itty bitty machine company
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itty bitty machine company, or "ibm", was a small computer retail store operating from December 1975 to 1980 in Evanston, Illinois, United States. Ted Nelson, Bob Goelkel, and Jim Banish founded the company. The company also demonstrated, sold and serviced the IMSAI 8080 Microcomputer, Processor Technology SOL-20 Terminal Computer, and kits from The Digital Group. Most hardware items were sold as electronic kits or assembled and tested by employees. Most of the day to day employees were Northwestern University students, as well as High School students from Evanston Township High School and Lane Tech High School in Chicago. The original phone number was (312) 328-6800, the last 4 digits being "6800" for Motorola 6800 processor. The address until closing was 1316 Chicago Avenue Evanston, IL, which is walking distance from Northwestern University and around the corner from Nabih's Inc. which has been an Apple Authorized Reseller and Service Center since 1978.
In 1975 Y.P. Chen invested in itty bitty machine company and suggested opening a second store in Lombard, IL on East Roosevelt Road nearer where Chen lived. Alan McNeil, a recent graduate of University of Illinois and student of Ted Nelson's, was given the task of running that store. A store front in a mini mall in the 400 East Roosevelt Road area was found and converted. It had a much smaller stock than the Evanston store. That store was open about two years. itty bitty soon had competition from a new computer store named Data Domain that opened in Arlington Heights, IL in 1977.
itty bitty machine company also called themselves "ibm", a deliberately ironic, lower-case version of the initials for the huge International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), well known for manufacturing very large and costly mainframe computers.
itty bitty was a case of a great idea at the right time, but normal small business problems eventually forced their closing. Jim Banish told Alan McNeil in February 1977 that itty bitty could not make payroll and that the company was in serious trouble because of an outstanding debt. A very large corporation had ordered 30 assembled IMSAI computers. itty bitty had obtained a loan to order the computers, expecting to be paid in 90 days to make a good profit on assembly. The large corporation had taken delivery and had decided not to pay. Jim Banish said that because itty bitty's invoices had no penalty with interest specified, the large corporation had said the invoice was a zero-percent loan.