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back to article Is computer biz Viglen about to GET FIRED? Lord Sugar's firm in rumoured sell-off

Lord Sugar is close to selling education tech supplier Viglen to Westcoast Holdings, folk in Blighty's system builder community are telling us – a claim that has been flatly denied by the named buyer. The word on the street is that Hertfordshire-based Viglen has been in talks with the group, which also houses distributor …

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Anonymous Coward

Dear Old Lord Sugar

Once owner of the mighty company Amstrash, purveyor of high quality consumer electronics.

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Re: Dear Old Lord Sugar

He made no secret of the fact that Amstrad was stock-em-up, sell-em-cheap.

The likes of the MegaPC was at least interesting, if overpriced and underspecced on the PC half.

I'd not heard of Viglen in years, a relative bought one about 15 years ago during the Windows 98 era. Seemed a fairly well built PC.

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Re: Dear Old Lord Sugar

Indeed, Amstrad did stock 'em high and sell 'em cheap. But the name often is associated with cheap crap, which isn't always fair.

The earlier computer ranges (the CPC and PCW) were well specced and well built because Sugar was very conscious of the poor reliability of his rivals, specifically Sinclair (the Scottish manufactured Spectrums had a absurdly high return rate which contributed to Sinclairs problems). I have a news item somewhere in a New Computer Express which surveyed computer dealers and found the CPC had by far the lowest return/repair rates in the first year of use than the ST, Amiga, Spectrum or C64. There was a slight irony in the fact the Amstrad manufactured Spectrums were still one of the worst!

There's instances of journalists using their PCW's on a daily basis for 20 years + (can't find the article now but there was a Guardian journo who only gave up their PCW a couple of years back).

So credit where credit is due. Of course most of the rest of their kit was cheap crap. Remember the camcorder without a zoom?

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Re: Dear Old Lord Sugar

a relative bought [ a Viglen PC ] about 15 years ago during the Windows 98 era. Seemed a fairly well built PC"

They used to be very good indeed; my first IBM compatible PC was a Viglen 486 DX33 and was pretty much bomb-proof - used to get used as a step for reaching high shelves. It was also quite fast for the time - could handle Strike Commander.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dear Old Lord Sugar

Now if only Spamstrad had done a mobile emailer, it could have been around before Blackberry.

But Sugar is just a reactionary, not a visionary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dear Old Lord Sugar

He said home computers weren't full of magical chips. So built crap computers using off the shelf parts for his 8-bit range.

This is why the Atari 800 series was more colourful and why the C64 scrolled better and had much better sound. Custom chips were the best thing around then.

Not to mention that when he built his IBM PC clones he didn't think to test the hard disk/controller compatibility and released computers with a big incompatibility defect, killing his PC business.

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Re: Dear Old Lord Sugar

"He said home computers weren't full of magical chips. So built crap computers using off the shelf parts for his 8-bit range."

Yet he flogged 3 million CPC's and was completely immune from the home computer crash that took down Acorn and Sinclair. In fact he had retailers knocking at his door begging him for more CPC's at that time and he didn't have the inventory. He'd sold his machines and didn't have warehouses full of kit that he couldn't shift with the banks bearing down on him.

Then you start saying the CPC is built using off the shelf parts without actually knowing that it has a custom designed gate array chip in it. Granted Sugar had to be persuaded to go down that route by his designers and that the chip gave Amstrad a lot of grief in development (IIRC the original contractor was Ferrenti who screwed up) but it is in there.

Granted sprite handling facilities would be nice but Sugar saw what was going on in the market with rivals failing left right and centre. He got a machine into the market on time, sold 3 million units (at a considerably better profit than his rivals thanks to the bundled monitor), made money didn't and destroy his company in the process unlike many of his competitors.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dear Old Lord Sugar

Actually, Sugar has discussed (in one of his books, I think) how he laments letting the mobile opportunity pass him by. Apparently, he was distracted by a football club. As for Amstrad gear (both computing and otherwise), it's a case of some good, and some not so good. We had one of their early VHS recorders - hats off to them for making times recording simple! Oh, it was crap compared to the best at the time, but they did get usability.

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Re: Dear Old Lord Sugar

The 'mobile' opportunity hasn't completely passed. He could pay a contract manufacturer to make toughened Android tablets suitable for the education market (with some built-in admin software to remote install educational apps under control of the teacher), and call it.... the Amspad.

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Sugar did not form Viglen

Article claims Sugar formed Viglen in 1975, he didn't.

Sugar got control of Viglen in the mid 90's after it became apparent that Amstrads brand name had been badly damaged by the whole Seagate hard disk fiasco. They lost a whole load of market share and Sugar decided it was probably easier for Amstrad to leave the PC market and him buy up an existing company instead.

So around the time the Sid James lookalike got control of Viglen, Amstrad got out of the PC market.

Years later Sugar was vindicated with a huge payout from Seagate. But before that whole mess Amstrad was the market leader in Europe for IBM PC clones so the compensation, no matter how large, was scant compensation.

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Viglen customer here

My Viglen 5.25" twin disk drives are still going strong on my BBC Micro.

And we last used them a couple of years ago for our Microsoft Licence renewal. Good price, good service.

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Re: Viglen customer here

It's been downhill all the way since they stopped doing the green stripy bordered adverts for BBC Micro peripherals in Acorn User magazine.

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I'd no idea Viglen was still going! I'm no fan of Lord S, but his WP machines (and the wonderful Locoscript) were bullet-proof. I also recently helped an old lady adapt to her new Windows laptop, after the final failure of her 25-year old twin-floppy Amstrad PC1512, which I got the distinct impression that she preferred. Mostly on the grounds of speed.

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Anonymous Coward

Ah yes

Alan Sugar he truly was the British Steve Jobs.... We could be sitting here talking about the vision AmPhone and AmPad if it wasn't for a duff batch of drives going belly up on him. The man truly is a shining example of British entrepreneurship and is sums up everything about this great nation and how we are prospering economically....

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Re: Ah yes

Don't be daft. He'd be exactly where he is now. The difference being it would have been a gentle decline rather than going over the cliff.

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Coat

Sugar's sweet but the pill's bitter...

Westcoast Holdings but Viglen? are they mad? Buying an independent OEM like Viglen or Stone right now is tantamount to blowing your feet off.

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Anonymous Coward

"Its ultimate parent company is Amprop London Ltd, which also houses Xenon Network Services, "

As of Oct 1st '13, Xenon Network Services is defunct as a company name, Everything/one being transferred fully into Viglen instead of being a subsidiary. Possibly to "big up" Viglen for a sale? Or just to to "tidy up" for a sale.

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