Rebecca West: Words & Music

Cyber Pioneers

by Bob West

I was already a Commodore computer dealer when we ceased publication of Gospel Teacher magazine in the early 1980s. Sylvia and I decided to open a full-service computer store and put all of our efforts into that business. The following is an article that appeared in the local Transylvania Times newspaper.

"Bob West Computers will celebrate their grand opening at the new location, 54 West Main Street, in April. The store offers the full line of Commodore computers -- the VIC-20 color computer, the Commodore 64, the PET Educational Series, the CBM Business series, and the SuperPET, offering the capabilities of a mainframe system at the low cost of a desktop computer.

"'Our total systems approach means you have to deal with only one firm for all your computer needs,' said Sylvia West, store manager. 'In addition to the computers, disk drives, printers, and other equipment, we provide general and custom software. We also offer computer services, such as word processing, mailing lists, and billing service.'

"Bob West, president of the company, began his association with Commodore International in 1977 when they introduced the PET, the first full-featured desktop computer for under $1,000. West bought one of those early models to maintain the subscriber list for the magazine he published.

"'Back then,' West recalls, 'there were no programs at all. You had to write your own. Today, you can choose from thousands of very complex software systems comparable to those on the big, expensive computers. People today are fortunate also to have informative, illustrated user-friendly manuals. My first 'manual' was a mimeographed sheet of paper.'

"Grand opening specials featured thru the end of April include discounts on selected VIC software and free training with business systems. There will be hands-on demonstrations of computers and software ranging from arcade games to professional word processing and accounting. Serious programmers can enjoy exploring the capabilities of the multi-language SuperPET. Posters and buttons will be given away while supply lasts.

"The Wests invite everyone to come see their new facilities and get acquainted with the exciting world of computing. The store is open Monday thru Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m."

Newspaper photo of Bob and customer

Photo of William Shatner
Commodore's Spokesperson William Shatner
(Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame)

Photo of Bob West and computers
Bob West reviews a printout of some custom software code he is working on.

Dick Keirstead photo Ed Taylor photo
Dick Keirstead (left photo) checks out a CBM 8032 business computer. At the time Dick owned a local TV repair shop. Bob arranged for him to receive training at the Commodore distribution center in Atlanta and be certified to service all of the products. Ed Taylor (right photo), retired assistant director of the nearby NASA Tracking Station, was the store's Microcomputer Systems Consultant. Others who are not pictured, but were important members of the team were engineer Lester Kohler and consultant Fred Gore.

Photo of kids in computer store
The front of the store where the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 home computers and cartridges were displayed was a popular after-school gathering place for local students. One computer was set up for them to take turns with a game or trying their hand at programming.
Sylvia West managed the store. Janie Ward was receptionist / secretary.
Erik D. Hansen was the accountant.

Photo of programming class Photo of programming class
Photo of programming class Photo of programming class
Those who bought computers were given the option to attend free programming classes which were ably taught by Doug Moll, a local school teacher, computer owner, and volunteer.
The candid photos above were made during one of his classes.

This was an exciting time in our lives, but we were still struggling financially. We worked hard and eventually began to show a profit. Then something happened that would cause us to close the store. The following autobiographical episode of my Theophilus comic strip will show you what I mean.

Theophilus comic strip
THEOPHILUS comic strip 1998 episode: "Christmas Hopes"
Visit the Theophilus website by clicking here.

To be continued...

< Previous | Next >