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April 29, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

This may be the first British computer product with international potential, said founder of Ascii Corp and inventor of the MSX home computer operating system, Kay Nishi, about UK company Madge Networks’ IBM Token Ring-compatible networking tools yesterday. The fact that the Japanese guru is best mates with the managing director of Madge Networks, based in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, colours perhaps his enthusiasm, but the product the UK firm is marketing has a number of things going for it. The company is selling a Token Ring-compatible system based on an adaptor card, which slots directly into the back of an IBM Personal Computer. It is built around the low-level Texas Instruments TMS380 chip set, which IBM commissioned for its Token Ring. Madge reckons its products are the first on the market to be fully compatible with IBM’s Token Ring because it has a slot-in adaptor card rather than a NetBIOS interface, as offered by companies such as Gateway Inc and Torus and because it is licencing Microsoft’s Microsoft Networks software. This software contains the Server Message Block, SMB, protocols that determine how messages are formatted and sent around a network, which IBM is building into its forthcoming OS/2 operating system. An entry-level system comprising two network cards, cabling, software and a UKP280 local ring hub costs UKP1,300 compared to IBM’s UKP2,000 starting price. The local ring hub gets over the problem created by IBM of having to install a wiring cabinet on each floor of a building with a wall-socket for each computer to be connected to a Token Ring network. The other string to Madge’s bow is that Ascii Corp will be selling the products in Japan under an OEM agreement. Madge Networks feels it will do well in the UK because demand for IBM’s Token Ring adaptor cards and accessories is exceeding supply, leading to a general shortage. We aim to be the largest supplier of token ring products in the UK after IBM, said managing director Robert Madge. Our target is UKP1m in revenues in our first year and break-even in two years from now. Madge Networks Ltd is a 12-month old company, funded by private investors and associated with a company called I S Systems, which developed the products launched yesterday. Madge will be selling the products through distributors only, concentrating on the UK market for its first year. It says it is also in discussions with two US companies. Madge will also be launching an adaptor card for the PS/2 model 50, 60 and 80 this year.

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