About five months after transferring to Heath Company in Michigan, I took a vacation during August of 1979 and returned to Omaha, Nebraska to visit friends and relatives. While there, I stopped in at the Omaha Heathkit store to chat with former co-workers and take some pictures.
Here's the outside of the store when it was located at 9207 Maple Street. To the right of it was a music store (you can see part of their sign, "M&M"), while to the left was a donut shop. Twenty-five years later, those businesses no longer exist at that location. (Unfortunately, the picture is somewhat overexposed.)
At some time during the '80s, the Heathkit store was relocated to a shopping center on 90th street between Maple and Blondo streets. By that time, the people I used to work with had all moved on to other jobs. While I'd passed by there on subsequent visits to Omaha, I don't recall ever stopping in. Also by that time, the retail stores were phasing out kit sales and concentrating on computers. In fact, the name was later changed from Heathkit Electronic Center to Heath/Zenith Computer Center (if I remember right). Toward the end of the '80s, all the stores were closed down.
But that was in the future.
Returning to 1979 and 9207 Maple Street, the picture on the right shows my former boss, Roger Svoboda (facing the camera), working with a customer. On the other side of the curtain behind Roger was his desk. The doorway under the Exit sign led to it and the service benches.
Behind the customer (and the camera) is the sales/display area and the entrance to the store.
The picture on the left (and also on the above customer's left) is the computer showroom. In 1973, it used to be the TV display area, but the televisions got edged out by the computers by 1979. (Some were still on display at the time of this picture, but were off to the right.)
Visible in the picture—from left to right—is a Bally Fireball® pinball machine (sold in kit form by Heath Company), an H8 computer system (H17 floppy disk drive on the top shelf and H8 computer, H9 video terminal, and H14 dot matrix printer below it), and an H11 computer system toward the right (H11 computer, H27 floppy drive, and DEC LA36 printer).
At that time, the H19 terminal and H88/H89 computers had been announced, but hadn't been distributed to the stores. In fact, I'd just completed writing the in-house service manual for the H19 Video Terminal and was still writing the H88/H89 Digital Computer Service Data Manual. (That wasn't the reason why the products weren't released, however. The service manuals were on a different schedule.)
The picture on the right shows Roger Svoboda's desk, mentioned above. Through the curtains, you can see one wall of the computer room (appears to be a book shelf located to the left of the pinball machine). The surveillance monitor on the right displays the stereo equipment room just to the east of the computer room (behind the wall with the H8 system). With only three employees in the store, it's difficult to have someone physically in that room when the store is crowded—having the camera there has prevented theft a couple of times.
Sitting on the desk below the monitor is a mechanical adding machine. You'd think that for a company involved with computers and other high-tech devices, Roger would use something a little more advanced than that to tally the sales at the end of the day <GRIN>.
Copyright © 2004, 2005, William Albert Wilkinson. All rights reserved.