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If You Think Online Shopping Is Something New, You Haven't Seen This Invention

JANUARY 18, 2016  —  By Madeline Distasio  
Madeline Distasio

Madeline Distasio

Writer and editor holding it down in Philadelphia. Interests include drawing, exclusively wearing black, having too many books to fit in my tiny apartment, and choosing my dachshund over people.

Nothing gives me joy (or makes my wallet cry) quite like online shopping — and I'm certainly not alone. Instead of brushing shoulders with fellow shoppers in brick and mortar locations, today's shoppers are keen on making poor financial decisions from the comfort of their own homes.

But did you know that the trend's roots took hold way back in the 1950s? Far ahead of his time, Canadian entrepreneur Lawrence Freiman opened a shopfront that revolutionized consumerism long before the Internet came to be.

Freiman's Vis-O-Matic was an establishment unlike anything shoppers had ever seen before.

The first patrons were shocked when they entered the building and saw nothing but chairs and television screens. That's when employees helped them take part in the most inventive shopping experiment of its time.

Using these controls, customers were able to flip through a slew of items at the touch of a button, including clothing, toys, and housewares. Sounds familiar, right?

Most incredibly of all, this technology came to life in 1950 -- 12 years before the personal computer was even invented.

The images were produced on these slides and stored on site.

After placing their orders through the Vis-O-Matic, all people had to do was wait for packages to be delivered to their doors.

This invention unfortunately never took off because the production of machines simply couldn't keep up with demand. In fact, many people didn't even know that the Vis-O-Matic existed until these photos were recovered from the LIFE Magazine archives.

(via Messy Nessy Chic)

The sad reality for many forward thinkers is that their inventions often get lost in the annals of history until technology catches up. Even though Lawrence Freiman never really got to see his idea come to life, there's something to be said for the fact that he planted the seed.

If you'll excuse me, I have an appointment with Amazon (and you best believe that it's about to get financially irresponsible up in here).

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