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Profiles in Tech: Michael Aldrich, Creator of Online Shopping

Online shopping has been around since the early 1980’s, but has only recently become a booming and prominent phenomenon that everyone takes part in. Ecommerce and now, mobile commerce have revolutionized the way we approach shopping and browsing for items and services. Michael Aldrich, an English gentleman and tech innovator, is the brains behind the online shopping venture. Here is some information on the background of Michael Aldrich, how he found inspiration for the concept of online shopping, and how he went about executing his vision.

Background

Michael Aldrich was born in 1941 in Hertfordshire, England. He graduated from Clapham College in London. Over the span of his 38-year career in tech, he spent 20 of those years as a CEO of an international computer company, Redifon. This was the company he was working at when he came up with the idea for online shopping. He served in the public life as well, working as an IT adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Inspiration

Michael Aldrich got the idea for online shopping during a relaxing, non- eventful back porch talk with his wife. He was discussing every day normal things with her while they were relaxing outside, and he suddenly thought about how using a television and somehow hooking it up to a supermarket to buy groceries would be something that families would really like. However, after he came up with the idea, he got nervous because there was no market for his idea, and no place to put the invention in society. It seemed extremely overwhelming at the time. Aldrich decided the best idea to find out if he could get a market for online shopping would be to take his idea to a small tech convention in New Orleans and see what people thought. Surprisingly, people really took to the whole idea. Eventually, Aldrich managed to launch the online shopping idea in 1980, calling it Videotex.

Notable Quotes by Aldrich

“The idea of teleshopping, telebanking, teleworking, tele-everything, seemed like crazy science fiction. There was no market, no demand, and no infrastructure. Perhaps it was all nuts.”

“Most inventions never make money for the inventors. For online shopping, we had to build interest, awareness, need, and a financially viable product for our clients and ourselves. We had to make a market, and we had to do it without spending any real money.”

“It was simple. We had a domestic TV that could communicate, a computer that not only could handle transaction processing from multiple users, but it could also communicate (network) with other computers.”

Michael Aldrich revolutionized the way we approach shopping. No longer do we have to go to the store to buy something when we don’t feel well, and we can avoid the craziness of Walmart during Black Friday. Of course ecommerce and mobile commerce have evolved since Michael Aldrich’s original conception for online shopping, but we can thank him for setting the groundwork necessary to have what we have today.

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