Acorn's 40th birthday / CPU Ltd

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8bitkick
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Acorn's 40th birthday / CPU Ltd

Post by 8bitkick » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:53 pm

Hi

I need some help from Acorn history experts :D

One Wednesday I realized it was Acorn's 40th birthday and tweeted a bit about this. =D>

However, I had a moment of confusion as I saw Wikipedia states upfront Cambridge Processor Unit Ltd was formed on 5 Dec 1978, a bit ambiguous but potentially suggesting Acorn as a trading name came later in this section.

Acorn's certificate of incorporation on companies house website confirms Acorn was formed on 5 Dec 1978 too. (Scroll to bottom of that page - harder to find than you'd expect as CABOT 2 was the final name of the Acorn entity...)

So mystery solved as to Acorn's official birthday... but the odd part I can't find CPU Ltd on Companies House. Does anyone know the company number? Was CPU Ltd ever officially incorporated? Was Acorn actually the first official company Curry and Hauser formed?
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Re: Acorn's 40th birthday / CPU Ltd

Post by BeebMaster » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:36 pm

it's quite possible they formed two different companies at the same time with the purpose being to keep different product lines separate. Certainly I always thought that Acorn was formed in 1978 and released their first product in 1979.

Companies House don't keep online records of companies which were dissolved a long time ago (more than 10 years I think). You can still obtain records but you have to make a telephone or postal application. So it seems likely that CPU Ltd was dissolved more than 10 years ago (probably a lot longer) whereas the Acorn company continued under different names till 2014.
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Re: Acorn's 40th birthday / CPU Ltd

Post by BigEd » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:53 pm

What's the most solid source we have for the idea that CPU was a limited company? It seems plausible to me that CPU was an idea, a collaboration, a cooperative, and Acorn Ltd was instigated by someone (Hauser?) who had the background to know the advantages of a limited company.

Possibly CPU traded as Acorn, but no-one traded as Acorn Ltd, I think. In my understanding, a trading name is anything you like, so long as it's not misleading, but a limited company is a legal thing which changes name only rarely. I think you're not supposed to use "limited' unless you actually are a limited company, so trading names wouldn't have that in the name.

Edit: see my update below.
Last edited by BigEd on Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Acorn's 40th birthday / CPU Ltd

Post by BigEd » Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:39 pm

Ah - I see Hauser himself says he and Chris Curry co-founded CPU Ltd:
“Chris and I didn’t suddenly start Acorn, the fountainhead of computer development, with the click of our fingers. Acorn was a soft startup and we began life as a technology consultancy called CPU – Cambridge Processor Unit Ltd.

“We were young – I was in my 20s – and was not averse to taking risks. I had some business experience with my father’s wine business in Austria, which was a successful venture. I was going to export the Hauser wine to England but it never took off.

“Chris had left Sinclair Radionics, where we met during the development of the Mk14. Chris wanted to develop it further but Sinclair couldn’t be persuaded so we each took a gamble with a £50 investment and set up CPU.”

Securing the first client proved a novel experience for the young Hermann. A fruit machine company in Wales, Ace Coin Equipment, was experiencing difficulties with the guts of its machines, which would often cough up a jackpot in the most bizarre circumstances.
I see the article later says
CPU financed the development of an SC/MP-based microcomputer system using the initial income from the design-and-build consultancy and launched the system in January 1979 as the first product of Acorn Computer Ltd.
The trading name was deployed by CPU to keep the risks of the two different lines of business separate.
but as I say that doesn't sound right to me, not if it's read as CPU Ltd trading as Acorn Computer Ltd. It does make sense to have two companies, and for one to sell its design to the other. The two companies could be related, one being a subsidiary, but needn't be.

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Re: Acorn's 40th birthday / CPU Ltd

Post by BigEd » Sat Dec 08, 2018 4:08 pm

A bit more. Steve Furber said:
Sophie designed this two-board system and Chris and Herman decided they would market it from CPU Ltd but they would market it under the trade name Acorn. So Acorn was introduced first as a trade name of CPU Ltd, of course later it became the official company name. Where did Acorn come from? There are lots of myths and legends, but from what I remember they wanted a name that sounded a bit like Apple but came earlier in the alphabet, so that was the influence.
Certainly by March 79 we see an advert for the System 1 from Acorn Computers Ltd. (Large PDF)

I wonder if there might be an earlier advert or trace of the System 75 being sold by "Acorn" or "Acorn Computer" by CPU Ltd. (If indeed CPU was ever a limited company...)

(Companies house records show that Acorn Computers Ltd was created with that name, so it's not a renaming of CPU Ltd. As noted above, CPU Ltd was perhaps dissolved long enough ago to leave no easy trace.)

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Re: Acorn's 40th birthday / CPU Ltd

Post by 8bitkick » Mon Dec 10, 2018 2:35 am

Thanks both... sounds likely the the records for CPU aren't available online due to it being dissolved so long ago then...

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Re: Acorn's 40th birthday / CPU Ltd

Post by tricky » Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:30 am

I wonder if there was anything on Steve Furber's computers that he donated to the computer history museum in Cambridge.

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