Lynwood

Lynwood were a UK manufacturer of terminals for specialist markets, often government organisations who required a high degree of security or customisation. I first saw a Lynwood Alpha terminal at Culham Laboratory, a United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority site, in 1987. That was also the last I saw until two years ago when I acquired a Lynwood j500 at auction, and then came across an Alpha which had recently been decommissioned at work.

The photograph below shows my j500, which is a colour VT220-compatible terminal. It has one of the largest keyboards I've seen, with eight cursor keys, three mouse buttons and a connector which I assume takes a real mouse (of undetermined protocol). My Alpha terminal isn't in a fit state to be photographed, but I'll try to put all the boards back in soon. Even with its guts re-housed, it'll still look rather like a crime scene, as it had been fitted in a rack with its cover removed (and long-since lost).

I was having trouble finding out anything about Lynwood's history until I was contacted by Lawrence Chitty, who worked for Lynwood from 1985 to 1995. He has filled in much of the story:

Lynwoods was originally started I believe in a shed manufacturing punched tape readers. When I joined in 1985, they were based in Alton in Hampshire. They manufactured several models of terminals. The earlier ones were the Alpha and Beta range, with the Alphas being available with colour screens as well. These terminals were constructed all of metal, with a box like arangement which swivelled and rotated on a short pole connected to a base.

Later, plastic cased terminals were designed, with the j100, j300 and j500 range. Variants of the j100 were the j101, a couple of thousands of which went to the DHSS and the j102 which seemed popular with some of their MOD customers. The j300 was an uprated j100 and the j500 was a colour version of the j300. I have often seen Lynwood terminals in The Bill [UK television police drama]. Being true to form, The Bill started off with a Alpha terminal in the CAD room, and after the Met police upgraded to the j300's (I actually installed all of the j300 for the Met police around London, including the large CAD room at New Scotland Yard – quite an experience), the Bill followed suit a few months later. These were even produced in the colour the customer required – green! I don't watch the Bill anymore, so don't know if they still have the Lynwood terminal.

All of Lynwood's terminals also had TEMPESTed versions – TEMPEST being the very low emission specs required by secure customers such as the MOD. This basically meant encasing the terminals in large metal cases.

Later came a more modular terminal with a pizza base utilising a VGA screen. This was the LS range, although I can't remember the model numbers (LS300, LS500?).

Most of the terminals used Z8000 processors with varying amounts of interface ports and memory.

Lynwood's strength was in their customization of the terminals. They would write software to customers' specifications, based on all flavours of VT from VT52 up to VT320, but providing custom extensions for forms etc, and custom character sets. I believe some of the terminals even had built in Basic interpreters – whatever the customer wanted, the customer got. The keyboards were also customized to the customers' requirements with whatever legends etc they required. I even remember an APL keyboard with all the strange symbols on it. These certainly weren't your standard DEC terminals, but often highly specialised for the requirements, with a price to match!

The Alpha terminal design dates from 1980. Mine is a revision 4 model from 1982 with a Z8001 processor and 23 pink wires on the three circuit boards, one of which is marred by leakage from a pair of incontinent NiCads. However, the Alpha wasn't Lynwood's first terminal. Back to Lawrence:

I remember a terminal range called DAD. I guess these dated to the early 1970s. 3/4 boards full of TTL logic and display all built into a rectangular box (slight slope away on top) with the screen at the front and a separate keyboard. I guess these were true dumb terminals, but I never got to repair one, just saw the occasional one come into the workshop. I think there was a DAD and a (this could be my mind playing tricks) GRANDAD.

In 1990 Lynwood were developing a colour Workstation with a 68030 processor. I have found a list of validated Ada compilers containing a cross-compiler for a Lynwood j435TU (68030), but the listing indicates that this target is a bare board, so perhaps this was an unrelated 68030 development. A TEMPEST version of this Workstation is mentioned in the client portfolio of Sharpedge Engineering, who worked on a fibre-optic data link for it.

Sharpedge also assisted Lynwood in the development of the LPT500, a Z8001-based board which allowed a PC to operate as a specialised VDU. Choosing a Z8001 meant that the board could run Lynwood's j-Series terminal software unaltered, providing a clever upgrade route for customers who were migrating to PCs, but still had applications that relied on Lynwood customised terminals.

Lynwood later moved into producing ruggedised versions of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, and that is what they are still doing today, as DRS Tactical Systems.

Timeline

This timeline is an attempt to piece together the changes of ownership of the company but it also includes the few contracts that I could find details for, other than those mentioned above. The sources are abbreviated here but acknowledged at the bottom of the page.

Date   Event
January 1968   Lynwood Scientific Developments Limited founded by Hector Brown and Andrew Schryver. [CH] [LC]
October 1985   The j100, which replaces the Beta, is announced. The contact address is given as Lynwood International Ltd., Park House, High Street, Alton, Hampshire. [CWO]
June 1988  

Hunting Associated Industries acquires Lynwood. Hunting has interests in defence, aviation, composites and IT. [NN]

At this time, the directors were R.K.L. Bowley (Group financial director), H.H. Brown, A.F.P. Schryver and D. Walsh.

July 1990   Spinpower Limited formed
September 1990  

Spinpower change their name to "Lynwood Scientific Developments Limited" and Hunting's company becomes Hunting Scientific Ltd. [CH]

"Huntings decided to get shot of Lynwoods after about a year or so, and the directors they had put in to manage us bought Lynwoods out." [LC]

I've tied together these two events from Lawrence's account and the documents at Companies House, which quite clearly show the name "Lynwood" transferring from one company to another. I assume that the directors had created Spinpower with the intention of launching a buy-out of Lynwood from Hunting.

1992/3?

Lynwood is bought by NAI Technologies, Inc. of Huntington, NY. The Lynwood name is retained, with the company complementing NAI's other businesses in Colorado and Columbia, USA. [DSR97]

"This lasted for a couple of years until they sold/mergered ? with NAI technologies in America" [LC]

June 1994  

Lynwood Scientific Developments Limited is now definitely part of NAI Technologies and based in Farnham, Surrey.

"They are awarded a 425,000 contract from the Metrolitan Police to replace 57 existing terminals with 486 machines as part of an overhaul of the Met's Command & Control System. Lynwood will also supply software to allow the PCs to access the mainframe based MetOPs application." [BBI]

August 1995   "Lynwood has a contract valued at 947,000 from AWA Defence Industries (Australia) for 65 RP6000 ruggedised personal computers, 14 monitors and 28 printers." [BBI]
1997   Current products include ruggedised multi-processor SPARC boxes, flat panel displays and peripherals for submarines, portable workstations, COTS-based rugged PCs for aircraft and TEMPEST PCs. [DSR97]
February 1998   Changes name to Lynwood Rugged Systems Limited. They now have a website, lynwood.com which announces their new name on 14 February. NAI had had a website since 1995 at naitech.com [still maintained by DRS Advanced Programs, Inc.]
August 1998  

DRS Technologies, Inc. of Parsipanny, NY announces the signing of a "definitive agreement" to acquire NAI Technologies of Huntington, NY before the end of the year. "NAI's Lynwood unit does extensive work for the RAF" [ANR]

Diagnostic/Retrieval Systems, Inc. was founded in 1969 and became DSR Technologies, Inc. in August 1997.

March 1999   Lynwood Rugged Systems Limited becomes DRS Rugged Systems (Europe) Limited (DSR-RSE) on completion of the acquisition from NAI Technologies. [CH] [OO]
January 2003   DRS Rugged Systems (Europe) Limited changes name to DRS Tactical Systems Limited. [CH]

Where Are The Founders Now?

In 1989, the year after selling Lynwood to Hunting, Hector Brown co-founded Pregem Computing Limited, who supply document capture and workflow management systems to airlines, as well as other business sectors. They are still based in Alton, Hants. and have a website at www.pregem.com.

Andrew Schryver is now the director of Farringdon Instruments, a company who have been making electronic timing and data logging equipment for motor sport since 1995. They also have a website, www.farringdoninstruments.co.uk, and are based at exactly the same address in Alton as Pregem Computing!

Outstanding Questions

  1. Why "Lynwood"? Is this a family name, or perhaps a place?
  2. What was the Workstation that Lynwood were developing around 1990? Was it related to the j435TU?
  3. What was the LS range of terminals?
  4. When exactly did NAI Technologies acquire Lynwood?

If you can correct any information here or fill in gaps with facts or anecdotes, please get in touch.

Sources