait in there and try the games out while mum did the rest of her shopping.

They used to have a huge selection of budget games on racks for the C64, Spectrum etc. I used to go in a couple of times a month and spend my pocket money on a £1.99/£2.99 tape.

All the full price releases were behind glass. I still remember the excitement of buying Last Ninja 2 and the bloke unlocking the glass case to get the box, and showing me all the cool stuff that came with it (Ninja Mask, Map, Plastic Throwing-Star).

Then when the Master System/Megadrive/SNES were really popular you could go in and request to try pretty out much anything. Sadly around the time of the PSone/Saturn it kind of changed into a PC parts/trade in place. It closed a few years ago.

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GetDexter
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Post by GetDexter » Mon Jan 15, 2007 7:43 am

Around the summer of 1985 a shop called 'Soft Centre' opened upstairs in The Parade in Cwmbran Town Centre. I bought (or at least, my Nan did) an Amstrad 6128 off them within the first week of opening and they threw in two disk games for free for me - Batman (Ritman/Drummond version) and Spindizzy.
It was owned by two friendly guys called Dale and John. Me and my mates used to take the mick out of John a little as he seemed to be the main cashier operater with a scant knowledge of games, while Dale seemed to be the one with all the knowledge.
I used to love going in there on a Saturday, carefully studying their Amstrad shelves for new releases. They had a lot of trade off me. I bought a DMP 2000 printer off them, and virtually all my Amstrad games that I ever owned.
They had an interest in arcade machines and I remember them having a Victory Road machine in there for ages. One Saturday morning when it was all quiet, John opened up the front of the machine and gave us loads of free credits each and we spent ages having a fantastic two-player on it.
A couple of years later they expanded and bought the shop next door, which they turned into a mini arcade. I remember them having Arkanoid in there which I played to death.
Then, presumably because it wasn't raking enough money in, they closed down the arcade and reopened it as their PC section in the early 90's. It was around the time I came into an inheritance and bought a 486sx-20 with 2megs of ram. I remember buying Colonization and Ultima Underworld from them too and having a chat with Dale who convinced me to also buy Wonderland too :)

In 2002 ish the shop closed down. I was in there one day and overheard John chatting to a customer. I remember him saying 'Yes, we're reopening in six months in new premises...' but that never happened.

If anyone does know the full story and history of Soft Centre in Cwmbran, then I'd love to know!
Last edited by GetDexter on Mon Jan 15, 2007 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
As requested by the Tw@t himself - his account was Hijacked and has had a change of password.

Sorry Dexter!

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djcarlos
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Post by djcarlos » Mon Jan 15, 2007 11:51 am

My local was Spa Computer Centre in Leamington Spa...used to spend hours in there hoping they would have SOMETHING for my aging Electron.

I think it might still be in business, I'm sure my Dad got his PC upgraded there recently?
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Norwich Retro
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Post by Norwich Retro » Thu Jan 18, 2007 6:23 pm

It's a shame that One Step Beyond in Norwich ended in such a bad way.

I used to work there back in the mid-eighties, when it was calld Brainwave (and before that I used to hang out in there after college). The whole culture was different then. They used to give me the tape or disk to load in the machine myself.. great fun playing the latest games on the Atari 800XL. And they never used to hassle you or kick you out.

I used to be a 'regular', as the guys that used to hang out there were called. And that got me the job.

I have fond memories of the 8-bit and 16-bit era. Selling Speccy's and 64's. In fact I had the uneviable task of having to tune in the damn c2n tape decks using an azimuth tape and screw-drivers (those things would be out of alignment again after a few days).

Of course in them days everything was new. Loading up the latest game would be a major event. These days it all the same all stuff, it just isn't the same. We have some nice little 'retro' stores in Norwich thankfully.

But getting back to OSB, I do agree that it started to go downhill when it moved to Bedford Street. Another couple of names for anybody who was around Norwich 'in the day', B.B. Adams on St Giles and Sound Marketing (Prince of Wales or was it St Benedicts?). While I was at college I used to frequent them all. Except Viking, that was always the 'enemy'. :)

Regards,
Gary.

Norwich Retro Gamers
www.retrogamers.org

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Bill Goldberg
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Post by Bill Goldberg » Sat Jan 20, 2007 4:04 am

woody.cool wrote:When I used to live in Banbury, Oxfordshire - we had a shop called "Soft Spot" which sold shed loads of games and computers. You had to go up a very narrow staircase (if I remember correctly there was an Argos and an arcade underneath it)

I used to get all my Amstrad CPC and Commodore 16 games from there.
They even stocked Amstrad CPC Disc games (remember them strange 3" discs that you had to turn over to access the over side)

I also saw the launch of the Commodore C64GS (the pretty crap Commodore 64 games console) in that shop. I remember playing games on there C64GS shop model but can't remember what games they had on it.

Eventually the shop closed down. It never saw too many games from the 16 and 32-bit eras cos it had closed a bit before then (when we finally got games on the shelves in proper retail shops)

When "Soft Spot" closed I had to go to Boots or WHSmiths to get games. When they stopped doing it I had to go all the way to Welsbourne Market to get games.

We also had a few more independant computer game shops open and close in the centre - these types of shop were the only places to get Amiga games - other towns had retail shops stocking Amiga and Atari ST stuff but not in Banbury. Otherwise it was mail order for my precious miggy games.

Now they have a HMV, a Game and a GameStation.
I lived in Banbury for a short time and remember "Soft Spot" very well, god I miss that computer store, Its a shame we have to use HMV, Game and Gamestation in Banbury, technically there is nothing in Banbury and if Soft Spot were in Birmingham say the owners would probablky be millionaires by now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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nwosteve
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Post by nwosteve » Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:58 pm

there was a shop in lowestoft called the micro shop that always had a specy, c64 amstrad then in the later years an amiga on the go

spent many an hour playing many many games

these days it does pc repairs and the staff are BORING
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1500graham
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The place to go after school.

Post by 1500graham » Fri Jan 26, 2007 7:58 am

Back in the early eighties, after school my friends & i used to head over to Bury town centre & run riot in a huge five floor Co-op store. The top floor was like heaven on earth as there were Vic 20's, Orics, Dragons & Spectrums on display that often had games loaded in & ready to be played. It was here where i first saw a truly amazing game on the Speccy called Sabre Wulf by Ultimate Play The Game. As soon as my little hands touched the Quick Shot joystick i was addicted & wanted more! For my thirteenth birthday my mum & i took a trip to the Co-op & she bought me my beloved Spectrum 48k & i never had a dull Sunday ever again. When other teens were out smashing up bus shelters, i was at home playing Daley Thompson's Decathalon!
After the staff at the Co-op had kicked us out we'd then race over to an independant computer shop called 'Micro North'. It was a small shop & the blokes that worked there didn't seem too enthusiastic towards us crashing through the door at the same time each day to play the games. They obviously picked up on the trend as the computers were often set up without displaying any games & we were left with no resort but to type in nonesense like 10 print "Graham is ace", 20 go to 10, 30 Run, before taking the free Ocean posters & leaving. (I still have my Rambo II poster).
Sadly, nowadays both the Co-op & Micro North have gone, as has the local video shop & the pool hall, nevertheless the memory lives on & it would seem that i am not the only one that enjoys looking back on these wonderful golden years!

nwosteve
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Re:

Post by nwosteve » Sat Jan 27, 2007 12:16 pm

Norwich Retro wrote:It's a shame that One Step Beyond in Norwich ended in such a bad way.

I used to work there back in the mid-eighties, when it was calld Brainwave (and before that I used to hang out in there after college). The whole culture was different then. They used to give me the tape or disk to load in the machine myself.. great fun playing the latest games on the Atari 800XL. And they never used to hassle you or kick you out.

I used to be a 'regular', as the guys that used to hang out there were called. And that got me the job.

I have fond memories of the 8-bit and 16-bit era. Selling Speccy's and 64's. In fact I had the uneviable task of having to tune in the damn c2n tape decks using an azimuth tape and screw-drivers (those things would be out of alignment again after a few days).

Of course in them days everything was new. Loading up the latest game would be a major event. These days it all the same all stuff, it just isn't the same. We have some nice little 'retro' stores in Norwich thankfully.

But getting back to OSB, I do agree that it started to go downhill when it moved to Bedford Street. Another couple of names for anybody who was around Norwich 'in the day', B.B. Adams on St Giles and Sound Marketing (Prince of Wales or was it St Benedicts?). While I was at college I used to frequent them all. Except Viking, that was always the 'enemy'. :)

Regards,
Gary.

Norwich Retro Gamers
www.retrogamers.org
i remember it well bought an atari jaguar years ago from there and picked up a lot of nice priced retro stuff over the years

where are these other retro stores?
"You're all going to die." MK3 promo posters

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RobinElvin
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Post by RobinElvin » Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:36 pm

Crikey, looks like a gathering of Norfolk boys here!

I used to go to OSB in Castle Meadow back in the day. A bit dingy and small but looking back through the haze of nostalgia it didn't seem that bad. I remember buying a second-hand C64 when they were closing it down to move to the new shop. It was staffed by nerdy types which seemed to give it an authentic atmosphere.

I have to say after it moved it became too commercial and the service went downhill. I remember trying to exchange a game I bought for my brother which he already had and being told I could only get back 50% of the value as long as I swapped it for something else in the shop. I don't mind telling you I was livid but I agreed to this and craftily swapped the price tags on some full price games for budget ones so I got my full money back in the end!

My parents bought my original C64 from Norwich Camera Centre. I've never understood why. I also remember my Dad asking in Boots for an audio cable and checking with the assistant: "This will let me copy games won't it?" :oops:

And my Amiga came from Thetford Micros. That seemed like a proper computer shop with walls filled with cassettes. Saw my first (and only) SX-64 in there.

It's all gone a bit specialist now. I remember buying games from the newsagent in Wymondham. Can't do that any more (sigh)

Oh, just remembered Bond's in Norwich waaay back before it became John Lewis. They had an Amiga in there running Batman the Movie and we used to bunk off college to play it. The guy who ran the department didn't take kindly to this but we kept him at bay by pretending we were going to buy it by asking silly questions like "This monitor, analogue or digital RGB?" knowing full well he would have to go off and look up the answer. Well, one day we tried the cheat which was something like pressing jjjjjjjjj on the loading screen. When the cheat was activated the title screen flipped upside down. Alas this was our undoing as the guy was over like a shot when he saw this and turfed us off for "putting the disk in upside down" He then spent the next few minutes trying different ways of inserting the disk...... What days!
Rob

pyroxian
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Post by pyroxian » Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:25 am

Yup, I remember OSB too - my parents were divorced and my Dad lives in Norwich so would spend school holidays there. Was a shame when it closed down, but it had gone downhill since the glory days.

Mum lived near Peterborough, 'Logic Computers' was the local computer shop there. Not many great memories of it, apart from buying my Amiga 500 for about £200 there, I think it was an ex-repair model but it still works today :).

Most of my time though was spent hanging out in 'Nene Valley Software', which was in Whittlesey and was a nice friendly place to be :) I think Brian, the owner, was responsible for selling Amigas to every kid in Whittlesey, we all seemed to have them!

Steve

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Dark Reaper
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Re:

Post by Dark Reaper » Tue Feb 13, 2007 1:36 pm

DigitalD wrote:In Liverpool, the 'Bits and Bytes' store has become part of urban myth. It was great to be able to head to a shop only a bus ride away and try the game out before buying, a change from sending a 40 quid postal order (I was too young for a chequebook) and praying the reviewers hadn't been prone to a fit of overpraising. The guys really knew their stuff, and the walls were lined with glass cases, tantalisingly crammed full of the latest imports. The spines being written in Japanese, I didn't know which was which, but that didn't make them any less alluring. 40 quid a pop! Now I pay 20 for 'Taito Legends' and question why half the included titles made it on there. Age and cynicism...
I'd forgotten about Bits and Bytes. I didn't get to go as often as I would have liked but that place was amazing!
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lavalyte
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Post by lavalyte » Fri Feb 23, 2007 12:45 am

Ahh. Nostalgia.

I've just remembered Canberra's finest computer game store of the 80's... Steve's Communications. They were situated in Fyshwich (outer burb of Canberra, zoned for industry, legal brothels and pron shops).

They had the largest selection of c-64 soft- and hardware in Canberra, and I only got to visit them once a month or so when my Dad was buying groceries wholesale or cheap petrol. I remember...

They used to employ very young sales staff who, although generally wildly attitudinous, at least had a keen interest in the mechandise. I'm sure I applied for part time work there myself as a teen, although god knows how I planned on getting to work. They wisely didn't employ me.

I remember being pressured into buying a conix joystick from them which I tried for a week, then had to return as they were really designed for the right-handed, and I was left-handed. Thankfully they swapped it for a tac-2.

I remember my parents buying me Bruce Lee on tape from there, and finding that the game crashed at a certain point late in the game almost every time (it would freeze and the colour scheme would change to a pink background). My parents had to drive me over a number of times to swap the tape, only to have the same problem. I never did find out if it was the machine or the game that had the problem.

I remember being stunned, watching an amiga on display for the first time, running the demo of a galloping horse. So much more powerful than my c64! Finally a computer that would look like an arcade machine!

Eventually I think they swapped to selling commodore PC clones exclusively, then closed doors in the early 90's.
Last edited by lavalyte on Mon Apr 02, 2007 2:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Sureshot
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Re:

Post by Sureshot » Fri Feb 23, 2007 1:00 am

djcarlos wrote:My local was Spa Computer Centre in Leamington Spa...used to spend hours in there hoping they would have SOMETHING for my aging Electron.

I think it might still be in business, I'm sure my Dad got his PC upgraded there recently?
Heh, no way. Was ALMOST my local, but I found Games Carousel instead (and worked there for a while) - this was a great deal later than the times when Electron was in its prime anyway, so not entirely relevant to this topic.

To answer your question, last time I was in there it was way more PC orientated than before, but this was about 2 years ago or more. I doubt it's changed too much, though. Shame really as you used to get some pretty obscure stuff from there. I remember they had a whole load of 3DO, Amiga and rarer PC stuff, as well as boxes of random old games in there. I think it was the first place I ever played a Playstation as well, although you always had to ask an unimpressed minion to switch it on for you :P They also had one of those weird chairs that you could use as a sit-down controller. I wonder if they ever sold it/any.

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djcarlos
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Post by djcarlos » Fri Feb 23, 2007 7:10 am

I wonder if it smells the same...?

The shop, not the chair.
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