Paul Terrell

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Paul Terrell is an American businessman. He was the founder of The Byte Shop, one of the first personal computer retailers. He started the store in December 1975 in Mountain View, California.[1] As one of the first retailers, he helped popularize personal computing to the hobbyist and home computing markets. He was the first retailer to sell an Apple Computer, the Apple I.

Byte Shop and Apple[edit]

The Byte Shop was the first retailer of the original Apple I computer,[2] ordering 50 of the as-yet-unbuilt units from a persistent Steve Jobs.

Jobs approached a local computer store, the Byte Shop, who said they would be interested in the machine, but only if it came fully assembled.[3] The owner, Paul Terrell, went further, saying he would order 50 of the machines and pay $500.00 each on delivery. Jobs then took the purchase order that he had been given from the Byte Shop to Cramer Electronics, a national electronic parts distributor, and ordered the components he needed to assemble the Apple I Computer. The local credit manager asked Jobs how he was going to pay for the parts and he replied, "I have this purchase order from the Byte Shop chain of computer stores for 50 of my computers and the payment terms are COD. If you give me the parts on a net 30 day terms I can build and deliver the computers in that time frame, collect my money from Terrell at the Byte Shop and pay you."[4]

With that, the credit manager called Paul Terrell who was attending an IEEE computer conference at Asilomar in Pacific Grove and verified the validity of the purchase order. Amazed at the tenacity of Jobs, Terrell assured the credit manager if the computers showed up in his stores Jobs would be paid and would have more than enough money to pay for the parts order. The two Steves (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak) and their small crew spent day and night building and testing the computers and delivered to Terrell on time to pay his suppliers and have a tidy profit left over for their celebration and next order. Steve Jobs had found a way to finance his soon-to-be multimillion-dollar company without giving away one share of stock or ownership. [5]

Origins of business[edit]

Paul Terrell started his Byte Shop in December 1975. By January he was being approached by people who wanted to open their own stores. He signed dealership agreements with them, whereby he would take a percentage of their profits, and soon there were Byte Shops in Santa Clara, San Jose, Palo Alto, and Portland, Oregon. [1]

In March 1976, Terrell incorporated as Byte, Inc.[1]

By March 1976, one could identify four big retailers; Terrell, Heisers, Peachtree in Atlanta, and Dick Brown. Brown opened his outlet "The Computer Store" like Heiser's in 1975 along Route 128 in Burlington, Massachusetts.

He also was interested in selling the Apple I. Without Paul Terrell and the Byte Shop, Apple might have failed. [6]

Terrell grew the enterprise from the first company owned store in Mt. View, California into a chain of dealerships initially, and eventually into a franchise operation that reached from the United States to Japan before the parent company Byte, Inc. was sold to Logical Machine Corporation. Byte, Inc. was not only involved in the expansion of its retail chain of stores but began a manufacturing operation to build its own proprietary BYTE 8 Computer which was provided only to the Byte Shop stores. This gave both Byte Inc. and its Byte Shops a better profit margin than could be achieved by just distributing the computers of the other computer manufacturers at the time. [7]

Many of the original Byte Shop dealers eventually became independent as the personal computer marketplace grew and became segmented by the various uses and applications the PC was developing. Hobby computer stores were becoming business centers and IBM was entering the market with a computer of its own which over time would become the standard in the industry.

Byte Shops of Arizona became MicroAge Computers and developed into a major national distributor as well as having its own chain of stores.

Byte Shop Northwest dominated its geographical area and became a target acquisition for Pacific Bell (RBOC predecessor to the modern AT&T) when they elected to get into computer stores.

Exidy Sorcerer Computer[edit]

The Exidy Sorcerer Computer made its debut at the Long Beach Computer Show in April 1978. It was the result of collaboration between Terrell and Howell Ivy and Pete Kauffman of Exidy, Inc.

Kauffman and Ivy owned one of the leading coin-operated video game companies at the time and as Terrell would put it “Their graphic designs with a computer were so good they would take quarters out of my pocket.” The personal computer marketplace was in dire need of a PC that exhibited good graphics capabilities and no one knew that better than Terrell who had just sold his chain of 58 Byte Shops to John Peers of Logical Machine Corporation.

Terrell convinced his friends Ivy and Kauffman to design and build “The Computer of his dreams”, the Exidy Sorcerer. “Computers are like magic to people”, says Paul, “So let's give them computer magic with the Sorcerer Computer” and hence the name. Paul also wanted a “Consumer Computer” that was user friendly beyond anything currently in the marketplace. Early home computers, hobby computers and personal computers were designed and manufactured for the technically savvy. Consumer electronics firms had not yet recognized home computing as a viable market and were only offering calculators and video game consoles in the marketplace.

Ivy came up with the design of the Sorcerer. As the VP of Engineering and partner in Exidy Inc. Ivy had a wealth of knowledge in computer graphic design and what excited consumers in computer graphics. He was also astute enough to realize that the current marketplace was principally made up of technical engineers, programmers and technicians that wanted more than just a video game in their home computer. With that Howell set out to design the Exidy Sorcerer to be the most innovative personal computer in the marketplace. At the time Exidy would be competing with the Apple II, Commodore Pet and Tandy TRS-80 computers already in the marketplace.

The wish list of design improvements over the existing designs in the marketplace went like this:

  1. A keyboard computer that could plug into a television set like the Apple II and TRS-80 but also plug into a computer monitor to display high resolution graphics.
  2. An easily programmable graphics character set like the Commodore Pet so a novice programmer wannabe could write Basic language programs that would dazzle their friends. The Sorcerer design was eloquent with the highest resolution in the marketplace and innovative because the graphic characters could be reprogrammed to represent any kind of 8x8 character the programmer wanted and was not fixed like the graphic characters on the Commodore Pet. Howell did such a good job in this area of the design that it was to achieve a “Most Innovative” award at the Consumer Electronics Show after its introduction.
  3. The fastest micro computer chip with the most software compatibility in the marketplace. The Exidy Sorcerer used the Z-80 Processor from Zilog Corp. ( the same as the TRS-80 from Tandy but the Apple II and Commodore Pet used the faster 6502 Processor from MOS Technology) which allowed it to run the same Basic language software that was becoming one of the first standards in the personal computer industry, Microsoft Basic. Exidy was one of the first companies to license software from Microsoft after they parted ways from MITS Inc. and before they moved from New Mexico to Seattle.
  4. Plug-in software cartridges so the computer user could immediately begin using the computer at power-on. The user would not have to load a program from tape or disk to start operating the computer. Exidy would provide three program cartridges that they would provide under license, Microsoft 8 K Basic, Word Processor Cartridge (which was the “Killer App“ for PCs at the time), and an Assembler Cartridge (for programmers to write their own custom software for proprietary applications). Blank cartridges were provided for custom applications and the most popular application was customer generated foreign language character sets, which made the Exidy Sorcerer the most popular international PC.
  5. An expansion unit designed to the industry standard S-100 bus so that all of the low cost peripheral products presently in the marketplace could be attached to configure a computer system.

The standard plug in attachments to the keyboard case and included in the base price of the unit were a printer port for hard copy devices, cassette port for mass storage, and serial port for communications. Some of these were included with the competing products and some were add-on.

The Exidy Sorcerer was a total solution home computer that was competitively priced at $895 and went to market in Long Beach. California in April 1978 and generated a 4,000 unit back-log on introduction.

Paul Terrell started ComputerMania Inc. which was a chain of computer stores created with the purpose of renting computers and software to a marketplace of computer illiterates.

Computer Retailer Magazine did a feature article on the viability of renting computers and software to the public prior to the passing of legislation in Congress which outlawed the rental of software because of software piracy issues.[8] Hardware rental, however, was unaffected by this decision and continued to flourish into a multibillion-dollar industry.[9]


The Man Who Jump-Started Apple Posted by Harry McCracken | Thursday, August 23, 2007 PC World Magazine.

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