Apple set the standard for single-brand retail stores. Microsoft soon copied Apple, although not as prolifically. Now, Comcast sets up shop. While not compensating for the vacant cavern that once was Bergner's, Comcast will make Market Place Mall more of a destination.
According to Comcast: "The 4,000-square-foot store, which is slated to open this summer, will give visitors hands-on experience with Xfinity's range of products and services, from cable TV, high-speed internet and the company's new mobile phone service, Xfinity Mobile, to its home security and home automation platform, Xfinity Home."
The store also will feature iPads and other mobile devices visitors can use to explore Xfinity's mobile apps. Apps range from: Xfinity Stream, which allows customers to watch live TV anywhere at home over WiFi, watch up to 200 live channels outside their homes, stream up to 40,000 On Demand choices on the go and download movies and TV shows; and Xfinity WiFi, which allows customers to search for locations of the network's more than 18 million hotspots across the country, 1 million in Illinois and 16,000 in the Champaign-Urbana area; to xFi, which allows high-speed internet customers to personalize and control their home networks.
Comcast also promises to staff the store with knowledgeable experts, not merely salespeople. Apple's Genius Bar, where customers obtain serious technical advice, draws people to Apple stores. Considering how much confusion exists concerning Comcast's products and services, if it follows through with truly knowledgeable staff, it will be a boon for all those using or considering using Comcast for internet, TV and/or phone service. You'll still have to go to Macy's for everything else.
Here's an interesting reader query: "I have a Gateway 2000 purchased in March 1999 that I use as a typewriter and also to play free cell solitaire. It isn't connected to the internet. Yesterday, the screen was pink. I really like the machine and printer; they suit my needs. Is it possible to replace just the monitor?"
I provided him with a number of options, but he found a more suitable solution than I suggested. He visited the ReStore, 119 E. University Ave., C, and for $10, found a monitor that worked perfectly with his antique Gateway. He also supported the Habitat for Humanity ReStore's efforts in building affordable low-income housing.
This offers two lessons. If you own aging gear that still works perfectly but lacks resale value, donate it to a local retail charity, such as the ReStore, Goodwill or Salvation Army. Don't donate junk or non-working items. Someone might need exactly the piece of gear that you discard. If you're like our reader, check out the local charity stores for obsolete but functioning components.
The Clinton landfill will be thankful, since recycling is becoming increasingly difficult. If you can't find what you need from a local charity store, you'll most likely find it on the internet. Searching the internet requires knowing exactly the product for your purpose. Unfortunately, you can't try out online items in advance or easily return them.
The forced march of obsolesce creates serious environmental issues. Even China now refuses to recycle our used electronics. Sadly, connectors for computers, TVs and smartphones change about every five years. The format of the signal traveling through the connectors also changes. For example, the reader with the Gateway PC needed a monitor with an analog VGA connector that originally had been developed in 1987. By 1999, there were about five varieties of VGA connectors.
My 2011 flip phone used a mini-USB connector. My 2014 smartphone used a micro-USB connector. My 2016 smartphone uses a USB-C connector. While adapters between these exist, their wattage, speeds and sometimes signal paths differ. All devices now charge or interconnect with some version of USB, making my physical desktop resemble Medusa on a bad hair day. Or perhaps progress more closely resembles the two-faced god Janus.
Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.