Can you tell us about MPA?
We came from a Unix background, and we’re still in that world, but we’ve taken on appliances in the network security space and the datacentre. We’ve always looked at the smaller end of the market. We look at three areas: Server-centric computing and terminal services, network security technologies and then what we call datacentre infrastructure solutions like UPS, KVM and infrastructure management tools.
How did MPA Systems come about?
I did two degrees at university and started selling microprocessor applications with one of my uni colleagues before PCs were launched and just before the chip. We developed product designs with processors to use for various applications. We built a cricket game, which didn’t do so well, but people started realising we could build other applications. By building a testing station, we could program the unit to do something multiple times. We were known as Microprocessor Applications, which over time we shortened to MPA International.
What did you study at uni?
In my day there wasn’t a computer science degree, so I did a degree in electrical engineering. In those days, if you wanted to change what something did, you had to fix a wire on these units.
What then happened was we came across a computer system – we would go to a lot of shows in the US and pick up products, import them here and promote them. We picked up a product which, in current terms, was based on a blade technology design. This was before Microsoft and machines were based on CPM. The vendor had developed a way to put multiple boards with CPM functionality into one chassis controlled by a multi-tasking operating system. It was very successful in the education space as people were looking at ways to get students onto the computers. We sold a lot of these into schools and also taught them word processing and running on C-basic language.
Dumb terminals were the interface for the user, so we were also selling those. We came across Wyse, who had only just started up and was making cast iron terminals, which were the first terminals that could swivel on a base. Soon we were bringing in thousands of them. We were selling to people like Prime and NCR. The IBM PC then came out and SCO had the only multi-user OS for PCs, so we began selling those licences.
We had about 40 employees when we started going into networking and became a SynOptics distributor.