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 Ivor Catt: Dinosaur Computers
first published in ELECTRONICS WORLD June 2003

[continued from previous page]
Sir Clive

After a delay of twelve years, when the patents had only a few years still to run, Sir Clive Sinclair set up Anamartic, a company which successfully developed WSI memory as designed by my 1972 world patents. The product came to market in 1989 amid industry acclaim (see Figure 2). However, after evicting Sinclair, the technology-free management in Anamartic played the role I previously feared from IBM management, and froze the product range at memory only, although memory should have been merely a demonstrator for the WSI array processor. Anamartic's WSI memory (see Figure 3) was left to compete with conventional RAM chips, which were generally sold below cost by Far East companies desperate to get market share and to keep their production lines running.
Fig 3: Part of Anamartic
'Wafer Stack' brochure

Anamartic, the company set up to develop and exploit my invention, fired me three times, losing the resulting court battles with me twice. During the 17 years it took for my patented machine to reach the market, the 10% of total cost that had preceded dicing the wafer had grown to 80%, so the argument for WSI RAM had collapsed, leaving Array Processing as the only potential winner for WSI because of its high speed and reliability. However, with Sinclair evicted, the accountants and the like who managed Anamartic preferred to stay with a product they could understand and therefore control, despite its inferior market potential both to its discrete RAM competition and to the WSI Array Processor, which was beyond their comprehension. Better for Anamartic to fail with products they understood than succeed with products they could not control. ("I am convinced that [refusal to develop new products] gives the best short and medium term career prospects to middle and upper management .... It is time that we faced up to discussing the career and security threat that a major innovation with major profit potential presents to a manager in a typical British company." - Ivor Catt, Computer Weekly, 18th May, 1978.) I well remember the triumphalism shown by Anamartic's Managing Director Jan van Riethoff when he took me into his office to fire me, thus demonstrating the victory of his profession, accountancy, over technical invention, even in a company set up to develop and exploit my invention.

For technical reasons which I forget, I could not have new ideas for the six months after Roethoff fired me. At age 50 I should have been no threat to the company that was developing my invention but had fired me, since it is well known that new, inventive ideas only occur to those who are below the age of 25. However, after seven months, an accident occurred. I had a brainwave, the Kernel Machine, which obsoleted Anamartic's earlier 'Catt Spiral' patents (Wireless World July 1981). Obviously, had I taken the new patents to Anamartic, who had just fired me, I would have been dismissed as playing 'yah-booh' games. I decided on a threefold strategy. I would get Kernel published in British journals, and then take those publications to Japanese journalists, since Fujitsu had invested £2 million in Anamartic, that is, in the now obsolete `Catt Spiral'. Once Kernel was published in the Japanese press, I would forward it to Fujitsu in the hope that they would rise to the bait.

Gone fishing

My first step was to get British publication. I got it into the Sunday Times and on the front page of the Sunday Express newspapers. However, my main objective was a thorough exposition in Wireless World or New Scientist. I successfully manipulated the internal politics of the Wireless World editorial matrix, and it was published, in March 1989. This article is now on the www at . In June 2002 it triggered Nigel Cook's article on Air Traffic Control, subsequently published in the January 3003 Electronics World.

The second, alternative, thrust of my strategy, to have Anamartic read about Kernel in the press, came into play, and obviated the need to pursue the Japanese route. As I remember, Anamartic directors read the Sunday Times `Innovation' article by Jane Bird, talking about the "first ever trillion flops computer". Unusually, there were technocrats among Anamartic's board of directors, some of whom had invested heavily in Anamartic. They instructed the Managing Director to re-hire me and
also to buy my new Kernel patents. Technology-free management, put in by major shareholders Barclays Bank, bit the bullet and rehired me.

However, to admit that technical ideas embodied in patents might have commercial significance was more than good accountants could stomach. (My aphorism about all British companies applied to Anamartic, a British company; "Any attempt to influence a management decision on the basis of technological considerations is a political move against the established management structure of the company.")

Management rehired me, but no mention was made of my patents. I was put in charge of `Future Products' - a well known cul-de-sac, since British hi-tec companies do not have future products. I proceeded to submit regular reports recommending that Anamartic migrate from Catt Spiral to the Kernel Array Processor, until Anamartic fired me again (and I successfully sued them again), this time without using any lawyers.

That is where we stand today, leading to the January 2003 article in Electronics World by Nigel Cook about Air Traffic Control, an application which needs an array processor; ideally my Kernel Machine, whose patents have run out.

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