resale price to aim for, since it was obvious that the male members of the population
in this country were spending this sort of cash on their hobbies.
I had spent the early years of my working life building up an electronics component
retail outlet which was specifically aimed at the hobby market (A Marshall & Son
in Cricklewood – I was the son), and had also been extensively involved subsequently
in the Practical TV project to build a colour TV receiver. It was obvious to me that
I should look at the possibility of approaching the project with the idea of supplying
a kit, both to save money and to appeal to the right type of person.
In the closing weeks of 1976 I attended a seminar at the Imperial College in London
on microprocessors, and afterwards started talking to Phil Pitman, who was at that
time working for Mostek (now part of the SGS Thomson group). Mostek had just
signed a second source agreement with Zilog
to manufacture the Z80 and were
anxious to assist anyone who might want to use this device in their systems.
Subsequently Phil put me in touch with Chris Shelton who acted as a consultant
designer and who was, in the spring of 1977, asked to design Nascom 1.
We launched the system at the Wembley Conference Centre in November 1977.
Prior to the launch we ran a series of articles on microcomputer design in Wireless
World authored by Phil Pitman, who was technical marketing manager at Zilog, and
these had aroused a great deal of interest. The switchboard at our office in Chesham
was frequently clogged with callers requesting information and it became obvious
that our initial booking of accommodation for 250 people at the launch was going
to be hopelessly inadequate. Another hall was provided, but even this proved barely
sufficient for the 700 people who arrived on the day. One of the attendees was Meyer
Soloman, the first editor of
Personal Computer World,
who subsequently featured our system in the
of the magazine.
The seminar was a resounding success and many of the attendees gave us provisional
orders for the system notwithstanding the fact that we could only show the
prototype! Deliveries did not commence until the early part of 1978 and during the
period to May 1980, we shipped a total of over 35,000 Nascom 1 and Nascom 2
systems, all in kit form. This may not seem a particularly large number when
compared to the current market, but in those pre-IBM PC days, the numbers of
systems sold were quite impressive.
By the middle of 1978 it had become obvious that I could not continue with my
component-related activities and I sold off my interest to my partner, who still runs
the operation today. We changed the name of the company to Nascom and tried to
get to grips with the component procurement problems that were hampering
production. Printed circuit board deliveries and quality were particularly
problematical, difficulties which were only resolved in 1979 when we started to have
the boards made in the USA. Then we were hit by the first great DRAM shortage