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Techscape: A Wordwise veteran

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The essential guide to IT transformation

Interview The argument has been raging since Thomas Edison started General Electric: Is the technical brain behind a business or product capable or even competent enough to manage the operations and growth of that business?

Some people would say Edison was the “World’s Worst Entrepreneur“ and that without significant outside managerial talent GE would not exist today.

This is probably true.

Charles Moir was a British technology whizz-kid who was a witness if not active contributor and participant in the birth, infancy and early days of British technology. He was a 17-year old schoolboy at Oundle, near Peterborough, when Hermann Hauser and Chris Curry of Acorn fame came down to reconnoitre talent and gather intelligence on what they heard was a robust, early-days computer curriculum exciting the minds of youth.

Meeting these two (eventual) legends was a turning point for Moir. By age 21, he had written a word processing program called Wordwise which sold “many copies making me very wealthy.”

His software was “elegant” he says and perhaps this was the source of its wild popularity. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist and firmly believe in simple design over complexity,” Moir declares vigorously. Hmmm, is he a Mac man then?

“Yes, in some respects, though ironically our current products launch on Windows.”

Moir built his company, then called Computer Concepts by placing small ads on the back of computer magazines and then simply started taking orders for Wordwise and hiring staff, eventually building the company to around 40 people.

By age 23, Moir had enough money from his Wordwise invention to buy Gaddesden Place, a hilltop manor house designed by the notable James Wyatt in the late 1760’s.

To the manor born

That he bought this house in 1983 and still uses it as his home and office is the first sign that we’re not speaking with some tech geek spendthrift who buys a string of big houses and Ferraris until destitute as so many of the Silicon Valley and other tech oases’ moneyed did.

What a level-headed, financially-sensible investment for a young man.

But not all has gone according to plan for Moir. Zy.com was an online, web-based, website builder which at one point was getting more than 14 million hits per month. Moir says, "The 'Dot Com Crash' came and we couldn't get new investors - they backed out at the last minute." El Reg has covered the collapse of this dot-com business here and here.

The essential guide to IT transformation

Next page: From little acorns

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