Reuters

The next PC User Show came after the release of Windows 2.0. There should have been a buzz in Olympia, but the new operating system hadn’t set the market alight; not our market, anyway. There was a good reason people walked straight past as our stand: the Windows 1.0 version of MicroSight I, based on four-year-old video hobby electronics technology, and the pedestrian Targa version of MircoScale IIR. As a result, we spent the week playing to empty aisles. Most of the equipment was packed away an hour before the show ended. There was just one PC and a camera left on the stand; returning to collect these, I found Stephen part way through a demonstration.

‘Who was that?’ I asked as we drove out of London.

‘Just someone from Reuters,’ Stephen replied.

That someone was David Russell, the British-born CEO of IDR, Reuters’s equipment building division. The first question he asked after sitting himself at the head of our meeting room table was, ‘Do you want to work with Reuters?’ This was very IBM: ‘Don’t bully small companies into doing something they don’t want to do,’ and copied by companies who wanted to sound like IBM. I guessed, as David was in the chairman’s seat, that he assumed we would say yes. Then, he told one of those stories where, at the end of it, you really want to ask to hear it again, and I regretted not having Stephen with me in the room, just in case I was hallucinating.

In essence – and, later, when discussing it with Stephen and Ray, it made more sense – the story was this. Reuters were developing an IBM PC compatible terminal based on the Intel 80386. It was claimed to be the smallest footprint PC clone in the world and would display a live digital video feed inside a window, enabling traders to watch Reuters’ news channel while they were buying and selling shares. IDR asked Intel if they had a chip that would support video in Windows, and it was suggested they partnered in the development of the 82786 graphics processor. When the chips arrived, over 1,000 in the first batch, they, as promised, supported live video, but monochrome not colour. An embarrassing mistake, but who better to fix it than a company tucked away in a small market town in the UK that no one had heard of, and didn’t include a customer list in its brochure? …


... (An extract from The Ghost in the Labyrinth by Peter Kruger)




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