ANITA at its Zenith
An article in the journal 'New Electronics' of February 1970 describes the ANITA at its zenith:
As well as the Portsmouth factory manufacturing circuit boards and keyboards, and assembling the calculators, a factory was opened in East Kilbride, Scotland, in the early 1970s where moulding and other piece-part production was centralised.
Calculators made by other Companies
For the first time in the late 1960s and early 1970s Sumlock Anita filled in some gaps in its calculator range by marketing calculators made by other companies. These included the mechanical Plusograph, and the electronic Wanderer Conti, Nixdorf Visible Record Computer, ANITA Business Computer, and Sumlock Business Computer and are described more fully in the section "Calculators made by other Companies".
The Lamson Industries Ltd. (the parent company) annual report of March 1970 was very upbeat about its calculators: "Sumlock Comptometer doubled its unit sales of electronic calculators on the home market, no mean feat against continuing pressure from competition supported by the full weight of the Japanese electronics industry".
Note that electronic calculators were still very expensive machines and that 25% of those manufactured were being rented. At this time the semiconductor manufacturers were working frantically to cram more and more functions into a single chip. The year 1971 marked the introduction of the first 'calculator-on-a-chip' by Mostek, to be followed later in the year by a more capable model by Texas Instruments. Other semiconductor companies were close behind. This was to have a great impact on the price of calculators and also on the size, as hinted in the last sentence of the article above. The effects on Sumlock Anita were to be enormous.
The financial reports of Lamson Industries, the parent company of Sumlock Anita, begin to indicate how affairs were changing around this time.
The journal 'The Economist' for March 6th. 1971 reported:
"Despite earnings that improved by 19%, Lamson Industries' final results for 1970 were a disappointment for the market which had counted on them to be the brightest spot of the week. ...
... The market for business forms and office calculators, which are the mainstay of Lamson's sales, is growing very rapidly and the company has never had any trouble increasing its sales: this year up by 20% to £61 mn. Decimalisation [ie. the decimalisation of the British £sd currency], contrary to many forecasts, provided little of a once-and-for-all sales spree, although it was a good time for Lamson to push its successful electronic calculator Anita. But costs and overheads have reduced margins to drop another few percentage points in the current year, then Lamson will be back to its dull performance of the mid-1960s, when for four years earnings increased not at all while sales went up by a third.
But with almost half of its sales and production overseas, Lamson's earnings will not be too much the slave of the moribund home economy."
Single-chip Desk Calculator
In June 1972 the financial report of the Ferranti electronics company stated "Sumlock Anita have ordered a complex CDI chip containing all the electronics for a desk calculator". However, the calculator chip market was getting very competitive and it was Rockwell rather than Ferranti which went on to supply the single chips for the ANITA calculators, such as the ANITA 1211 LSI, and Rockwell shortly afterwards bought Sumlock-Anita.
Clouds on the horizon
By now clouds were appearing on the horizon. The journal 'New Scientist' pointed out a truth about calculators in Britain: "In the UK, Sumlock initially became the dominant supplier, and it remains the largest supplier to the present day. However, the British market was at first slow to take off, being artifically held back by the then non-decimal currency. For this reason, Sumlock originally failed to make a world-wide impression, despite the widespread use of its electro-mechanical Comptometers."
The financial report of Lamson Industries in December 1971 reported steady profits, but noted:
"Unit sales of electronic calculators by Sumlock Comptometer were at record levels, but 1971 has seen a marked reduction in average selling prices."
The interim financial report issued in August 1972 reported a drop in profits compared with the same period the previous year, and stated ominously:
"The continued slackness in the capital goods market during the first half of the year, coupled with the effects of the dramatic change in the pricing structure in the market for electronic calculators, has resulted in the Engineering and Business Equipment Division showing a loss for the period, vigorous measures are being taken to redress the situation ..."
'The Times' reported: "Lamson profits fall 25 per cent
A price war in electronic calculator, coupled with a general slackness in capital goods, steeled the market for unispiring first-half figures from Lamson Industries.
Lamson describes the change in the pricing structure in the electronic calculators market as 'dramatic'. It has resulted in the engineering and business equipment division actually losing money in the first six months ..."
For the full year of 1972, Sumlock Anita Electronics Ltd. (the manufacturing division) reported marginal profitability and Sumlock Anita Ltd. (the marketing division) reported a loss for the first time. 'The Times' reported: "Lamson got its sums wrong last year on the extent that the price war in electronic calculators would hit profits. Demand for calculators rose and the market expanded. But a flood of cheaper overseas products into the United Kingdom slashed between 35 per cent and 50 per cent off prices and the engineering division plunged from a £1.1m profit to a £290,000 loss".
There would soon be big changes ...
Text & photographs copyright © 2002 - 2021 Nigel Tout, except where noted otherwise.