Torch Computers Ltd
Torch Computers Ltd was a computer hardware company formed in 1981. It became well known for its computer peripherals for the BBC Micro.
Torch Computers was founded in 1981 by chartered accountants Martin Vlieland Body, Peter Harris, and Russell Lyons. The founders all knew Herman Hauser and Chris Curry of Acorn Computers. Acorn occupied part of their office space in Bridge Street, Cambridge, before moving to new offices, and Torch moved to Abberley House in Great Shelford in 1983.
Torch made an agreement with Acorn Computers in 1981 to be supplied with BBC Micro motherboards, and it used these to create a twin Processor PC that linked the Acorn motherboard to a Z80 B processor, enabling it to run business software. Known as the Torch Communicator, this system it was the first PC to be authorised by British Telecom for direct connection into the BT Telephone system rather than via an Acoustic Coupler. It was supplied with Torch’s own range of software which included a Torch Word, Word Processor, Accounting, and Torch Mail which was one of the first E-mail Systems. The Torch casing was designed by Ian Sinclair, brother of Sir Clive Sinclair.
The second product Torch produced was a Z80 Disk Pack for use with the BBC Micro Computer. This was followed by a range of 16 Bit Triple Processor machines incorporating the Motorola 68000 using Unix as their main Operating System.
The company was initially funded by a DTI backed start-up loan via Barclays Bank of £ 250,000 in 1981, which enabled it to undertake the necessary R&D and design and build its first prototypes by April in the following year. In order to move into production and start sales and marketing, it raised £ 500,000 in exchange for 20% of the company’s equity from New Market Venture Capital, in a deal signed on 13th May, 1982. A further £ 263,000 was provided by the Welsh Development Agency for 3% of the Company’s stock later that year.
The company manufactured its products at its own factory in Caernarvon, Wales.
Although the company was eventually broken up in 1999, the spin-off from it was impressive. The founders put together a gifted team of software and hardware engineers, all educated originally at Cambridge University. These included Peter Headland, Ray Anderson (who went on to found IX International and AIM listed mobile payments company, Bango), Martin Baines, David Oliver, Steve O’Hara Smith, Hugh Tonks (who went on to found Thymometrics), George Grey who founded Tadpole Technology, also a designer and manufacturer of Personal Computers), Clive Feather, Simon David, and several others.
Martin Vlieland Body went on to found several different businesses. Peter Harris founded the hugely successful Hotel Chocolat. Russell Lyons set up Innovation Software, which has created a range of ERM (Enterprise Relationship Management) and Financial Software applications integrated with over 40 ERP and Accounting Systems.
The above information was kindly provided by Russell Lyons, one of the original founders of Torch Computers Ltd.
Torch's address in 1985 was :
TORCH Computers Limited
Torch Computers Ltd was a computer hardware company formed in 1982 in Great Shelford, near Cambridge, UK and became well known for its computer peripherals for the BBC Micro. Torch produced several second processor units for the BBC Micro with integrated floppy disk or hard disk drives, including the Z80 Disc Pack (ZDP), Graduate and Unicorn, with Z80, 8088 and 68000 processors respectively. The ZDP ran the CPN operating system, a clone of CP/M, the Graduate, MS-DOS 2.11 and the Unicorn UNIX.
Torch also sold the Communicator, a system based on the BBC Micro with a Z80 second processor and integral modem, intended as a viewdata terminal.
Torch later developed the Triple X workstation, based on the Motorola 68010 processor running Unix System V. Launched in 1986, a number of these were sold but never reached critical mass, and the Triple X was overshadowed in the market by other vendors such as Sun Microsystems.
In 1989 Torch were developing an enhanced version of the Triple X, called the Quad X, but ran out of money and went into receivership. In 1990, parts of the company were sold to various buyers, including Unipalm and Control Universal Ltd. In 1991, Control Universal also went into receivership, and its Torch assets were bought by Worldmark Computers Ltd, which then started to trade under the name Torch Computers, changing its name to Torch Computers Ltd. in 1999.
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