Finance Director - Locomotive Software Limited

I worked with my brother Chris and his business partner Richard Clayton providing management expertise to help them develop their computer programming business partnership and then as Finance Director of Locomotive Software Limited.

1980 to 1984

Initially I helped Chris with accounting, sales taxes and income tax accounting for his self employed consultancy business.

Then I helped Richard and Chris to develop a business plan, and to obtain financing, for a project to buid and sell an add-on card for the IBM PC.

1984 to 1994

When Chris and Richard formed Locomotive Software Limited in 1984 I took on the roles of Company Secretary and Finance Director or CFO.

By the early 1990's Turnover was in excess of £ 1.4 million (approx $2 million) and there were 15 employees.

Responsibilities

My responsibilities were:

  • Accounting
  • Management Accounting
  • Cash Management
  • Financial Planning

A brief history of Locomotive Software Limited

Locomotive was formed on Valentine's Day 1984, by Richard Clayton and Chris Hall, to formalize their business partnership and to sell a Microsoft Basic clone, the first Mallard BASIC, to Acorn Computers.

The first version was run-only and intended to be shipped with Acorn's "Compact Software" (small business accounting products). It ran under Digital Research's CP/M operating system on Acorn Computers' Z-80 add-on board for the BBC Microcomputer and it included a Jetsam B*-tree keyed access filing system to improve the performance of Compact Software.

Speed was the essential characteristic of both of these projects. The LNER A4 class 4468 Mallard locomotive was the fastest steam locomotive in the world, so naturally Mallard was the name given to the product developed for Acorn.

Chris and Richard had been working on a plan to build an add-on board for the IBM PC using National Semiconductor's NS16032 CPU (later called the 32016!) - I had worked with them to develop the business plan using SuperCalc, a forerunner of Excel, and we had arranged funding under a Government grant. The Acorn contract was the "bird in the hand" and the PC add-on board was not pursued.

Locomotive then developed the Locomotive BASIC Interpreter which was shipped, built into ROM, on the Amstrad Colour Personal Computer CPC range (think Commodore 64) between 1984 and 1990. Locomotive also ported CP/M onto the CPC.

LocoScript, the company's next major product was developed for the Amstrad Personal Computer Wordprocessor (Amstrad PCW) which was conceived as a replacement for the secretary/typist.

LocoScript was the word-processing component to versions of the PCW sold between 1985 and 1995 (i.e. not the PCW16). Locomotive produced the firmware for the dot-matrix printer component of the PCW and ported a large number of font families which were sold separately by mail order as were a contacts manager and mail-merge program.

The company also ported CP/M onto the PCW and an updated Mallard BASIC which was optimised for database applications.

It included, for instance, full ISAM random-access file support and an integrated editor which supported the PCW's non-standard 90-column screen. Other Basic interpreters, at that time, did not have integrate editors and worked in three stages: edit, compile and run.

When Amstrad took ownership of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Locomotive supplied Mallard Basic and ported CPM on the the ZX Spectrum +2, +2B and +3 computers.

Locomotive BASIC was adapted to run under Digital Research's GEM GUI (Graphical User Interface).

It is hard at this point in time to understand the significance of this development since GUI's are everywhere, but GEM pre-dated windows, although not Apple's GUI, and BASIC2 used four windows for coding, debugging, graphics and running code allowing the programmer to switch quickly from one to another. Basic2 was shipped on Amstrad's IBM PC-compatibles (Amstrad PC1512 and PC1640) from 1986 to 19xx

In 1986 the Company ported LocoScript to MS/DOS for PCs.

The arrival of the Windows operating system and the market presence of products such as WordPerfect and then Microsoft Word for Windows made LocoScript on MS/DOS uncompetitive. Digital Research's GEM lost out to Windows on the PC and BASIC2 lost out to Visual Basic.

By the early 1990's contribution analysis reports began to show a disturbing trend and it became clear that the company should develop in other directions if it were to survive.

The arrrival of the Internet provided that direction and the company's last product was the Turnpike Internet client for Windows an e-mail and news client and also a program for handling connection to the Internet.

In 1995, we sold the company to Demon Internet, a dial-up Internet access provider in the UK, which distributed Turnpike as their standard access software, e-mail and news client for many years.

Sources

Chris Hall and my memory of events aided by:

http://www.retroisle.com/general/locomotive.php

Wikipedia contributors, "Mallard BASIC," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mallard_BASIC&oldid=449417146 (accessed November 13, 2011).

Wikipedia contributors, "Locomotive Software," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Locomotive_Software&oldid=422589340 (accessed November 13, 2011).

Wikipedia contributors, "Locomotive BASIC," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Locomotive_BASIC&oldid=442065315 (accessed November 13, 2011).

Wikipedia contributors, "Amstrad CPC," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Amstrad_CPC&oldid=458236760 (accessed November 13, 2011).

Wikipedia contributors, "Amstrad PCW," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Amstrad_PCW&oldid=454261618 (accessed November 13, 2011).

Wikipedia contributors, "PC-1512," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=PC-1512&oldid=452230303 (accessed November 13, 2011).

Wikipedia contributors, "Turnpike (software)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Turnpike_(software)&oldid=433184585 (accessed November 13, 2011).