From 1996: A computer will handle your online purchase?

A look at the new-and-improved process of buying things online -- as seen from 1996.

The online shopping experience was growing more sophisticated in the mid-1990s

Online shopping, circa 1996

26 years ago
Duration 1:17
In 1996, Tom Keenan explains to Brent Bambury how typical online purchases work.

In the early days of online shopping, the human part of the transaction hadn't really gone away.

As in, you might use the Internet to buy something, but really you were filling out a form that would go to another human who would verify and then fulfil your order — as explained in the video at the top of this page.

'A computer takes your order'

But — brace yourself, folks — technology was making it possible for a computer to talk to another computer about your purchase.

"Coming soon — a computer takes your order and payment, checks the inventory and tells another computer to manufacture your item," Midday co-host Tina Srebotnjak explained to viewers, in a July 24, 1996 segment.

'A computer takes your order and payment'

26 years ago
Duration 0:16
In 1996, Tina Srebotnjak explains how things are changing in the world of online purchasing.

Most of that seems to be the case today, with the exception of that last point — it's hard to say how many books, garments or groceries we're buying are being made by machine the second we place an order online.

But, as demonstrated on Midday by Tom Keenan, the show's technology columnist, it was going to be possible to make orders online and have the computer order the parts necessary to complete that transaction.

Changes in online shopping (as of 1996)

26 years ago
Duration 0:32
Tom Keenan explains how computer-to-computer communication can take part in online transactions.

Evolving consumer behaviour

The same Midday segment also predicted where the world of online shopping was taking us.

"I think we're going to see two modes of shopping evolve," said Keenan.

'Two modes of shopping'

26 years ago
Duration 0:22
In 1996, Tom Keenan predicts where online shopping may be heading.

Keenan predicted traditional "in-person" shopping would continue, but he expected consumers would be increasingly willing to buy a greater variety of items —"like a computer where you know that you want 16 [MB] and this kind of drive" — via the Internet.