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Datapoint

From Academic Kids

Datapoint Corporation, originally known as Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC), was a computer company based in San Antonio, Texas. Founded in 1967 by Phil Ray and Gus Roche, its first products were, as the company's initial name suggests, computer terminals (intended to replace teletype units connected to time sharing systems). In October 1969, the company raised US$4 million through an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

Contents

Early years; CTC's role in computer history

CTC is credited by some historians with accidentally inventing the personal computer. Its most popular product, the Datapoint 2200, was a programmable terminal that could load various emulations stored on cassette tapes. Some users of the terminals chose to use them as simple programmable computers instead.

The Datapoint 2200 also led to the development of the first 8-bit microprocessors, as CTC did not believe it could meet its design goals by using a CPU built from discrete TTL chips. CTC approached Intel and Texas Instruments, neither of whom could meet CTC's deadlines. Consequently, the 2200 was released using the conventional SSI/MSI chip technology of the time. Turning out to be of great historical significance, however, CTC's specifications led to the creation of the Intel 8008 single chip microprocessor. Thus, today's overwhelmingly dominant instruction set architecture, used in Intel's x86 family of processors as well as all compatible CPUs from AMD and others, traces its ancestry directly back to CTC.

The Datapoint 2200 became so popular that CTC later changed its name to Datapoint Corp. Other Datapoint inventions were ARCnet, invented in 1977, which was an early local area network (LAN) protocol, and the PL/B high-level programming language, which was originally called Databus (from Datapoint business language).

Heyday and decline

By the early 1980s, Datapoint was a Fortune 500 company. Under immense pressure to increase sales figures, its sales representatives encouraged customers to place large orders at the end of the fiscal year, permitting the company to count the orders as revenue even though the money had not been received and, in some instances, the sold equipment had not yet even been produced.

When some of the customers went broke before paying their bills, Datapoint had to reverse sales or record substantial bad debts, which caused the company to lose $800 million of its market capitalization in a matter of a few months in early 1982. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered Datapoint to stop this practice.

Demise and divestiture

Taken over by corporate raider Asher Edelman in 1985, Datapoint spun off its services division into another company, named Intelogic Trace, Inc. that same year. Initially Intelogic Trace specialized in servicing Datapoint equipment but later broadened into supporting products from other vendors as well. But Intelogic Trace, too, soon ran into trouble, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and on April 6, 1995, its assets were sold to a company in Pennsylvania.

Datapoint itself weathered a subsequent battle for control of the company that triggered more attention from the SEC, and although it launched new products, it never regained its former innovativity and prominence.

On May 3, 2000, Datapoint filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and on June 19, 2000 sold the Datapoint name and various operations to its European subsidiary for $49.3 million. The now fully European Datapoint company changed its emphasis to call center equipment and largely pulled out of the computer market. Headquartered in Brentford, England, it also has offices Manchester, England, and Madrid, Spain.

Also on June 19, 2000, the remnant of Datapoint's US operations changed its name to Dynacore Holdings Corporation and formed a subsidiary that pursued 14 lawsuits based on two patents granted to Datapoint regarding local area networks. With only $1.3 million left from the sale of its European operations after paying its debts and no products left to sell—its total revenues for the first half of 2001 dwindled to $9,000 and a year later fell to nothing—Dynacore searched for a company to buy. In February 2003, Dynacore engaged in a reverse takeover of The CattleSale Company. Asher Edelman now sits in CattleSale's board of directors.

An office building and street in San Antonio still bear Datapoint's name.

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