ComputerLand was a widespread chain of retail computer stores during the early years of the personal computer "revolution", and was one of the outlets (along with Computer City and Sears) chosen to introduce the IBM PC in 1981. The first ComputerLand opened in 1976, and the chain eventually included about 800 stores by 1985. After this time the rapid commoditization of the PC led to the company's downfall, with most of the retail locations closing by 1990. The company officially ended in February 1999.
ComputerLand was founded by William H Millard. In 1974 he launched a company, IMS Associates, Inc., to build what was claimed to be the first truly integrated personal computers, sold as kits to hobbyists and the rapidly growing numbers of retailers (through small ads in Popular Electronics). The computer, the IMSAI 8080, may not have made Millard's fortune, but his resulting experiences with the inexperienced and under‑capitalized retailers did. In 1976 (at the same time as the Byte Shop was selling its first few Apples) he asked his Sales Director, Ed Faber (an ex‑IBM Manager), to start a new franchise operation, soon to become ComputerLand.
Faber first designed a pilot store, at Hayward, California, with the then-revolutionary concept of providing a "full service" store, offering under one roof all that the customer needed to support their PCs. He then moved rapidly to set up franchising. The first franchisee was in Morristown, New Jersey, and was rapidly followed by a chain across the US.
It set a pattern that dominated PC retailing for the next decade. By the time IBM arrived on the scene, the network of branches, all run by franchisees, had grown to 190 in number. By the end of 1985, when Millard retired, there were some 800 branches (including some 200 outside the US) and he had become one of the computer billionaires.
Most ComputerLand stores succumbed to the predation of the "box-shifters" in the price wars of the latter 1980s, after the peak has passed. In 1987, Millard sold ComputerLand to E.M. Warburg, Pincus & Co. for US$200 million.
In 1993, Merisel announced it would purchase ComputerLand and its Datago aggregation division for $110 million. The new Merisel ComputerLand unit was operated by the then-president of Computerland's franchise and distribution business, Martin Wolf. The following year, "Vanstar" was selected as the name for the ComputerLand corporate sales (Pleasanton, California) after the sale of split-off franchisor to Merisel.
ComputerLand became defunct in February 1999 when, due to financial reporting which caused a steep decline in share price, they were purchased by one of their competitors, Inacom Corporation. Inacom itself ceased operations completely in 2000. Although the corporate ComputerLand ceased operations, many former franchises continue to operate today as independently owned computer businesses under the ComputerLand name.
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- Dryden, Patrick (August 13, 1990). "Computerland Adds Services, Encourage More LAN Focus". InfoWorld 12 (33): p. 34. ISSN 0199-6649.
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- "Computerland Merisel Reach Franchise Pact". Seattle Times. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
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- Harmon, Amy. "PC Wholesaler Merisel to Acquire Computerland Distribution Outlets : Competition: The deal could raise fears among other retailers that the company will favor its franchisees over them.". LA Times. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
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- David Mercer, "IBM: How the World's Most Successful Corporation is Managed", Kogan Page 1987 
- Littman, Jonathan (1987). Once Upon a Time in ComputerLand: The Amazing, Billion-Dollar Tale of Bill Millard. Los Angeles: Price Stern Sloan. ISBN 0-89586-502-5.