Tech by VICE

This Abandoned Computer Store Is a Time Capsule of Early 2000s Tech

In a strip mall in a small Oklahoma city, a treasure of software and hardware sits gathering dust.

by Matthew Gault
Apr 14 2020, 12:00pm

Image: Joshua Trammell

In the era before Amazon and boutique custom built PCs, computer enthusiasts visited humble local computer stores to buy things like RAM, graphics cards, and computer games sold in big cardboard packages. They had names like PC STORE, Computer King, and Computer Factory Outlet. The last is the name of an abandoned store rotting away in a lonely strip mall in Norman, Oklahoma. Closed for a decade, Computer Factory Outlet is locked tight and somehow still full of merchandise.

It's like a time capsule of the early 2000s personal computer industry. Dell and Gateway boxes press against the glass, turning yellow in the sun. Beige PC towers loom in ramshackle piles. PC copies of the Tiger Woods 99 video game gather dust on the shelves.

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Image: Joshua Trammell
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Image: Joshua Trammell
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Image: Joshua Trammell
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Image: Joshua Trammell
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Image: Joshua Trammell

The store caught the attention of Joshua Trammell, who used to get his haircut from a barber in the same shopping center when he was a kid. “We used to go into the store when I was younger,” Trammell told Motherboard on the phone. “The woman in there would be very abrupt with us because we were little kids running around a computer store.”

Norman, Oklahoma is a small college town about two hours north of the Texas border. “Since I moved away from Norman, it’s just always been the same. The same front. The same window display,” he said. Trammel is back in Norman after getting laid off from his job as the manager of a candy store. He decided to go back by the old store and take photos of it. He wanted to “let everyone reminisce a bit about how gorgeous it looks.”

He shared the photos on Reddit, Imgur, and reached out to internet archivist Jason Scott.

A court case from 2007 mentioning the store and its owner is a complicated mess of claims and counterclaims between the owner and a hedge fund that lent them money in 2001. “It seems like it’s just a property in limbo, really,” Trammel said. “Those [PC] towers are lost in time, kind of stuck in it.”

Motherboard reached out to the property’s owner but did not hear back.

Tagged:
retail
computer store