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VideOdyssey – 40th Anniversary

Videodyssey video, games and personal computersToday is the 40th anniversary of the opening of my first business, VideOdyssey. I was armed for competition with no business operation experience, seed capital from my bar mitzvah and a 5 page business plan.

I turned the key on Thursday, May 5, 1977 looked out the door at the empty sidewalk and said, “Hello World.” Or something to that effect. The silence was deafening. With additional keenless insight I had opened my little storefront in a new shopping center with only 1 other store, a hairdresser.

So there I was. No money. No experience and a lousy location. Good start.

I had the temerity to think that personal computers were going to be a big thing. My only problem is that there were no computers to sell.  No hardware. No software either. What there was was Pong. And Betamax.

The products were slim pickings. But to me the promise seemed great.  I wrote in my plan:

The products offered by VideOdyssey will provide consumers with an unprecedented control over what information and entertainment they receive in the home, when it is shown and its frequency.”

At this time the non-existent personal computer industry consisted of hobbyists on what used to be called the West Coast. Silicon was definitely in play for computer construction, but they hadn’t named a valley after it. Apple was in the garage.

The gateway drugs were video recorders and video games but the target was the personal computer.  In the plan I wrote:

“…TV games are the tip of the proverbial iceberg….Game technology, which uses …”smart” mircoprocessor chips, is the harbinger of domestic computer systems. (note: how quaint).

My nod to the Internet was

“consumers who are being eased into “anytime” banking, elaborate pocket calculators and videogames will readily accept the interactive capability available through their home computer.”Steve Jobs business card

I survived my first year holiday season with the season’s top hit, the Fairchild Video Game but still hunting for my first computer to sell. In January I went to the Consumer Electronic Show and met Steve Jobs selling his 2 kilobyte, color Apple computer with built-in keyboard. After sending him the Sony TV he bartered against my first Apple dealer purchase I remember writing the tiny firm and saying that the computer, “would make a good step up from my video games.” Guess so.


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