24/09/2021

Texas Instruments

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In 1978 the two owners of KeyMed had decided to sell off the industrial arm of the business, which I had painstakingly spent several years establishing and expanding for them. Frustratingly they did a deal for it with their main supplier, Olympus. They used this negotiation to improve the potential for their pre-existing medical division. The clue was always there in the company name I guess, but it didn’t make it any more acceptable.

They did have the ‘decency’ to suggest that if I had any business idea that they might back me. In my Hugin days I had early contact with microprocessors and software, and my travels for KeyMed meant I had seen and become aware of early computer stores and computer kits in the States. I suggested a venture into home computing, but they were not keen.

I therefore wrote to the UK managing director of Texas Instruments, Robb Wilmott, and said I believed they would soon enter the home computer business and that I wanted to be part of it. Robb called me in to a meeting at a London hotel and exhibited some paranoia, asking how I had heard about this, I said it was just my personal surmise. We chatted about my ideas for home computing. He finished our meeting by formally denying TI had any plans to enter the field, but then blew this apart by asking me to fly down to TI’s European HQ at Villeneuve-Loubet, equidistant between Cannes and Nice.

ASIDE: While waiting for the meeting with Robb in the hotel I asked the hall porter if he could get me the hot ticket for the original run of Evita and he did (more later).

On arriving at the Euro-HQ I was interviewed and became the UK Personal Computer Manager for TI UK based out of Bedford. They revealed plans for three key products – a games console codenamed 99/1, a home computer the 99/4, and a small business computer codenamed 99/7. They were all end products applying the TI TMS 9900 microprocessor, the first 16-bit chip that would reach the market shortly.

Appointment as Personal Computer Project Manager (Aug-1978)

My job was to complete the consumer research for 99/1 and 99/4, investigate and arrange to have developed suitable software and then launch the products. TI, by nature a semi-conductor manufacturer, had established a consumer division for its calculators and learning products, so my personal computer activity was placed within this team.

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