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Milestone Anniversary For Derby Pioneers

  • Date: 25/11/2011
  • Category: General

A Derby company who have been the pioneers of the IT services industry in the city are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year.

East Midland Computers (EMC) have been at the forefront of developing and providing computer systems and networks, bespoke software and IT maintenance to some of the top local businesses and are now looking ahead to the next 30 years and all opportunities that increasing advances in technology will bring.

EMC’s roots go back to 1981 when Managing Director Steve Abbey (61) left his then employers, Italian computer manufacturer Olivetti, to set up his own business.

EMC started life in a small office in Gower Street, Derby which it quickly outgrew and in 1985 they bought and moved into the state-of-the-art former Olivetti regional offices in West Meadows Industrial Estate.

Steve explained: “We started by selling Olivetti computers and business systems at a time when there wasn’t much around in the way of technology as we know it today.

“Just as we were pioneers in the IT industry, many of our customers were as well – recognising that computers were the way forward. 

“Many of our clients who purchased the first generation PCs from us in the early Eighties are still with us today but have obviously progressed from the desk top computer which had a couple of floppy disk drives and a Maxrix printer!”

In the nineties, EMC developed multi-user systems and multi-branch systems with connectivity – running numerous PCs from one server.

“We have also provided, over the years, a range of specialise systems to a diversity of customers. These include financials, payroll, stock systems and many other bespoke applications and EMCOM is still a recognised and valued brand amongst finance departments.

“We also set up a technical service department to further improve the level of service for customers – effectively becoming a one stop shop for businesses who were venturing into the unknown world of computers.  To my knowledge at that time, nobody else offered the range of services that we did, so I suppose you could say that we were the pioneers of the IT services industry, certainly in the East Midlands.”

The turn of the century saw EMC specialising in Windows systems and extending its customer base throughout the UK, particularly servicing the specialist hardware, software and infrastructure requirements of companies as diverse as co-operative societies, funeral directors, children’s nurseries and Fire and Rescue services. 

Recent years and the rapid pace of new technology has prompted EMC to develop its Cloud Computing capabilities as well as establishing a data centre at the Derby office to remotely host business systems for customers and offer on-site backup and Disaster Recovery facilities.

The 30th anniversary has brought back some fond memories for its founder Steve, whose career in IT started when he was 19 years old having completed three years of his five year apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce

“I am originally from Bishop Aukland where the prospects of employment in the 60’s were fairly limited. Most of my mates went down the pit but I wanted to be an engineer so my parents encouraged me to apply to Rolls-Royce in Derby who, after two interviews, told me the job was mine if I achieved a pass in seven GCE O Level subjects.

“I knuckled down and passed enough exams to start at Rolls-Royce, therefore leaving the North East and making my home in Derby.  After three years I decided that engineering was not my forte and I wanted to get out and about and meet customers rather than be factory based. It was then that I applied to Olivetti and got a job selling their famous typewriters and adding machines.

“I worked for them for 11 years and helped to make Derby their top selling branch in the UK so when I decided I wanted to set up my own business, the Olivetti management asked me to become their first UK dealer.

“As the UK’s first Olivetti dealer, this opened up a whole series of opportunities and as well as selling the computers, we were able to set up a software house, a computer maintenance department and supplies business.”

So what does the future hold for EMC?

Steve continued: “We have been around since the beginning of computers and remain at the forefront.

“As companies have wanted to progress and grow, we have progressed with them and serviced their IT needs with the provision of hardware, software and maintenance services.

“Our hardware platforms are in diverse locations such as coal mines in Kazakhstan and Iran, Fire and Rescue training rooms for heat control systems, as well as providing server based platforms for companies across the UK.  We have a Funeral Director in Penzance using our EMCOM Funeral Arrangement System and an engineering firm in Aberdeen associated with Oil Production who use our EMCOM Financials and Payroll Packages”.

“Although none of us have a crystal ball, the opportunities are endless with more internet-based communications and virtualisation of servers and we are determined to continue to be a major force to be reckoned with both locally and nationally – developing more niche specialist systems”.

“Computer technology changes on a month by month basis and at EMC we have ensured that we have kept up with those changes over the past three decades. Furthermore we are committed to continuing to do so in the future”.

“There is however, no substitute for the notion that some may feel is old fashioned, but has always served me well – that you work hard, look after the customers and provide them with a good product and service.

“The success of EMC is testimony not only to our hard work and high levels of customer service but also to the buoyancy and diversity of businesses in Derby.

“We have always been proud of our roots in Derby and that we have helped businesses come to the fore in their own fields.”


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