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For All Nails #77 - "Leebild Electronics, PLC"

by Dan McDonald (with thanks to Noel Maurer for Mexican swearing tips)

Edison Labs
Tonawanda, New York, N.C., CNA
26 January 1971

Three gentleman walked down the hall of Building E of National Union's crown jewel -- the vanguard of its many establishments in the Niagara/Black Rock area. Building E had given birth to several small but profitable inventions over its 30-year lifespan. The most recent of these, bi-aural radio (BR) FN1, had started to percolate its way into homes as early as 1960. Five years ago, BR became an option on Dickinsons and other high-end lokes.

Maurice Parker, Ph.D., was chatting about how putting BR into lokes had caused him no end of headache.

"They wanted less heat! And they wanted it to take less space! Have you ever dealt with a loke designer?" asked Parker.

"Not really," replied Charlie Lee, formerly of Kramer Associates and now Director of Electronics for General Computing.

He continued, "We're a long way from Michigan City."

"So am I," Parker wheezed, "but they are so demanding. They just see the radio as something that draws 5 volts off the battery. All they care about is speed and cost."

"I take it you fixed their problem," pointed out Geoffrey Bild, Lee's right-hand for 10 years.

"Yes, and when you see what I did, I think you'll want to have Menendez fly down himself."

Talk of Alfred Menendez, GC's President and Chairman of the Board, make Bild and Lee raise their eyebrows. Parker was excited, in a way a father is when talking about his children. They continued to walk down the hall for another 10 feet. Parker then inserted a key into the door handle and opened the door.

The lab table had been carefully arranged. On the left side was a large circuit board, about 3 inches deep by 6 inches wide. Several components -- capacitors, resistors, and transistors, were soldered into the board. Several wires were protruding from the bottom of the board.

On the right, was a 1 inch by 2 inch piece of what appeared to be film. It had several etchings on it, and exactly four wires stringing out from it.

"Gentleman, six years ago, I stumbled across the idea of building an entire circuit out of semiconductor material. We already did it for silicon transistors, so why not for other components?" Parker beamed.

"My God," shouted Bild, who was visibly shaking at the concept Parker was about to describe, "you ... you wired them all together on the same surface."

"Yes," nodded Parker approvingly.

"That's how you fit BR into a 12-cylinder Dickinson," Bild was still shaking.

Lee calmly interjected, "Have you considered other applications for this ...," he paused to let Parker finish his sentence.

"Wafer," Parker took a deep breath before continuing, "Yes. I have. Unfortunately," and his voice tinged with frustration, "National Union has decided that entering the calculator business would not be, 'in the company's best interest.' I brought you down here to show you the wafer, and to ask if General Computing would like to license the technology."

Bild could barely contain himself. The GC-4, with all of its planned new features, could be smaller than the GC-3 using wafers. Lee smiled.

"Very impressive, Doctor Parker."

General Computing boardroom
Building 1, Burlington, NY, NC, CNA
7 February 1973

"The last item up for a vote is the Kramerica offer. Mr. Secretary, if you would," instructed Alfred Menendez, Chairman of the Board and President of General Computing.

"Kramerica Bank, PLC, has tendered an offer to purchase 15% of General Computing's total equity. Kramerica has set the purchase price at N.A. £50 million. The board will vote on whether or not to accept the offer."

The board, comprising of eight members plus the chairman, silently listened. Most of the members had made up their minds on how to vote. It would be a tight one, and Menendez hoped he would be able to abstain from voting.

"Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I will allow two brief statements, for, and against. Speaking against the offer, is Charlie Lee."

Lee rose out of his chair to address the board.

"Gentlemen of the Board, this company was founded by Kramer refugees. Now some members are asking to let in the very force that drove us to this country. If you vote for this proposal, it will shake the very foundation of this company, and," Lee took a deep breath before continuing, "I cannot guarantee that some employees will remain with the firm if this proposal is approved. Also, we risk limiting our Mexican sales if we have any ties to the Associates."

One board member gasped, another shook his head. The remaining five either scowled or sat impassively. Lee sat down, looking profoundly sad.

"Thank you, Charlie. Now speaking for the offer, Allen Osborne."

The well-dressed representative of GC's IBM division stood up as Lee had.

"If we don't take this offer -- we may dissolve. It's really that simple. We've sunk half of the 50 million offered by Kramerica into the GC-4 project. We anticipate the GC-4 not being available for at least another 6 months, presuming there are no more crises in the new scheduler. Our customer base is beginning to look at Spitzer, Melbourne, or ACS FN2, as we wait for the GC-4. We cannot live forever on GC-3 maintenance contracts, and until GC-4 ships, we must have cash flow.

"As for the mighty hand of Kramer, you've all followed the news. Remember the piece on Insight? And yesterday, the Broad Street Inquirer reported rumors of Kramer divesting at least half of its military operations. Everyone knows they're bleeding money -- they see us as a profitable investment -- nothing more, nothing less. This isn't about Taichung, Charlie. It's about profit."

Geoffrey Bild's office
GC Building 2, Burlington, NY, NC, CNA
8 February 1973, 9:15am

Geoffrey Bild grabbed one of his bookcases and threw it to the ground as he screamed, "Five to three -- goddamn vultures! Those duck-kicking FN3 vultures."

Charlie Lee stood just outside the door, looking down the hall. Fortunately, Building 2 had seen Bild's antics before.

"Geoff, it's not like they're going to turn Burlington into Taichung," he said tentatively.

"They didn't even ASK us! They just voted with their greed. They should've just fired Clark. We'd have it shipping next month, and without Kramer's 50 fucking million," he said as he kicked a new dent in his back wall.

Lee tried again to calm Bild down, "Relax -- if I told you half the things I hear in meetings with the scheduler FN4 folks, you'd have two dented walls. We all bit off too much this time, that's all."

"I'm not going to work here ... not after this putazo," Bild said, exhausted from rage.

Lee stepped through the doorway, moved the chair that held the door open, and closed it.

"You won't have too. Remember this?" he asked and showed Bild a drawing they made 3 months earlier. It was a block diagram for a 256-biv FN5 memory, suitable for placing on a single wafer. Bild nodded, still angry.

"Last week, I asked Parker if it could be built. I also asked him if we could get a license for it. He said yes to both."

The remaining rage dried up in Bild faster than a Mexican riverbed in August.

17 Lexington Road
Concord, Mass., NC, CNA
9 April 1973

"Did you know that the War of the Rebellion started here?" remarked Bild to Lee. He was unpacking books into a new, and undamaged, bookcase in his leased, and undented, office. It would be hard, actually, for Bild to bash walls here. He was in a brick-walled office dating back to the late 1800's. The converted textile mill was now zoned for offices and R&D.

"And now our little Rebellion is starting here, as well," replied Maurice Parker, who was standing in the same spot outside the door where Lee was just over two months earlier.

"Let's just hope we have better luck than Sam Adams and Patrick Henry," said Charlie Lee, poking his head in around the other edge of the doorframe.

Lee continued, "I got the new letterhead. Maurice, I still think we should've gone for 'Concord Electronics', but you know CNA culture better than we do."

Lee handed two pieces of paper, one to Bild, and one to Parker. The letterhead read:

Leebild Electronics, PLC
17 Lexington Road
Concord, MA, NC  4E2 325

Forward to FAN #78: Water on the Brain.

Forward to 10 February 1971: Oil Markets.

Forward to Calculating Machines: Scenes From a Wedding.

Return to For All Nails.