Way back in 1978 I started a company called Dataview. It was based in Colchester, Essex and I sold Commodore Computers; the ‘PET”, standing for Personal Electronic Transactor.
Now I was a word-processing salesman for IBM previously and didn’t know a thing about computers. I operated out of a small shop at first in Church Street and people came into the shop and played around with my demonstration models. Unbelievably I sold some!
Later I got involved with a software program known as Wordcraft. The first comprehensive word processing program for the PET. Indeed, I had the exclusive world distribution rights to Wordcraft. One thing lead to another and soon I was operating from much larger premises down at Portreeves House at East Bay, still in Colchester.
I appointed a Head of Marketing, Amit Roy, and the company grew and grew. I focused on appointing distributors across the world, and that included Dan Gomez in southern California, and he became a close friend being my best man when Jeannie and I were married in 2010.
Anyway, back to the story of Dataview. Eventually I sold out and escaped the country (and taxes) by moving to a yacht in the Greek side of Cyprus before April 15th. I went to Larnaca Marina. That was in 1986.
On Sunday, through a link from a mutual friend, I called Amit, the first time we had spoken since 1986. We had the most delightful of telephone conversations.
Amit was born in Burma, he is now 79, and lost his wife some 13 years ago. The counsellor who saw Amit after the death of his very dear wife said that he had to be strong and to take up something he could become passionate about. Amit joined the Colchester Photographic Society and took up studying again, in photography, and became a very good photographer.
With Amit’s permission I share some of his photographs with you.
These are just a few but they are superb; absolutely marvellous.
That is the most welcome of connections – thanks to Roger Davis for suggesting it!
As regular followers of this place know (and a huge thank-you to you all) much of last Friday was spent planting trees in a grassy meadow just to the East of our house.
An hour before I sat down to write this post (now 13:30 PST yesterday) I didn’t have a clue as to what to write. Then I read Patrice Ayme’s latest essay and, wow, it punched me in the face. For it resonated so strongly with a few other recent readings.
“We empowered a demagogue” laments the New York Times ostensibly bleeding heart liberal, the kind Mr. Kristof, in his false “Mea Culpa” editorial, “My Shared Shame: How The Media Made Trump”. By this, Mr. Kristof means that Mr. Trump is a bad person. However, Mr. Kristof’s choice of the word “demagogue” is revealing. (Actually it’s not really his choice: “demagogue” is not Mr. Kristof’s invention: he just repeats like a parrot the most prominent slogan of the worldwide campaign of insults against Trump).
Trump a demagogue? Is Mr. Sanders a “demagogue”, too? (As much of the financial and right-wing press has it: for The Economist and the Financial Times, Trump and Sanders are both “demagogues” and that’s their main flaw.)
To understand fully the word “demagogue” one has to understand a bit of Greek, and a bigger bit of Greek history.
Then later on in that essay, Patrice goes on to quote Andy Grove:
A hard day may be coming for global plutocrats ruling as they do thanks to their globalization tricks. And I am not exactly naive. Andy Grove, founder of Intel, shared the general opinion that much of globalization was just theft & destitution fostering an ominous future (the Hungarian immigrant to the USA who was one of the founders of Intel). He pointed out, an essay he wrote in 2010 that Silicon Valley was squandering its competitive edge in innovation by neglecting strong job growth in the United States.
Mr. Grove observed that: …”it was cheaper and thus more profitable for companies to hire workers and build factories in Asia than in the United States. But… lower Asian costs masked the high price of offshoring as measured by lost jobs and lost expertise. Silicon Valley misjudged the severity of those losses, he wrote, because of a “misplaced faith in the power of start-ups to create U.S. jobs.”
Silicon Valley makes its money from start-ups. However, that phase of a business is different from the scale-up phase, when technology goes from prototypes to mass production. Both phases are important. Only scale-up is an engine for mass job growth — and scale-up is vanishing in the United States (especially with jobs connected to Silicon Valley). “Without scaling,” Mr. Grove wrote, “we don’t just lose jobs — we lose our hold on new technologies” and “ultimately damage our capacity to innovate…
The underlying problem isn’t simply lower Asian costs. It’s our own misplaced faith in the power of startups to create U.S. jobs. Americans love the idea of the guys in the garage inventing something that changes the world. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman recently encapsulated this view in a piece called “Start-Ups, Not Bailouts.” His argument: Let tired old companies that do commodity manufacturing die if they have to. If Washington really wants to create jobs, he wrote, it should back startups.
Friedman is wrong. Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment.”
Spot on! For in my previous life I was the founder of two businesses. First up was Dataview Ltd, based in Colchester, that was formed in the late 1970s and soon became the global distributor of the word processing software Wordcraft, written by Englishman Pete Dowson. Dataview also initiated the ‘dongle’, a software/hardware security device to protect Wordcraft.
The second company founded by me was Aviation Briefing Ltd ‘AvBrief’ that is still going today, albeit with me no longer involved!
So I can reinforce, with hundreds of hours of lost sleep and tears, that growing a company and increasing employment, especially the employment of great technical people, is a very different matter to the start-up phase.
Frankly, regarding Dataview, it was only the luck of meeting Sid Newman that saved my bacon. For within 12 months of starting trading I was already sinking under the load of trying to be the number one salesman (that I was good at) and being the company general manager (that I was total crap at). Sid had years of experience at general management and very quickly let me get on with what I really loved – opening up Wordcraft distributorships all over the world.
The analogy with planting trees is very apt. For any clown can plant the tree but parenting that young tree into a mature forty-foot high beauty takes professional management.
Tomorrow I will return and offer a viewpoint as to how we, as in society, are currently bereft of professional managers.
I have been a follower of Alex Jones’ blog The Liberated Way for many months; possibly much longer. Frequently, I republish one of Alex’s posts here.
Nearly six months ago, I read a lovely essay of his and made a mental note to republish that in the next few days. Then the world overtook me and now April 30th, when Alex published this piece, has become September 8th!
Yet it hasn’t lost a heartbeat of meaning.
Read on and you will agree.
The hidden gifts of nature.
The western education system ignores nature.
The holidays are over in the UK, the students return to school, some to their exams. I reflect upon the sad treatment of creativity, wisdom, nature and natural philosophy in education, and in Western society as a whole, treated as worthless and unworthy of consideration.
On most days I walk past the former home of William Gilbert, some consider the father of electricity and magnetism. Born to a wealthy merchant family in my town of Colchester, Gilbert invested his personal wealth in an extensive study of magnetism with view to assisting the explorers of the Elizabethan age when Britain was building an empire in a period of great prosperity and confidence. Gilbert invented the term electricity. Gilbert wrote De Magnete, considered possibly the first work using the scientific method. In addition to being a scientist, a doctor to Elizabeth I, Gilbert was also a natural philosopher who used the empirical method of observation, demonstration and experience of nature to form his theories.
Each day I watch and interact with nature, like Gilbert I am a natural philosopher, and this forms the basis of my business ideas, my scientific understanding and my personal philosophies. Rather than a worthless study nature opens the door to the philosophy of the understanding of self, the world, and the relationship of self to the world. Wisdom is born of action and experience, the interactions with nature gives birth to wisdom. Nature encourages people to do new things in new ways, so rerouting electric signals in the brain causing new connections to form of creativity. The philosophy emerges from nature by causing the mind to question, observe and experiment, the basis of science and success in any discipline.
Colchester, in the English county of Essex, goes way back to Roman times when the town was called Camulodunon (which was latinised as Camulodunum). That name is believed to date back to the Celtic fortress of “Camulodunon”, meaning Stronghold of Camulos. It served as the first capital of Roman Britain making a claim to be the oldest town in Britain.
It is where Alex Jones lives, the author of The Liberated Way, and where during the 1980’s I ran a business under the name of Dataview Ltd. In fact, the business was located in a very old, listed building known as The Portreeve’s House. It was at the bottom of town near Hythe Quay on the River Colne and the name “Portreeve” is old English for harbour master, i.e. it was originally the harbour master’s house.
The amazing development of electronics over 50 years.
(A republication of a post first shown on the 13th August, 2009)
The calendar reliably informs me that this is my 65th year. My brain, of course, lags somewhat in accepting this!
My step-father during my early teenage years worked for Elliott Brothers (the link goes to an interesting history of the firm that started in 1804) in Borehamwood, just north of London. He encouraged me to fiddle with ‘steam’ radios and
try and understand how these basic circuits worked. It was then a small step to deciding to become a radio amateur, popularly known as a radio ham! In those days it was a case of some pretty intensive studying to pass a Theory exam as well as being able to pass an exam in sending and receiving Morse code.
So joining the local radio society seemed like a sensible idea. That was (and still is!) called the Radio Society of Harrow. That it is still in existence after all these years is truly delightful. Those Friday night sessions at the Society and extra-curricular classes on Sunday morning at Ron Ray’s (G2TA) house, an hour’s bicycle ride away from home, ensured that shortly after my 16th birthday I was granted a Licence, G3PUK. It was a very proud moment.
Anyway, once granted a licence it was time to build my own radio transmitter. Most of the details have been lost in the mists of time but what is recalled was that the final amplifier was a pair of 803s driving an 813 (These are radio valve numbers). It sounds like something from the ark! But again ploughing the inexhaustible files of the Web, it’s possible to see what these radio valves looked like. Thanks to the National Valve Museum.
Here are pictures, courtesy of the National Valve Museum of those two radio valves:
803 – The substantial wide glass tube envelope is 58 mm in diameter (2 1/4 in) and, excluding the special five pin base pins, is 216 mm tall (8 1/2 in).
813 The classic envelope is substantial at 60 mm diameter (2 1/3 in) and 170 mm (6 2/3 in) long excluding the special base pins. The anode is 53 mm long and 48 mm wide. The metal is 1 mm thick.
It’s difficult, today, to imagine devices which are essentially diodes (well, technically the 803 was a pentode and the 813 a tetrode) being between 6 and 8 inches tall!
My own self-build transmitter had not really been successful emitting more heat than light, so to speak. Literally, in the sense that these large radio valves kept me warm in my converted garden shed at the bottom of the garden. They also completely wiped out TV reception for those households with a 1/4 mile range that had invested in early television sets! It was time to move on to the R1155.
Around this era, less than 20 years after the end of the War in Europe in 1945, war-surplus equipment was widely available including ‘compact’ transmitter-receiver units.
One popular one was the RAF R1155 which had been fitted to RAF Lancaster bombers and RAF marine craft. It was also fitted to the Sunderland flying boat. This information plus the photos below is from this fascinating web site for those wishing to be ‘geeky’ about this.
Just compare the view on the right to the inside of your domestic radio or your cell phone.
A lot happens in 50 years!
My personal journey now leaps to 1978 and I have just left IBM UK having had 8 fabulous years with them as an Office Products salesman. My fledging company, Dataview Ltd, has just become the 8th Commodore Computer (CBM) dealer in the UK, based in a small office in Colchester, Essex, about 50 miles north-east of London.
The CBM PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) released in 1977 initially with a calculator type keyboard was useless for any business application but soon came out with a typewriter sized keyboard, making it a more viable business
machine. Today, as this is typed on an ‘old’ laptop with 2GB RAM, it seems unbelievable that these CBMs were sold with between 4k and 96k of RAM (memory) and no hard disk, although one could purchase an add-on that comprised dual 5 1/2 inch floppy disk drives.
YouTube obligingly finds a short video on the Commodore PET for those really wishing to enjoy the nostalgia!
So to turn to the 21st century and to run out of understanding. We appear to live in a world of multi-later printed circuit boards of unimaginable (to me) component density, assuming that the word ‘component’ is even relevant today.
What an amazing period it has been!
Now let me see was it Pin 920 to Pin 140, or Pin14 to Pin 860 connected to Pin 56 ………?