When Eain Findlay goes into work in the morning it’s a bit of trip down Memory Lane. Or rather Radnor Street.
Local lad Eain joined Swindon Silicon Systems in 1985 just before the company moved into the old Clifton Street Schools, a fine Victorian redbrick building in Radnor Street. Swindon Silicon Systems was then just seven years old and trading from a former Scout hut in Dowling Street.
The four founders, Andy Brittain, Alan Richardson, Graham Fletcher and Ron Towns were electronics specialists, and saw a bright future in ASICS, that’s Application Specific Integrated Circuits. These are the tiny “brains” that control most of our electrical appliances from washing machines to mobile phones, car engine management to hearing aids.
Of course, back in 1978 lots of these devices didn’t even exist, and those that did were controlled by electronic circuits made up of soldered together individual components. Remember transistor radios?
Although silicon chip technology was being developed for computer processors, making a chip to do just what you wanted was thought to be far too expensive.
Companies like Swindon Silicon Systems changed all that and led the way for the miniature controllers that made possible so many things that we take for granted, like SatNav, electronic cameras, MP3 players, blood sugar monitors … the list is endless.
In 1999 production was moved to a new facility just along Radnor Street on a site originally occupied by the West Swindon Working Men’s Club which burnt down in 1923. It was subsequently rebuilt and the company had it completely refitted.
One of its early markets was in automotive systems and their tyre pressure monitoring system ASICs are used exclusively in the Schrader brand.
“We now employ 88 people with a turnover of £21m and are fast outgrowing Radnor Street”, says Managing Director, Geoff Hall. “We’re looking for new premises in Swindon where the business can grow and expand our local workforce. It will be a fitting celebration for our thirty-fifth anniversary.”
The atmosphere at Swindon Silicon Systems is buzzing, and very much 21st century but, as he strolls down Radnor Street, Eain still fondly remembers when kids were playing outside the school and you could still get a pint at the club.
Pictured: from top, Old Clifton Schools (copyright http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/20846);
West Swindon Working Men’s Club (Image courtesy www.swindon.gov.uk/swindoncollection);
Geoff Hall, Managing Director