August 1981

It was Dave Warburton who noticed the road was unusually quiet. The A603 ran west out of Cambridge to Bedford and, between the villages of Orwell and Wimpole, passed the offices of Sands Whiteley Research and Development. It was a fairly accurate barometer of economic activity and usually carried a steady stream of delivery vans, company cars and lorries. Dave glanced at his watch. ‘Nothing for thirty minutes.’ He muttered.

The recession started in the early 1970s in the wake of the oil crisis. The worst seemed to be over by the time I left university in 1976, but two years later it swept through Lancashire, where I was working for Metal Box. Now it had followed me home, to Cambridgeshire and the small electronics company that was just a little too reliant on sales to British Leyland. Perhaps it was time to move on; time to try something new.

When, eventually, I did move on it was to found Digithurst, with the Department of Employment as an angel investor and a dole cheque as seed capital. And that something new was a technology that would evolve into Britain’s first electronic newspaper.

This is the story of an innovative British company you’ve probably never heard of, which developed video in Windows, browser technology and sold German women new hairstyles and French men French letters. It was part of the Cambridge phenomenon, before Cambridge was phenomenal, and during the decade that took us to the threshold of the Internet age used labyrinths, ghosts and time machines to make pioneering journeys into a brave new virtual world.

The following are extracts from The Ghost in The Labyrinth ...