View Full Version : Local computer shops

2nd July 2009, 10:54
In the height of the 16bit era when the Amiga and ST ruled supreme, we had two computer shops in our home town - Topsoft and Chips.

These used to be packed every weekend, full of kids fighting for space and a chance to play on the various computers and consoles setup around the store. The machines, which changed from year to year depending on popularity (Amiga, ST, Master System, Megadrive for example), were sat on what resembled kitchen worktops around the perimeter of the store, with games, hardware and goodies in cabinets behind locked glass sliding windows.

In these cabinets that adorned the walls, new and old releases were presented proudly. There were even one or two arcade machines setup in store and in later years PC's with CDROMS! Man I longed for one those 386's at the time!

Slowly but surely, these stores died a death as the golden era closed on local gaming stores. Topsoft shut down and whenever I'm home and walk past the restaurant that once used to be it's home, I'm presented with a huge wave of nostalgia and memories of the packed out store in years gone by.

Chips still exists, but the kitchen worktops and glass cabinets have all but gone, replaced with stacks of games and DVDs. It's now mainly a game trading centre, but they do still have a TMNT arcade machine set up gathering dust in the corner and a single tall glass cabinet with second hand consoles. The store is a shadow of its former self, but walking up the alley and inside still floods me with memories. They have a website and a few stores nationally, but I'd imagine most trade is online these days.

Yes, there are the big stores like GAME kicking around, but they don't have the same feel especially now I'm older. The old stores had a kind of club atmosphere, where exited faces would turn up every week and we'd discuss the latest games. The staff were run off their feet trying to control the packed out store of rampaging kids! LOL!

Anyone else remember local stores being packed out, but have now gone downhill in modern gaming times?

2nd July 2009, 11:57
Oh YES !!!

In Portugal there was a Store in a place call "Carcavelos" that in the early 90's had Amiga games for sell, but not the originals, you simple ask for a game and they copy it with x-copy, there was no laws for software in Portugal, so you could get an "legal" Amiga game for the price of 2,5 euros in that time. :lol:

2nd July 2009, 12:45
Definitely! I remember the 80's with the local stores in Southampton packed with kids looking through the latest games releases and playing the games running on the systems they had setup.

But going back a bit further, when I first got my Amstrad CPC there were not yet any real dedicated computer or video game stores. I remember the Boxing Day after opening my new CPC I went into Southampton to buy some software for it and finding it quite hard to locate any. The electrical stores, such as Dixons, were about the only places that had video games, and those were jam packed with kids and their parents trying to buy games to go with their recent Christmas presents. And I still remember one of the games I bought that day. Alien Break-in. A space invaders style game with a lot of elements of Galaga. That was a great game at the time and still enjoyable to play.


Anyway... going forward a bit in time to dedicated computer stores. The first I remember was a store half-way down a side street in Southampton called East Street. I forget the name of the actual shop, but it was next door to a Beatties hobby shop that sold air fix models and radio controlled cars. It was a reasonably large store, and this was the first place I ever saw an Amiga running the boing demo, and the same Amiga later on running Defender of the Crown. This shop was a more serious affair with a lot of PCs setup downstairs, plus a few 8-bit systems such as the C64, and the software was upstairs. There were never many kids in there. It was more business men in suits looking to buy an IBM. But they did carry quite a good range of software. I never really felt that welcome in that shop though and didn't spend much time in there each visit.

But then further up the same road a video games store opened. It was a small store that was quite narrow and on a corner, but it stocked a good range of software for all formats, and it was jam packed with kids at the weekend going through the software. It was called Silica, but wasn't related to the mail order store of the time that advertised in the magazines. I remember going in there with a friend who owned a Spectrum and we would stand there comparing the CPC versions of games against the Spectrum ones.

I then purchased an Atari ST and this shop was the most visited most weekends.

That little shop is now long gone and is a hair dressers!

A short walk away was another road called St Mary's Street. A small unrelated fact is that this is the ealiest known and documented street in England (there you go, you leanrt something new ;)). This street was one of the roughest in Southampton, and is still a bit of a dive. Anyway, a shop opened along that street called Compuserve (again not related in anyway to the ISP). This shop was something special. It had rows of Atari STs setup down one side and Amigas setup down the other. Around the walls were rows and rows of ST and Amiga boxed software. You went into the shop and paid for time at one of their STs or Amigas and while there you could take any software you liked from the shelves and play it. That place was amazing for a school kid and was as you can imagine packed wit kids at the weekends.

Some time after a much larger video games shop opened directly opposite Silica. I'm trying to remember what it was originally, E.. something, three letters. Anyone remember that chain of stores? It later became a Virgin games store, and finally a Game store, which it still is today. Over the years that store stocked a huge range of software for every platform and format, plus they had a large range of systems setup in store to play on. I remember seeing a CDTV for the first time in there, and a 3DO.

At the end of the same road was a small shopping centre and the first branch of Game opened in there. But a couple of years later a newer shopping centre was opened behind the top of the same street, right behind the existing Virgin/Game store I mentioned above, and a large branch of Game went into there directly opposite the Sega arcade park.

That meant that there were now two big video game stores in Southampton directly around the corner from each other. And I think it was about this time that Silica closed as it couldn't compete.

Another video games store then opened in the top floor of Debenhams, which wasn't that far away from the same street. That later also became a Virgin, and then a Game, and still is.

The Virgin store also then became another branch of Game, so there were then three around the corner from each other! But it gets madder because a new very large shopping mall was built in southampton recently and another branch of Game opened in there, and this means that there are now still 4 branches of Game open in Southampton! How mad is that?

There were also a couple of small video game shops in and around Southampton. Very small shops that seemed more packed out with kids that the bigger stores. One of these eventually became the first branch of CEX, the second hand game and hardware dealer. That was a great place to find some rarer RPGs for the Playstation a few years ago. That is however sadly now also gone. It only closed recently, probably due to the beginning of the recession. I did see that many of its other stores around the country are still going though.

Oh, and I forget the other two big places in Southampton for video games. The big HMV in the middle of the high street, and the big Virgin music store further up the high street (above bar). Both still stock a large range of video games. And there is also now a Gamestation in the same high street.

So there were have it. A short history of video game stores in Southampton. And still a fair few stores to buy games and software from.

4 Game stores.
1 Virgin Music store
1 Gamestation

4th July 2009, 17:54
...another road called St Mary's Street. A small unrelated fact is that this is the ealiest known and documented street in England (there you go, you leanrt something new ;)). This street was one of the roughest in Southampton, and is still a bit of a dive.

Sounds a bit like The Shades in Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork!

You were spoiled for choice, growing up in a city. When I got a spectrum in '83, there was one serious computer shop and one games shop in Reigate. The serious one, selling PCs, was actually called 'The Computer Shop' and there was a 'C' letter-pressed into the metal door handle. The shop must have closed down in the mid-80s but that same door is still there, a portal to a beauty salon.

The games shop was a little independent place that moved a couple of times but was always the size of a cupboard. A fantastic shop that had a huge selection of 8-bit games. It closed in the mid to late 80s.

There was a news agent just out of town that sold so many games that it become a computer and shop and gave up selling papers and sweets!

Of course in the 8-bit days you could (and I did) buy games in W H Smiths, Allders, Debenhams, Woolworths and some of the larger news agents.

Now it's Ebay, Ebay and Ebay.

1st April 2012, 08:36
With GAME going through a rough patch, I thought it would be nice to bump up this thread for any others who may remember their local gaming stores.

5th July 2012, 23:28
There is only one game store now, abd that's easy street. game station also closed. But cex have moved to the marleands and is next to matalan and is two floors. So is now the biggest store. Dont forget there was also a pd libarary based in Southampton as well. Fareham had escom and tecnotrade

6th July 2012, 01:18
There was also an Escom store in Southampton, Down East Street on the left before you cross the road to Debenhams. I think it was a furniture shop or something the last time I passed it. I used to walk past it every day on my way to college at the time.
Has the third Game store in the East Street shopping centre shut too? I always thought it was mad having 2 Game stores right by each other.

19th July 2012, 11:24
Yep thats gone as well. Just the one in East street. There was also Evesham Micro along the road where asda is, behind argos. Got my 2nd pc from there years ago with WindowsME lol. Time computers in West Quay and Nursling.

19th July 2012, 15:45
Evesham was a nice store to to look in, and handy for blank media when I was at Uni in the late 90's. Their PCs were a bit over priced but nice. Shame they went bust. Time computers are always best avoided... their computers were just horrible.

Kin Hell
20th July 2012, 00:39
Evesham was a nice store to to look in, and handy for blank media when I was at Uni in the late 90's. Their PCs were a bit over priced but nice. Shame they went bust. Time computers are always best avoided... their computers were just horrible.

Just like "PCWorld"

....Sorry, couldn't resist. :lol:

20th July 2012, 15:30
Prices were not as steep though. PC World prices are just stupid. See unknowing general public ripped off because they don't know any better.

Stephen Coates
22nd July 2012, 13:45
See unknowing general public ripped off because they don't know any better.

Sometimes that's quite funny :D.

22nd July 2012, 23:52
True, sometimes seeing gullible people getting drawn into buying junk they don't need can be amusing. But a lot of the time I really have the urge to step in and tell them the truth.

The thing that winds me up the most is when they try to force a copy of Nortons or McAfee onto people buying new systems. Windows 7 comes with Security Essentials and home users really don't need anything else any more.

Stephen Coates
23rd July 2012, 09:21
So, do you tend not to need security software on Windows 7?

My Dad and his girlfriend got a laptop from PC World last year. They got a good price on it though fortunately. Probably not a very good spec, but it does the job fine. I did instruct them to make sure they didn't buy any extended warranties or anything, but they did end up buying a copy of Norton.

I have heard that Norton is better than it used to be though, and as far as I'm aware, it hasn't caused them any problems.

Regarding PC World, I remember from years back, a topic on a forum somewhere, where someone had a virus which changed their IE homepage, so the computer got taken to PC World where they changed it back for a fee :D

23rd July 2012, 10:35
My old ISP provides Norton as part of the subscription. I was with them forever, only changed ISP late last year so up until then have always had free access to Norton. I still never used it.

14th July 2013, 22:27
I can remember in the mid 90's going to the 3rd floor in fenwicks in Newcastle town centre where they had all the consoles and computers there on display and would spend the full day playing on them, oh the good old days :)