1978 – having worked with the early microprocessors and seen the beginnings of the personal computer revolution while working in the States for KeyMed, I set about becoming part of it. I joined Texas Instruments as Personal Computer Manager, before there was any such thing! My role was split between Bedford and Cagnes-sur-Mer, with trips to Lubbock Texas (now there’s a contrast) to launch three early personal computers and do the original research as to what people might actually want them to do for them.
We moved up to Carlton, Beds.
At this time TI was torn between sticking to its strengths in making components and/or developing its own products. At the time we launched Little Professor and Speak ‘n’ Spell for example. Eventually a guy flew in from Dallas, put his arm over my shoulder and said ‘You have to appreciate the big picture’, what he meant was that most of the project was being iced!
1979-81 – I operated as a consultant and through my own Agenda operation I was involved in many launches – the Euroc mini computer, the Tandata Prestel adaptor, the Oric 32, the Dragon 32, Electronic Insight and Micronet 800. I still have a personalised registration number using the ‘800’ from Micronet.
1981– a remarkable meeting, following my launch of Electronic Insight, led to a long term partnership, across many businesses, with Richard Hease. We launched Micronet 800 together and this led directly to us forming the Sinclair computer distributor, Prism.
1981 – 84 – What a ride! Prism grew like Topsy. We shipped ZX81s and Spectrums by the thousand and launched modems, robots and our own luggable, the Wren. We did £10m turnover in our first year, £30m in the second, £50m+ in the third – though most of it was on very slim margins!
We then requested from Sir Clive Sinclair the rights for the Peoples’ Republic of China. In 1983 Richard and I wandered through the border into China visiting Huizhou (among the first Westerners let back into this city), Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.
In Shanghai we stayed at the Jing Jang Hotel and walked over to its associated club. It was remarkable. It had a 10-pin bowling alley which had been put there for President Nixon’s visit, and there were four snooker tables that had been there since the 30s, the baize was grey and the cushes solid. At whatever angle you hit your shot it came off at right angles with a doink sound.
In Beijing, having signed a deal typed in Mandarin with the Minister of Electronics, we celebrated by holding our own 27-course banquet inside the Forbidden City. Richard, ever the journalist, kept a journal and as the trip was so remarkable I followed suit. It was my wife Jane who subsequently pulled out my notes to show that I had felt the tension in the city and forecast something like the Tiananmen Square incident some 5 to 6 years before it actually happened.
Richard – were we ever actually that young?