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This mini forum is intended to provide a simple means of discussion about the RAIR microcomputer Black Box computer. If you want to share your own experience or memories, or add relevant information about this system: post a message!

  Click Here to add a message in the forum


Thursday 7th April 2011
Guenter H Krauss (Germany)

I stumbled over this. The old days. We should probably plan an old get together with the crew. I see John and Tim commenting. What happened to Howard, Mark and Dave Fogden and the others? I have still lots of photos. Still a roll of poster from our hot-air balloon. What happened to "Technology For Business" after the bought us up. I remember they weren''t very happy about my balloon at the time. Is there a place we upload photos?

Thursday 2nd August 2007
$#/\wN (essex UK)

Thanks John
that was a sad time.
Richard was my best friend then and still is.
I have a lot of his stuff still in my loft, photos taken at rair and I think the first talking computer he was Woking on at the time. If I remember correctly he was in a race to beat the US in getting a chip to talk, something like that anyhow, I know little about this tech stuff.
anybody know what happened to Richards home videos ?

Monday 5th March 2007
John Pettitt (California)
CloudView LLC

I never met Rick - if I recall correctly he died the same week I started working for Lifeboat Associates (we shared offices with RAIR) - Tim may remember him.

Monday 5th March 2007
$#/\wN (essex UK)

Any of you Rair aware guys remember Richard Boustard at Rair until about 1981 ?
would be nice to hear from you.

Saturday 11th December 2004
John Pettitt (California)

The parts the the OS that Tim didn't write were written by me (hi Tim).

Sunday 14th July 2002
Tim Hill (California)

I wrote most of the OS customization code for this unit, and supervised most of the hardware design. In fact, it was an 8085, not Z80, based design, though later units used an 80286 or a dual 8086/8085 CPU board. The photo shows an early unit with one of the first Seagate ST506 drives ever produced, and a custom HD controller designed for RAIR by Xebec (later units used early Adaptec controllers).

Friday 26th May 2006
Dominic Turner (Bristol, UK)

My father had one of these in the late 1970's - he set up a company called Computer Credit Control and this beast automated the process of taking late payers to court. Unfortunately the business model was flawed and it became a case of the "doctor that cured the patient" - pretty soon word got round that certain firms were using computers to chase creditors and the business dried up. I believe that the program was written by a guy called Tom Potts.

I grew up with the Rair black box in the house, a terminal (that was a really spacey-looking combined keyboard and screen) and a monster daisy wheel printer (that for some reason also had a keyboard). In those days everybody assumed that the form letters it generated were typed by hand!! The noise of the printer was truly awesome - like something from a coal mine and it ate acres of pre-punched paper - headed paper was gummed to this and fed through. I remember when my dad upgraded to Winchester double density disks - he was over the moon about this quantuum leap in storage!

My favorite programs (I think I was about 5 yrs old) were Gomuku (a sort of noughts and crosses) and a program that generated "poetry". My lasting memory was that it cheated at Gomuku and always won!

My father was brain damaged in 1982 as a result of a hit and run accident on his push bike and subsequently never worked again.
I believe my mother has the RAIR Black Box somewhere though it hasn't been turned on since then. I myself have kept up the family tradition and have been programming ever since (though never on CP/M).

Wednesday 17th February 2021
Joel Abramson (England)

I remember Graham Nash. I worked in sales $ then support

Wednesday 17th February 2021
Joel Abramson (England)

I remember Graham Nash. I worked in sales $ then support

Thursday 16th July 2020
Gary Evans (Bromley, Kent, England)

I worked at TF/RAIR from September 1987 to March 1988 when I had a serious accident playing rugby, which left me paralysed. The company really looked after me and my direct boss Jim Prendergast supported me immensely after my accident. Would love to catch up with anyone who remembers me.

Wednesday 22nd April 2020
kevin.elkins (UK)

The PC were rebranded as ICL PC which were further rebranded by BT as M2200 series and from what I can remember ran CP/M and MP/M operating system and we my first encounter with a HDD
I worked for BT Business System Support Unit from 1986 to 1988 and serviced these the M3300, M4000 (Logica kennet) and M5000 range (Bull)
I think I might still have one in my loft that I rescued from a skip outside EMA textiles in London.I can''t remember the accounts pack it ran but it did have Word Star word processor software on it

Friday 28th February 2020
Howard Sayles (United Kingdom)

Hi everybody. I stumbled across this during a bored moment at my 2nd home in Tel Aviv. I''m retired now and split my time between here and London. Its great just to see the names from my youth. Much nostalgia and too many memories to list them all here. Good luck to you all.

Thursday 17th October 2019
Phil harris .

P.s. see other recent it true about dave f ? I know he had the neatest smallest hand writing ever...the other bit of news that he is not with us any more...phil h.

Thursday 17th October 2019
Phil harris . (Uk)

Those where the days 81 to 85 . I left twice and went to altos mark got me back. Left again came back again .. if only we had dos as well as cpm mpm still it was a fun good money time. Kept in touch with roger chalke for a long time jp on and off during 80s and nineties and mark plus nashER and howard during tfb days when I was at uniplex. These days I have a great idea for text/netlingo branding for large choosen corporates ....big dosh if it works. Send me an email and tel no and I will call my mbl is +44 7852 912568 know who U R . BEST REGARDS TO ALL R.A.I.R cant call abroad cheaply

Wednesday 9th October 2019
shawn (uk london)

I got a few old polaroids of rair people, if any bod want copy''s, leave a contact here or something.
I will look back here some time when :-)

Monday 12th August 2019
Graham Nash (Bedfordshire, England)

Hi all,
Wow, I am reading all these posts and many fantastic memories are flooding back of the time I had with Rair Ltd from 1981 to 1989! I remember Mark, Howard and Dave as if yesterday. I was interviewed by Mark , who had been at NCR, where I had been for the last 10 years selling big stuff for tens of thousands of pounds and then he shows me this tiny black suitcase in the corner of the board room at Wellington House, Upper St.Martins Lane and says it can do so much more for £3,500. I was hooked and went on to sell thousands of 3/20, 3/30’s and 3/50’s. Then onto the Supermicro!
Remember Tim, John Petit, the two Clares , Nial( with the campervan) , Tom Frazer,Phil, Richard Little, Bharat ,Camarl , Robert and the boys at the factory in Camden Town.
Hope to hear from one of you again , am enjoying my retirement .
Regards Graham Nash

Sunday 29th July 2018
shawn (essex)

Still miss you dude x

Sunday 18th March 2018
$$/$wN (essex)$STRK:MESELX:IT$_trksid$p3984.m1555.l2649

Thursday 2nd June 2016
Tim Hill (USA)

Yes I remember Rick well, such nice guy, fun and smart, and such a tragedy .. we were all shocked that Monday morning I don''t think anyone even answered the phone all day. Sadly, Dave Fogden died about 5 years ago after a fight with cancer, I''ve lost touch with his family. Mark Potts is still in San Francisco, his son lives there also and is a full-time DJ, I see them from time to time.

Tuesday 10th November 2015
Bharat Ghayal (United States)

I just finished reading all the posts and it brought back some really good memories. I worked at RAIR as field service engineer and had lot of fun travelling UK and Europe supporting and training for repair of the PC''s. Remember Rick, Mark, Tim, Howard, John, Dave, Claire and Guenter. It was very sad with what happened to Rick. I was at the Camden offices. The best memory was going to a coal mine to repair a Black Box (clogged fan filter!). Also Amsterdam in the diamond center. Thanks Mark for allowing us to share in the success and memories...

Monday 11th May 2015
Robert (Essex/UK)

Hi all,

I''m Rick''s younger brother. I stumbled across this page by accident and just wanted to say that it was so nice find that he has at least a small presence on the www.

I''m afraid I don''t know what happened to his videos. Our mother died a few years back and nothing of that nature was among her effects.

Still miss you, Rick


Monday 11th May 2015
Robert (Essex/UK)

Hi all,

I''m Rick''s younger brother. I stumbled across this page by accident and just wanted to say that it was so nice find that he has at least a small presence on the www.

I''m afraid I don''t know what happened to his videos. Our mother died a few years back and nothing of that nature was among her effects.

Still miss you, Rick


Sunday 19th October 2014
Robert Fogden (Monaco)

Sorry, Claire

Sunday 19th October 2014
Robert Fogden

Dave married Clare, a lovely girl who did happen to be the receptionist at Rair, went to their marriage in Paris

Sunday 19th October 2014
Robert Fogden (Monaco)

I''m one of Dave Fogdens younger brothers and wrote a number of applications in basic for the black box, including a debt collection application that did seem to produce a whole load of paper.

I worked out of the Neal Street office, where the PDP timeshare machines were.

They were also supporting the Wang word processors, and when that contract went away ( frauduantly as far as I knew, Wang salesman put everything in his name not Rairs and left with them), everything went bad. They, Dave and Mark went on to various things then Pervasic which was a mobile application platform where I also did some work with them and BT in their Leeds HQ, all ended in tears when Dave died. Nial worked there too. Mark did a runner back to SF owing a load of money to people.

Friday 30th May 2014
Steve (Norway)

I found this during a nostalgia hunt for another computer that I worked on in my past.

I was the first engineer hired by Rair to work on the Black Box. Before I started, Rick also handled the repairs himself.

I worked for Wren for about 1.5 years before moving on.
But I remember Rick well, and it was so sad what happened, he was such a good guy, a work colleague and a friend. I do not fully understand what led to Ricks decision, but it was a terrible shock.
I still think about Rick from time to time.

At the time I worked foe Rair, the computer was based on an 8085 and came with either 16/32/48 or 64k or RAM.

I remember modifying one of the floppy controller cards so that I could easily step the floppy drives in and out. At that time we actually used to fix alignment problems on disks using a special calibration disk and an oscilloscope.

I remember the first hard disk that was added, an 8" Winchester. It had a green tinted semi-transparent cover, so you see the actual workings (when the Black Box cover was not fitted), which was (I think from memory) 5Mb. It was in a separate case (same as the Black Box itself) and connected into the Black Box via a cable.

The power supply for the Black Box was really something else. It was designed by a guy (Ian/John Nulty or McNulty I think? not 100$ sure that I remember the name correctly) who had previously designed power systems for satellites.
It was a switched mode power supply based on the Ferranti ZN1066 chip and was extremely reliable (probably a little over-engineered for the purpose of a computer, but.... then I cannot remember ever seeing a defective power supply ).

There was also an early change to the Fan/filter/ventilation of the Black Box.
I remember receiving units back for repair from a customer where the boards were heavily covered in clay dust.

Remember the 2 wiring guys, John $ Nigel?
And Carol the receptionist?

Rair started off life providing time share services on a PDP-11/70. Originally based in Neal Street, we moved from there to Camden. I was no longer working at Rair when they moved from Camden.

Good times!

Saturday 27th July 2013
Tim Hill

@Roy: Good memory, the HQ of RAIR at the time was at the top end of St Martins Lane, on the 2nd floor if I recall.

@Shawn: Yes, I remember Rick, as does Mark Potts. A great loss, such a nice guy, I still remember walking into the office the morning after he died'' such a shock. No idea about his home videos. I still have archived several notes about OS stuff Rock and I exchanged years ago...

@Guenter: So good to hear you are still around!! I was told you weren''t with us any more (seriously). Not sure what Howard is up to, Mark Potts is living in SF and we get together maybe once a year or so for dinner. Sadly, Dave Fogden died of cancer about 4 years ago .. we all miss him.

If anyone wants to contact me:


Sunday 14th April 2013
roy (uk)

At some point in the 1980s I shot a video for this company. Unless I''m mistaken - and often I am - the offices we shot in were on the first or second floor of a building at the Trafalgar Sq. end of St. Martins Lane.
And that''s about all I recall!

Saturday 15th January 2011
mrkoolnerd (usa)

i have one like new what are you willing to pay price wise

Friday 4th January 2008
Phil Shaw (Earth)

Hi, I was wondering the availability of the RAIR black box these days.

Thursday 13rd September 2007
Grenville Reeves (UK)

I was working in an office in the early eighties. We were using a couple of apple europas and were sold a rair black box, 4 monochrome screens and MPM mulit user operating system as an upgrade. It was very, very slow at the best of times but if one person started printing the rest of the screens just hung! After a couple of weeks we exchanged it for 4 stand alone pc's on CPM operating system. 2 of them had hard drives!

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