24/09/2021

Asia

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I wasn’t just visiting the States I plied through Asia too. I came across a Japanese range of self-assembly desktop robots which we represented. We opened a franchise on Tottenham Court Road, that we called Streetwise, and sold most of these ‘Meccano-like’ robots here.

Robotic kits
ASIDE: I had appointed a Chinese agent in Hong Kong. In an R&R evening he inadvertently made two hilarious comments courtesy of the Chinese habit of sounding an ‘l’ as an ‘r’. He explained he no longer smoked because he had canceRRed them. Then, in discussing a mutual friend who on a tourist-trap junk dressed up in the Empress costume for a photo, explained they were having so much fun, they cRapped themselves.

The VP for Microsoft Japan sold the Japanese manufacturers something that turned out to be a non-starter, but not before they had all signed up with MSX licences. The MSX is taken to mean ‘Microsoft Extended’ and to imply ‘Microsoft Extended Basic’. It was intended to offer an operating system that would sustain 8-bit processors when others were by now espousing 16-bit.

As a result we were expecting a Japanese PC to arrive and take-on the UK and US products that were developing the market. I spent a lot of time touring Japanese companies to assess their readiness. We went close to doing a deal with a Pioneer MSX product, but the whole thing fizzled out as 16-bit took over.

ASIDE: I first encountered, while at Pioneer, a white wall-board for teacher/lecturer use that had an inbuilt copier to keep a record of their scribblings. In one meeting I used the board to outline my thought processes on where electronic products were headed and sketched out a hobby-horse of mine. This was that data, audio and video would converge into one product which I termed as Vi-Fi, similar to hi-fi but with data and video. When I went to wipe it off, they stopped me and used the photocopy function to run some copies of my drawing.
A year or so later I saw a Pioneer UK advert that used the term ViFi. I quickly wrote to the organisation pointing out that this had been my idea, that I still had my copy of the sketch I had done in their Japanese HQ, knew its date, and would sue them if they used it again. I never saw them do so. In retrospect that was sad, it was a nice concept and a term that perhaps I might have given me a warm feeling of pride of authorship.

On one around-the-world trip I had a strange experience in the Taipei Hilton, Taiwan. I was travelling with Clyde Roberts, one of the team. We were having a drink at the hotel bar and noticed a reaction among the hookers assembled there when an American woman came in with this huge guy, who settled her at a table and then left. Their reaction was because the American’s demeanour and body language suggested that she was probably willing to offer the hooker’s services at no charge. Clyde attracted her attention when he looked as if he might play the bar’s piano, and he learned bizarrely that her name was Bonnie – and Clyde!

Taipei Hilton

Despite her demeanour we never saw her leave with anyone, across three nights we did see that the big guy would suddenly arrive later, and she would quickly finish up her drink and be escorted away from the bar. On one occasion we noticed the big guy had a shoulder holster and large pistol concealed beneath his jacket. We just had to know the story and it proved much stranger than we might have imagined.

In the early 1970s, Nixon’s Ping Pong initiatives had shifted official US policy away from its support of Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists based in Taiwan, to the mainland Peoples’ Republic of China. However, the Governor of Nevada had sent a letter of support to Taiwan stating that the people of Nevada still knew who their real friends were.

Our visit had coincided with the inauguration of Taiwan’s President Chiang Ching-kuo, re-elected in 1984. Of course he had invited Taiwan’s friend, the Governor of Nevada, to attend the various formal occasions. The Governor had brought Bonnie along with him, she was a Vegas cocktail waitress. The Governor clearly thought her inappropriate for the formal state functions, so it was his bodyguard who took her to the hotel bar, then fetched her when the Governor returned.

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