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Michael Aldrich Invents Online Shopping


In 1979 English inventor and entrepreneur Michael Aldrich invented online shopping, or teleshopping, to enable online transaction processing between consumers and businesses, or from business to business. Aldrich's technique later became known as e-commerce; it did not become economically viable until the Internet. 

"His [Aldrich's] system connected a modified domestic TV to a real-time transaction processing computer via a domestic telephone line. He believed that videotex, the modified domestic TV technology with a simple menu-driven human–computer interface, was a 'new, universally applicable, participative communication medium — the first since the invention of the telephone. This enabled 'closed' corporate information systems to be opened to 'outside' correspondents not just for transaction processing but also for e-messaging and information retrieval and dissemination, later known as e-business. His definition of the new mass communications medium as 'participative' [interactive, many-to-many] was fundamentally different from the traditional definitions of mass communication and mass media and a precursor to the social networking on the Internet 25 years later" (Wikipedia article on online shopping, accessed 03-19-2014).

In March 2014 reminiscences from Aldrich, and an account of his difficulties in reconstructing the early history of online shopping, entitled "Finding Mrs. Snowball," were available from The Michael Aldrich Archive at this link. Also available at the same link was a video interview from the time with the first online shopper, Mrs. Jane Snowball. 

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