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See how Amazon looked back when it was a startup

From the CNET vault: As Amazon celebrates its 20th anniversary with big sales for its Prime members, we dug into our archives to find this interview with CEO Jeff Bezos, just two years into the site's existence.

Now playing: Watch this: You've come a long way, Amazon


As today celebrates its 20th birthday, it seems fitting that we share with our readers a very rare video of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and what we presume is the company's first warehouse.

The date was January 5, 1997, and the CNET interviewer was Ron Reagan (yes, the son of the former US president of the same name). In this video, embedded below, Bezos provides a tour of when it was about 18 months old. (Amazon was actually founded as "Cadabra" in July 1994, but changed its name and launched the site in July 1995.)

Standing in a noisy warehouse, Bezos gives Reagan a tour of, explaining various features and the company's pricing strategy. "We discount every book every week that's reviewed in The New York Times by 30 percent," says Bezos.

As you can imagine, the site is extremely text heavy, with basic blue links, and Bezos is quite engaging and enthusiastic. It's a rare, early look at a future billionaire and arguably the father of online commerce -- Bezos was Time magazine's Person of the Year in 1999.

It isn't only the site that looks dated. The warehouse footage is also a throwback. As opposed to the company's vast network of highly automated shipping centers, the employees in 1997 were printing out orders, walking down aisles of book shelves, picking out the books and handing them off to others to cut the packaging and tape the shipping boxes by hand. (Perhaps some of those workers are still with the company and worth a billion or two today.)

Note that this footage is from a "field tape" that was used to produce the final video for CNET. It's edited only for length and is a bit rough, but that's exactly how we like it when you're viewing an e-commerce juggernaut in its embryonic stage. As you watch this, keep in mind Amazon now has 154,000 employees, a market value of $211 billion and $14 billion in cash, according to Yahoo Finance. Maybe anything really is possible.