Laser

The story begins at VTech, a Hong Kong based manufacturer of educational toys. Founded in October 1976 by 2 entrepeneurs Allan Wong (Chi-Yun) and Stephen Leung.
VTech had many divisions. One of them was OEM. They had 3000 people working in this division. VTech manufactured wireless phones and also for OEM-customers, Alcatel is one of those.
 
The computerdivision started in 1980 with 8-bit microcomputers. One of the first machines released was the VTech Laser 110. Based on a Z80 CPU this machine looked a lot like a Tandy TRS80. But because of the use of the Motorola 6847 and the (little changed) Microsoft Basic ROM this machine acted more like a Tandy TRS80 Color Computer. The successor, the VTech Laser 200-series, were more a crossover between a Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Commodore VIC-20 while the third machine, the VTech Laser 310 was a machine with no resembelence. This one is also sold as the Dick Smith VZ300. Later VTech Laser Computer were using the MSX-standard.
 
In 1984 VTech started developing and producing IBM PC-compatible computers. The first one was the Laser XT with a 8088 CPU. Not much later the successor of this machine came out using an Intel 8086 CPU running at a blazing fast 12MHz. Most machines around the same era were running at 4 to 8 MHz. The Laser was the fastest IBM PC-compatible on the market.
The Laser XT was choosen as the best PC and best buy by the PCM-magazine. Winning from the Olivetti who ran at 8MHz.
 
For IBM PC-compatible machines, VTech developped their own chipset. After IBM, the only computerbrand doing this, making Laser Computer as unique as an IBM. Everything was created in-house, the mainboard, the case, power supply and even the keyboard.
 
Laser became the 3rd or 4rd biggest computer supplier in the Netherlands. Mostly used for businesses.
Micromundo is founded in may 1984 by Paul Pardon. Before that he was the CEO of a subsidary of Bang & Olufsen, called Compac, founded in 1978.
At Compac imported and sold professional electronic components, amongst them CPUs and memorychips. The step to computers was small.
 
Around this time, mr. Pardon got importership of Sinclair computers, Acorn computers, ITT computers, C-Itoh en Seikosha printers, NEC beeldschermen etc. 
With Sinclair, Compac got great success. The Leidse Onderwijsinstellingen (course with books) used the ZX81 with their Basic and Computers course.
For both companies, this meant big sales numbers. More than 50,000 courses were sold, all in the early days of the homecomputer. This ZX81 used a Z80 CPU and only 4K of memory (expandable to 16KB).
Another big seller was the Acorn Atom. It was delivered as home build kit with the magazine Hobbit, a magazine about electronics from Kluwer. This was also the competitor with the Electuur, another electronics magazine.
 
In 1984 mr. Pardon left Compac and with only Acorn Computers as main brand he founded Micromundo B.V.. In 1985 VTech/Laser Computer joined and Micromundo B.V. became the official importer. Two years later, they became Europe importer. Another year later, in 1988, the company renamed itself to Laser Computer Europe. A cooperation between Micromundo and VTech.
 
By the end of the 1980s, early 90s, the PC-privé (private PC) became known where companies could sell computers to employees with discounts. This hugely impacted the sales of computers in the Netherlands.
In January 1996 Laser Computer decided to enter the consumer market. They wanted a face for the company. Katja Schuurman was the chosen one. She was just new in the soap-serie GTST and became famous in short time as a singer in the girlgroup Linda, Roos en Jessica. The song Ademnood (shortness of breath) became a number one hit!.
 
For TV commercials Laser Computer made a song, sung by Katja. This was also released as a single, two of these songs became hits in the Dutch Top 40. Lyrics for the songs Maar nu heb ik er één (Now I have one) and Wereldmeid (World girl) are written by Frank Pels, famous for the song 15 miljoen mensen (15 milion people), written for the phone provider PTT/KPN.
 
The fame with Katja as spokesperson was enormous. A whole merchandise started, bagpacks, writeblocks and so on. Also the other girls from the girlgroup were on print for Laser.
 
Laser Computer Europe had 6 locations in Europa, among which UK, Germany, France en Italy. In most other countries an exclusive distributor. Laser Computer was also mainsponsor of the soccer teams FC Twente, Beerschot in Beglium and Olympic Lyon in France and boarding sponsor of the national Dutch soccer team.
Together with Histor, Laser Computer sponsored the last two seasons of the cycling team of Peter Post. The first year the Laser cyclist, Wilfried Nelissen, drove one week in the yellow shirt during the Tour de France. It was the first Belgium cyclist after Eddy Merckx who had the yellow shirt. Belgium newspapers were even printed on yellow paper because of that. This Tour, the leader of the Laser team, Charly Mottet, ended third and was on the stage. At that time, the best French cyclist. The team was succesfull.
 
In 1998 the computerdivision of VTech was taken over by management and was renamed to PC Partner Ltd. or short PCP. Today this is one of the largest manufacturers of videocards of NVidia and GForce, mainboards and minicomputers. The brand Zotac, creator of mini computers, is the brand.
 
In 2001 the company Laser Computer Europe was sold to an English company. This company went bankrupt in 2005 and killed Laser Computer Europe in the proces.
 
Our great appreciation goes out to Paul Pardon who wrote this story and shared it with us. Today, he is still a consultant for PCP. 

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