Small Biz Mac, Small Biz Mac focuses on using Mac as the foundation of a small business--the operating platform, the market, and more. This blog will discuss both the challenges of operating a business on Mac hardware and software, and the impact of the broader Mac market on business.

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Wed, 13 May 2015

Micro Center: DIY Geek-out in Every Aisle

By: Lori Jareo

Some years ago, my husband and I moved to a street that had both a Staples and a Radio Shack. We considered ourselves pretty lucky that we had access to both good office tech and people who had the odds & ends to make that tech more manageable. Over the past several years, the stores changed to emphasize products like furniture and cellphones that we weren't much interested in. We went in less and less. We started ordering online from Staples and then our Radio Shack simply closed.

One Saturday, a free evening presented itself in the form of a trip to Micro Center some 25 miles away, 50 miles round-trip. Why not? Back in the day--a cold spring day in 1995--we made the trip to get a state-of-the-art 28.8 kilobit modem for our Mac Classic. Twenty years later, we still had that lovin' feeling when we walked back through those sliding glass doors.

For a noisy, bare-bones, crowded store, Micro Center is what Radio Shack should have grown into, and what Staples should be seeking to emulate. Need four types of button batteries? Check. Need USB phone chargers? Got 'em. Need to solder something? OK. Paper for your new Staples printer? All set. Sound system? TV? Gaming? Yes, yes, yes. The varieties in the Apple department are wonderful. Oh yeah . . . our long-closed camera store has resurfaced here too.

If there's something that isn't there, could it be made on one of the 3-D printing machines offered for sale? Oh, the possibilities.

Twenty years ago, this store was the portal to the world because it had the fastest modem available for our little Mac Classic. After bringing it home, we were up all night posting at bulletin boards all over the world just for Mac users. We bragged at our offices that we could play BBS games alongside people from Europe and Australia because our modem was so fast. Yep, we were scorchin' the phone lines.

That 28.8 modem wasn't much bigger than a candy bar. Micro Center was the candy store we remembered it to be, just like Radio Shack was for anyone who wanted to hear what Japan or Brazil sounded like on a short-wave. A trans-continental connection was just a flip of a switch away.

Now that we're in the year 2015, we have a half-dozen MacBookPros in our home, and more computing power than a hundred Mac Classics and 28.8's in our iPhones. We have a waterproof digital camera that is less expensive than the gas we'll need to get to the beach where we'll use it.

Micro Center will soon be closing for the night but it's just as crowded as it was two hours ago when we got here. Staples was never this jammed. It's dark outside and snowing again but no one seems to care. People start moving to the check-out lanes at the front. Some people have specialty hdmi cables, laptops, routers, Adobe design software subscription cards; in short, new connectivity. It's almost 9 o'clock now and we bet that most folks will put their new stuff away when they get home. But for others, there are hard-to-find parts to install and t-shirts and posters to design. These folks just won't wait until morning.

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