One of the goofier things I do on social media is run an account called Computer Store Visuals. It is an account where I post pictures of computer stores, mostly old ones, that I’ve found on the internet and have saved. I suppose I could make some sort of intellectual explanation why I do it, like I’m trying to preserve a part of computer history that’s disappearing. I guess that’s maybe true, but I mostly do it just because I like to look at old computer stuff. I don’t think things were better back then (they weren’t), but I do have fond memories of going into my local computer stores and picking up games and I have fun doing it so why not. It’s a fun excuse to post goofy pictures too. Once active and surprisingly popular on Twitter, I’ve moved it to Cohost and Mastodon after Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk and instantly became less usable.
One of the stores I had a fascination with was my local CompUSA in Novi, Michigan. It was where I went to get most of my games from the beginning of the 90s until it closed in 2007. There weren’t many photos of it that I could find online except some posted in a Facebook group for employees from this store. I saw that the Facebook group is now gone, motivating me to write one of the silliest things that will be on the website. Here is a tribute to the CompUSA in Novi, Michigan and possibly the only existing photos of this store online.
My first memories of the store are of seeing the game Superhero League of Hoboken being demoed on one of the computers when you entered, looking at the shelves of games, a demo of Prince of Persia 2 playing on a monitor, and a customer asking an employee if they had Leisure Suit Larry. It was also where I first saw games like Doom and picked up most of my adventure game collection. Whenever we went here, my dad would usually walk off to look at the computer magazines and books that were located at a section to the immediate right when you walked in, while I would run over to the computer game section on the left, try whatever game was being demoed that day, and then check out the aisles of games. The store also featured its own Edutainment area that had computers loaded with educational software and games for kids.
This was also the only time I ever tried the infamous Zelda games for the Philips CD-i, since this was the only store chain that seemed foolish enough to stock them and even have a demo station to play the games. Even at the time I didn’t enjoy them and was baffled by how a Zelda game could be so bad.
The store itself was in a shopping center called the Novi Town Center which also featured a Borders bookstore and Egghead Software, making it a nerd shopping utopia for me for most of the 90s.
For the last five years of the store, it was clear to even teenage me that the store was struggling. The industry had changed a lot and sales of boxed computer games weren’t as great in the early to mid 00s, even before Steam came along. CompUSA also waited too long to push their online store and had tried to pivot to being more like Best Buy, but with little success. The chain eventually closed in the late 00s and computer retail stores mostly don’t exist in the United States except for Micro Center and some smaller stores.
But I still have a lot of fond memories going there to pick up computer games and trying out the latest software at their demo stations. As promised, here are the only images I could find of the store. If you have any of the Novi, Michigan CompUSA, or the Borders and Egghead Software that I mentioned in the article, I would love to see them. If you would like to see more pictures of computer stores, I also post on Cohost and Mastodon.
This first batch is a set of photos from a Halloween party and people working at the store during Halloween.
These next two photos are of an employee that would intentionally make a mess while eating powdered donuts and apparently also walked around the store like this and would offer some to customers.
I have no context for the rest of these photos and they’re the only other ones I could find for this store.