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July 4, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

Tracefax Distribution Ltd, the Billericay, Essex-based facsimile equipment supplier, is making use of cheap Hungarian labour to manufacture two new switching products that enable combinations of facsimile, computer and phone terminals to share a single line. Tracefax’s new Secretary and Manager devices, which will be built in Hungary by the privately owned electronics component manufacturer Muszertechnika, are intended to cash in on the increasing number of people working at home and the cost of renting new lines for the home personal computer and facsimile machine. Secretary enables a maximum of six telephones depending on voltage – to run on one line along with an answering machine and either a facsimile machine or computer modem. By recognising the different frequencies at which each terminal operates, the switch automatically routes the message to the appropriate destination – whether computer, facsimile, or telephone; when instructed, telephone calls will be diverted to the answering machine as usual. Although designed to work from a single line, Secretary can also operate in conjunction with an office private branch exchange. Manager does essentially the same thing, except that telephone and answering machine can share a line with both a computer modem and facsimile machine. Tracefax’s nine-month relationship with Muszertechnica is the result of a recommendation by the British Embassy in Budapest. Tracefax director Robert Harlow, who describes Muszertechnica as the new type of East European, explains that after a long search for the right manufacturer, it was decided that Muszertechnica could provide the middle course between the cost of UK and Far East manufacture. As an example of this middle course, Harlow reckons that the average cost associated with making the Secretary would be UKP20 a unit in the Far East, UKP40 in Hungary and UKP70 in the UK. Muszertechnica, whose most recent claim to fame was supplying its colour matrix display panels to stadia in Bari and Verona for the World Cup finals, will be making the devices at an initial rate of 250 a month, and will also be selling the new products into Hungary, Czechoslavakia and the Soviet Union – all important markets for Tracefax because of the lack of availability of new lines. Muszertechnica also has subsidiaries in the US, West Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Kuwait, Brazil, and Taiwan: since January, it has been allowed to trade directly into these countries without the medium of a government trade agency. In addition to these channels, Tracefax – which acknowledges that the UK, where lines are relatively easily available, will probably not be the best market for the products – has signed distributorships in Malta, Iran, Spain, Norway and Egypt, and is looking for more. Tracefax is still awaiting a factory visit from the British Approvals Board for Telecommunications to gain its approval for the products; if this is obtained, Secretary and Manager will be available in the UK from September priced at UKP185 and UKP215 respectively.

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