Reflections of 40 years in IT

John Chadwick, Minerva UK

As Minerva reaches its 40th anniversary, founder and Managing Director John Chadwick looks back at how it all happened…

“In 1982, I was working for a steel company, but the following year, the recession hit hard, and the company succumbed to it.

“Facing an uncertain future, I decided to take things into my own hands. I’d always had a passing interest in technology and computers, and I could see that this was the future, so I decided to set up a company and be a reseller for Olivetti’s M20 computers.

“Setting up a company was new to me, and I liked the name of the steel company I’d been working for – Minerva Steels – so I asked my former boss if I could use Minerva as my brand, and thankfully he agreed!

“Nat West bank initially refused to give me a loan to support the business, on the basis that I was the fifth person that week to ask for money to start up a computer company and they were convinced that the market was saturated! Years later, with a bit more experience under my belt, I asked them again, and this time they relented!”

From humble beginnings…

“In the early days, the machines ran the revolutionary Multisoft accounting software, but it was all very primitive: initially PCOS and MSDOS and floppy disks. The computer mouse still wasn’t widely used, so everything on the screen was controlled by the function keys. Multisoft was the first integrated financial solution replacing manual card- based systems.

“Soon after that, I took on the Apricot, which had a 9-inch screen, and this proved to be popular and lucrative; a standalone PC at that time cost close to £5,000 and with software and training on top, we didn’t need to sell that many to earn our crust!

“The next step forward for me came when Multisoft was acquired by SAGE for a whopping £6.5m in 1994, and we started selling both SAGE and Pegasus systems, followed by the advent of Novell networks which allowed ordinary businesses to operate on more than one PC on a network for the first time, and this quickly became the market leader.

“Four years on, we could see that Microsoft was beginning to make inroads into the networking space, so we approached Exchequer and offered to sell their Enterprise product, which supported both Novell and Microsoft Windows, so we were covering all bases.”

The Millennium Bug

“The turn of the millennium proved to be a godsend for the industry because everyone was terrified that their systems would collapse when the date moved on from 1999 to 2000 and therefore upgraded their equipment to millennium-proof options.

“In the end, planes didn’t fall out of the sky and most systems continued to operate perfectly well, but we’ll never know what might have happened if no-one had upgraded. Thankfully, they did, and it reminded everyone how important it was to keep everything up to date.

“Microsoft continued their march towards market dominance, and this really took off in 2001 when they launched  Windows XP, but up until then, you could still buy a single license for Word or Excel and use it on as many machines as you liked!”

Expansion and the Cloud

“As for Minerva, we’d started up a networking division, and recruited developers to deal with the demand for software users who wanted to extend and customise the software they had. Suddenly we were a team of six.

“In more recent times, Cloud computing has started to make some headway, but most businesses are still a little wary of relinquishing control over their data, aware of the growing threat of cybercrime; it’s a constant battle for us and our clients to stay one step ahead, but so far, we seem to be winning – most of the time!

“Over the years, Minerva has relocated a few times, but once we’d migrated to Potters Bar into the building adjacent to the one we now occupy, we really thrived.

“Through natural growth and doing a great job for our clients, we’re now a team of 30 and things are looking healthy for another year of growth. It’s been quite a journey, but here’s to the next 40 years!”

So what memories do you have of the rise of technology?

Here’s a technology timeline to jog your memory…

1983 Apple introduces the Lisa computer 1983 The first CD-ROM products appeared, paving the way for the first Cd encyclopaedia 1983 Microsoft launched Word 1983 Apple’s groundbreaking ‘1984’-based TV commercial aired, directed by Ridley Scott 1984 Apple launches the Macintosh, the first successful mouse-driven computer 1984 Flash memory developed. 1985 Aldus releases the first PageMaker programme 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System launched 1985 The US National Science Foundation links five supercomputer centres at universities, creating the forerunner of the internet as we know it 1986 Compaq Deskpro 386 system launched 1986 Pixar founded after Apple paid Lucasfilms $10m for its Special Effects Computer Group, and renamed it, before selling it on to Disney in 2006 for a reported $7.4bn

1987 Acorn launches its Archimedes system 1987 The EEC agreed the GSM standard for digital mobile telephony and text messaging 1987 IBM releases its PS/2 personal; system machines

1988 The Morris Worm affects 6,000 hosts linked to the network, raising awareness of the need for cyber security

1989 Deep Thoughts defeats David Levy at chess, making it the first computer to beat a grand master 1989 Nintendo releases the Game Boy handheld game console

  1990 Microsoft releases Windows 3.0 with a new user interface 1990 Photoshop arrives 1990 Tim Berners-Lee formally proposes a WorldWideWeb to scientists at CERN in Switzerland; they reject his ideas, but he carried on regardless!

1991 The National Science Foundation (NSF) bows to pressure and allows the internet to be used for commercial purposes

1992 The Joint Photographic Expert Group (JPEG) created a set of standards for digital images

  1993 Intel releases the Pentium version of its x86 microprocessors 1993 Windows NT is released by Microsoft 1993 Mosaic is launched, the first major browser 1993 The first online advertisements appear 1993 PDF format files are released, preserving the visual integrity and layout of documents across different computer systems, software, and printers

1994 SanDisk introduces the CompactFlash storage card 1994 Sony launches its PlayStation

1995 DVDs are introduced, quickly rendering VHS video tapes obsolete 1995 JavaScript is developed and Java 1.0 is released (despite the common name, there is no connection) 1995 Windows 95 is launched with a $300m marketing campaign, prompting over a million sales in the first 4 days

1996 Palm Pilot introduced 1996 Sony launches its Vaio range 1996 By the end of the year, 36m people were using the web (within 3 years it would increase 12-fold, and a decade later it was two billion)

1997 Grand Theft Auto is released 1997 Rewritable CDs finally arrived!

1998 Apple launches the iMac, costing $1,300; it’s the first new product under the leadership of a returning Steve Jobs and Apple extinguish the sceptre of near-bankruptcy in the mid-90s 1998 Amazon launches in the UK

1999 The mobile web arrives, and wi-fi becomes a thing

2000 The Sims is released 2000 SoftBank introduces the first camera phone 2000 USB flash drives hit the market

  2001 The first Apple stores open 2001 Microsoft launches the Xbox 2001 Windows XP released 2001 iTunes is released

2003 Blu-ray optical disc gets its release, an HD successor to DVD 2003 MySpace is founded

2004 Facebook founded 2004 Advent of ‘Web 2.0’

2005 Chinese manufacturer Lenovo buys IBM to become the biggest maker of PCs in the world

2006 Nintendo launches the Wii 2006 The verb ‘to Google’ is added to dictionaries 2006 Wikileaks established 2006 ‘The cloud’ begins to regain popularity 2006 Jack Dorsey sends the first tweet to launch Twitter

2007 The launch of Dropbox 2007 The release of the first 1TB hard disk drive 2007 Release of the Amazon Kindle 2007 Apple releases its iPhone

2008 The MacBook Air is released, their first ultra notebook – a light, thin laptop with high-capacity battery

2009 Bitcoin crypto-currency is created

2010 Apple launches its Retina display, redefining screen clarity 2010 Apple releases its iPad

2011 Adobe Creative Cloud is announced 2011 Facebook and Twitter are credited with fuelling The Arab Spring protests 2011 Steve Jobs passes away 2011 Siri is born

2012 Facebook acquires Instagram for nearly $1bn

2014 Apple Pay mobile payment system is introduced 2014 Amazon release its Fire TV stick

2015 Apple launches its Watch 2015 Windows 10 released

2017 Norway becomes the first country to begin switching off FM radio and adopting DAB 2017 Google released Google Lens and Google Meet 2017 Microsoft releases Teams

2019 5G networks in America began service

2022 Streaming surpassed TV viewing 2022 ChatGPT launched

2023 Minerva UK reaches its 40th anniversary