The Pet and TRS
(remember?) had just come on the market and
Jaap Creutzberg, then in charge of the GT11 which he had secured for the
department, put in a request for these micros to off-load the GT11 and make it
available again for the research for which it was originally intended. The
proposal was not accepted and it became clear that he would have to find his own
computing equipment if he wanted to continue his work on computers. At the time
(1978) this seemed entirely reasonable because the Z8000 and the 68000 had just
been announced and it seemed that these engines would fit the bill quite neatly.
Nobody could foresee that the former would come to grief and that it would be
another ten years before the latter would be anywhere near general acceptance.
No matter, one could make do with the less than ideal Z80 in the meantime. An
entirely different matter was, of course, where to get the money to purchase the
The solution was a painful one but it had to be taken. Like anyone else
who was conscious in the sixties Jaap Creutzberg had a large record collection,
perhaps a bit larger than most. He struck up a partnership with a kindred
spirit, Nigel Scott, who, in July 1979, pooled his equally large record
collection and proceeded to sell them off in the street markets of Southern
England under the banner “OFF Records”. A Nascom was soon acquired from the
Barnet Mafia and soldered together. It worked a treat! A rudimentary accounts
package was quickly knocked up and after a year the market traders acquired a
tiny shop in Clapham and had saved up enough to start trading in computer
equipment: printers, monitors and the Acorn Atom. They had missed the early
Nascom boom but even though that company was now in the hands of the receiver
they decided to establish contact. In a memorable meeting at the Clapham shop
squeezed between the piles of records and posters of Jimmy Hendrix they were
signed up by one Ken Jones as official Nascom dealers. They had arrived!
Soon afterwards Lucas took on the Nascom but it became rapidly clear that
OFF Records had to be able to sell Gemini product to keep the Nascom viable.
Gemini welcomed the partnership as dealers and thus OFF Records became a member
of that exclusive club, MicroValue, until then known as the Gang of Six.
Despite the name “OFF Records” neither the Gang nor Gemini knew that they had a
music business in their midst: witness one of the joint ads which began “We are
computer experts. We don’t sell cameras and we don’t sell records.” The
customers didn’t seem to mind! They responded by buying vast quantities of
computers, sufficient to persuade the bank to lend enough money to buy a three
storey building in Battersea, the present location of OFF Records.
Times were good, but 1984 saw a sudden decline in computer trade and the
business was kept alive by drastic cuts in overheads, by concentrating on
consultancy and, of course, by the record business. Thankfully, the crisis was
soon overcome, so much so, that a new office could be opened in Streatham to
deal mainly with the consultancy side which showed rapid growth. The Battersea
site still houses the workshops but the shop itself has reverted to a record
shop which has been rebuilt to provide twice its former retail area.
OFF Records continues to support and market 80-BUS equipment very
successfully and agrees with Gemini’s MD that there appears to be several years’
life left in the old Z80 despite the onslaught of the clone market, certainly
enough life to form a bridge to the inevitable dominance of 68000 based systems.
Fortunately, projects involving the Challenger have turned out to be so large
that relatively few sales generate sufficient income to support this superb
system. OFF Records are enthusiastic fans of both BOS software and the Mirage
operating system. Especially the letter has opened substantial prospects of
vertical market applications and its implementation on Atari has been a
convincing argument to accept an Atari dealership. Academic institutions can’t
make a better choice than a Challenger under Mirage with (detachable) Ateri
terminals. It has taken ten years but it was worth waiting for!
Like all dealers, OFF Records is the beneficiary of the close relationship
fostered by Gemini. Such a tightly knit family of dealers is unique in the
industry and to the direct benefit of all users of Gemini equipment.