The Cole PapersJanuary 2001

A brief history of Atex

  • 1973 -- U.S. News & World Report (USN&WR) finds "three men working in the hayloft of an old grist mill in Lexington, Mass. Douglas Drane and two Chinese-born brothers, Charles and Richard Ying, who were being supported by their wives while they tinkered with an idea for a more flexible electronic composition system than anyone else had perfected.

    "They had a company named Atex with no money, no customers and no finished product. They did have a prototype video-display terminal, encased in a cardboard whiskey carton, which seemed to hold the potential for meeting U.S. News & World Report's specifications."

    In September, USN&WR agrees to buy a system, to be operational within nine months.

  • 1974 -- Atex runs out of money; USN&WR buys some shares to keep it afloat. First USN&WR produced on Atex is printed July 15.

  • 1975-76 -- Atex finishes USN&WR project, installs small newspaper system in Beverley, Mass., then heads for Newsday of Long Island, N.Y., to install a classified front-end system.

    Newsweek and the CIA get systems.

    Atex receives Patent 3,980,994 for Text Editing and Display System Having Text Insert Capability (insert and insert lock keys).

  • 1977 -- Atex Newspaper Users Society changes name to Atex Newspaper Users Group. (Reason: to get a better acronym.) Atex receives Patent 4,057,849 for its Text Editing and Display System (allowing display of text on a screen so that every line ends with a completed word).

  • 1978-79 -- Explosive growth continues. In 1979, Atex answers an AP Managing Editors survey: "Atex is working on pagination systems for Newsday and the Miami Herald. It expects to have an operational product by mid-1980. Estimated cost is $100,000 plus terminals."

  • 1981 -- Atex is sold to Eastman Kodak for $77 million. Kay Whitmore serves as chairman; Robert Camp is CEO.

    President Drane says that Atex and AKI, its commercial typesetting division, are working together to achieve many goals in 1981, most notably interactive page makeup.

  • 1982 -- Drane resigns shortly after the sale is finalized, and Camp becomes president. Joseph Quickel is appointed senior VP.

  • 1983 -- Camp leaves Atex. Quickel is appointed president.

  • 1984 -- At the Seybold conference in Santa Monica, Calif., Atex and Camex announce a commitment for a joint venture to solve the pagination problems of commercial users.

    Atex announces TPE ("Total Publishing Environment") to the market. TPE is designed to replace the company's stalwart product, the J-11. Ron Brumback is appointed senior VP/marketing and field operations, and shortly thereafter becomes executive VP.

  • 1985 -- Quickel resigns; Brumback becomes president. Atex selects AT&T computers, not yet built, for (TPE).

  • 1986 -- Kodak announces a new Electronic Pre-Press Systems (Epps) unit, combining Atex and Eikonix, a division specializing in digital imaging.

    Brumback leaves Atex in December; Kodak appoints David Monks president. Atex's Commercial Users Group tops out at 155 members; it is dissolved five years later.

  • 1987 -- Atex and Eikonix consolidate and reduce staff. Atex drops plans for AT&T computers for pagination, switches to DEC VAXes.

    Harland LaVigne named executive VP.

  • 1988 -- LaVigne is named chief operating officer. Atex signs an agreement with IBM saying the Atex Publication Production Node (PPN) will run on an IBM hardware as well as on VAXes.

  • 1989 -- Kodak adopts another reorganization plan. LaVigne becomes president of Atex Publishing Systems, a division of Epps (the fifth president since Kodak purchased Atex).

  • 1990 -- Atex-IBM Alliance is announced at ANPA/Tec; the news makes the cover of The Cole Papers. The article reports that most of the people on the show floor "seemed to believe that IBM would end up owning Atex within a couple of years."

  • 1991 -- In January, Kodak hires Brian Lacey as Atex president. PPN project is formally abandoned shortly thereafter. Talk about the Alliance with IBM dies out. LaVigne leaves company.

    Atex buys the software source code for CText's PC-based system from CText Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mich., and works out a marketing agreement with CText.

  • 1992 -- Kodak decides that Atex is no longer part of its future. CText alliance goes away. Kodak finds a buyer: Danny Chapchal, an industry veteran who puts together a consortium of investors from Europe and becomes president.

  • 1994 -- Chapchal miscalculates company cash flow and investors revolt. Sysdeco Group AS of Norway makes a bid to take over the company.

  • 1995 -- Sysdeco acquires Atex (in bits and pieces throughout the year) and names J. Marlow Einelund president. In August, Sysdeco buys Dewar Information Systems Corp., so that it can control the DewarView editorial front-end system that it has been marketing in place of having any type of front-end except the J-11, developed in 1973. Earlier, Sysdeco bought SyPress Oy, a Finnish supplier of editorial and classified systems. Individual names of the companies are de-emphasized and the company becomes known as Sysdeco Media.

  • 1996 -- After revealing serious losses in 1995, Johs Jamne, chief executive of Sysdeco, resigns. Einelund is replaced as the head of Sysdeco Media by Clive Segal, a financial executive from Sysdeco's United Kingdom offices. Max Coebergh returns to the company after a 3¢-year absence; he's put in charge of international sales. The Sysdeco board of directors hires an American chief financial officer, Larry Mihalchik. Both Segal and Mihalchik are based at the Sysdeco/Atex offices in Bedford, Mass.

    Sysdeco decides in November to spin off all its media holdings as a new company. Mihalchik is named president and CEO.

  • 1997 -- The new company is christened Atex Media Solutions Inc. "Whatever name we selected," Mihalchik said, "to our customer base we remain Atex." Early work on a system that will be called Omnex is started.

  • 1998 -- Atex continues work on Omnex and has success in selling the Enterprise classified system (based on the SyPress Oy system).

  • 1999 -- Omnex unveiled at NEXPO in June. Shortly thereafter, Mihalchik resigns as president and is succeeded by Karen Weltchek, a 32-year-old consultant from McKinsey & Co. Knut Holli, executive vice president of Kistefos Industrial Group of Norway -- Atex's largest shareholder -- is elected chairman of the board. Coebergh, the senior vice president for international operations, is given "broadened responsibility" as head of global media operations, which now consists of international operations, North American operations, engineering and marketing.

  • 2000 -- Atex board decides to reorganize company into two subsidiaries, newspapers and Omnex Technologies Inc. (OTI). Weltchek is to serve as head of OTI, Coebergh as head of the overall company. In early December, the Atex board decides that Omnex is not a viable product and ends development, shutting down OTI. Weltchek resigns. Coebergh is the 15th president of the company in 27 years.

    -- Staff report

    From THE COLE PAPERS, January 2001, Copyright © 2001, All Rights Reserved.

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