Everybody loves the underdog -- until it comes out on top
Who doesn't like the story of the resourceful college kid taking on the world? In 1984, young Michael Dell was just such a college kid in just such a position. The nascent PC market was dominated by specialized resellers, where you'd go into a physical store and choose a computer from a variety of manufacturers. Dell had a different vision: he would build computers from stock components and sell them directly to customers, which would give him a better idea of what those customers wanted in a computer. The company, founded in Dells' UT Austin dorm room as "PCs Limited," soon took on the much snappier name of its founder. By the mid-'90s, Dell was selling PCs to order online and was worth billions. An American success story!
But like many success story, it left failures in its wake. Dell's direct-sell methodology was really about serving businesses, who in the '80s were beginning to buy PCs en masse for their employees; but it also spelled the end of the local mom-and-pop computer shop, a beloved institution for the first generation of computer enthusiasts. While the occasional representative of this dying species can still be found, most of us are buying our computers direct from their manufacturers, online or at brand-specific stores, or (at the low end) from electronics or office retailers.
Picture courtesy of Flickr user Qai & Riley's Dad, Arnel