Lexikon's History of Computing

From Wang Laboratories to Wang Global to Getronics — A Company’s Odyssey

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A Brief History of Wang Laboratories Growth into Wang Global, and the Acquisition by Getronics Company

 

The following information is provided courtesy of Getronics and Wang.

Getronics didn’t just acquire a worldwide services and solutions company when it brought Wang Global into the fold. It also acquired an organization with distinguished and unique culture – one of inventiveness, teamwork, and resiliency in times of difficulty.

For nearly half a century, the Wang name has meant innovation in computer technology and in the practical application of that technology to the world of business.

The Early Years

Dr. An Wang, a native of Shanghai, China, came to America in 1945 and attended Harvard University. He invented magnetic core memory while working in Harvard’s computation laboratory after graduating, and struck out on his own to establish Wang Laboratories in 1951.

"The Doctor" and his company initially developed digital electronic equipment for scientists. Soon, however, they began devoting their technical wizardry to developing and adapting technology to meet the practical needs of a myriad of businesses and governmental bodies.

Many of the office technologies and devices that today seem commonplace emerged from Wang Laboratories. In 1962, Wang introduced the first electronic justifying typesetting system. Three years later, the first Wang scientific desktop calculator arrived.

Wang Laboratories, founded in 1951, became formally incorporated in 1955. Dr. An Wang, founder, became the first president and treasurer of Wang Laboratories, Inc. Wang Laboratories originally produced a variety of specialized electronic devices and later developed and marketed an electronic desk calculator, word processing and computer equipment and image scanning technologies. Wang introduced word processing equipment in the 1970's. The 1200 was Wang Laboratory's first word processing unit. It was an electronically controlled dual cassette typing system. The 2200 series was Wang's family of small business computers, introduced in 1972.

The Wang Word Processing System was an early system, developed in 1972, which used magnetic tape cassettes to store documents, and used a standard typewriter. CRT screens were added about five years later. The WPS, introduced in 1976, was a CRT-based word processor with disk storage for four thousand pages and a 350 word-per-minute letter quality printer.

The Wang VS product line, introduced in 1977, was a computer system based on virtual storage technology offering mainframe computing capabilities as well as word processing functions, was introduced in 1977. By 1978 had become the largest supplier of small business computers in North America. Also by 1978, Wang became the largest producer of video display screen word processing equipment in the world. The Wang OIS series word processing system was introduced in 1979. The Wang Alliance System and the WangNet broadband-based local area network were announced in 1981. In 1982, Wang Laboratories introduced the Wang PC and the Wang Professional Image Computer (PIC) which uses a camera as a data entry device to the Wang PC to add visuals to text stored in the computer.

In 1985, Wang Laboratories signed a joint manufacturing agreement with the People's Republic of China to produce Wang hardware and software products and open additional growth opportunities in the Asia/Pacific area. Wang Laboratories also developed high technology imaging systems for business applications. In 1990, Wang had a user base of over 50,000 and $550 million in installed systems. In 1991, IBM and Wang enter into agreement to have Wang market some PS/2 products under Wang name.

Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, Wang dominated the world’s office technology market. The Wang 2200 computer, introduced in 1973, more than halved the cost of computing for small businesses and vaulted Wang to leadership in the commercial computing marketplace. Wang’s word processing system, introduced in 1976, was the first successful use of microprocessors in the computer industry. WangNet, a broadband-based local network, debuted in 1981.

In 1982, Wang launched its personal computer. In 1985 came WangOffice, which integrated electronic mail, calendaring, database access and other advanced office functions and features. Wang grew exponentially - there seemed to be no upper limit to its success.

Revolution and Evolution

But there was indeed a limit, and Wang arrived there abruptly in the late 1980s. Dramatic gains in chip design quickly shifted the office technology industry away from minicomputer and proprietary systems like Wang’s. The market evolved toward open systems that could accommodate many vendors’ technologies. Wang’s response to the new market drivers was too little, too late. The company suffered heavy operating losses, the effects of which were compounded by a debt-heavy financial structure. In August 1992, a little over two years after Dr. Wang died, the company sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while it restructured.

Re-inventing Wang – Through Software and Services

In a little over a year, Wang emerged from bankruptcy protection under the direction of new CEO and Chairman Joe Tucci. The company’s major assets included an extensive portfolio of software patents and intellectual property, a worldwide organization and a vast installed base of loyal customers.

By the middle of the 1990s, the company that had been a bellwether system manufacturer had transformed into a world leader in the development and implementation of imaging and workflow software. Wang also maintained and grew its core service businesses. It met the service needs of those who still relied on its durable minicomputers, and it provided vendor-independent network and desktop services and support for hundreds of other companies’ products.

Wang OPEN/image software, introduced in 1992, helped change how offices function by transforming paper documents into digital images. This made it possible for a given document to be instantaneously available to networked employees around the globe. Wang’s prowess in digital imaging attracted the attention of alliance partner Eastman Kodak, which purchased Wang Software in 1997. Wang then turned its full attention to its services business.

Acquisitions, Partnering and a Dedication to Services

Through the mid-1990s, Wang expanded through a series of strategic acquisitions to become a global information technology services leader. Each acquisition brought new capabilities or broadened the company’s geographic reach.

In 1995, adding Groupe Bull’s commercial services and support organization strengthened Wang’s multi-vendor service capabilities and placed it among the top ten providers of integration services to the United States government. Later that year, the acquisition of BISS Ltd. made Wang one of the largest network integrators in the United Kingdom. (See also Honeywell Chronology)

The pace increased in 1996. Wang purchased Dataserv from BellSouth, adding its help desk and maintenance expertise for international retail and financial services clients. Then came I-NET, a global leader in network management and outsourcing; Bannex, a desktop service company focused on the banking and retail industries; and Advanced Paradigms, a provider of enterprise wide client/server and Internet solutions.

Olsy Acquisition – Going Global

In March 1998, Wang more than doubled its revenue and its workforce with the acquisition of Olsy, Olivetti’s service business. Olsy brought true global services coverage and particular strength in retail delivery channel solutions for banks. The company began doing business as Wang Global in most countries.

Later in 1998, Parian Development Group and J.G. Van Dyke & Associates joined the Wang Global family. Parian was a Microsoft solution provider with expertise in the high-value-added sector of solution design and integration for electronic commerce, Internet/Intranet and business intelligence. Van Dyke, noted in the field of networking and information security for the U.S. government intelligence community, added strength to Wang Government Services’ Special Programs and Security Solutions business line.

As it grew through strategic acquisition, Wang Global also forged global technical service and marketing partnerships with industry leaders Microsoft, Cisco and Dell. Updated and expanded several times, these partnerships enhanced the company’s ability to provide superior implementation, integration, maintenance, and end-user technical services to support global networks and cutting-edge desktop technologies.

Wang Global at the Merger – A Services and Solutions Leader

As of mid-1999 and its acquisition by Getronics, Wang Global had revenues of over $3 billion, approximately 20,000 employees, and offices and subsidiaries in more than 40 countries. Its stated mission was to be the world leader in networked technology services and solutions.

NetWorkPlace™ embodies Wang Global’s service offering. Its robust suite of 19 services gives customers strategic control over their network computing assets. With NetWorkPlace, customers derive maximum benefit of managed support delivered over a change-ready and adaptive infrastructure.

Wang Global solutions are customized to client requirements and use component-based technologies enabled through fast, predictable deployment. Globalfs is an innovative solution framework for the financial services industry, based on Microsoft’s Distributed interNet Applications Architecture for financial services (DNAfs). Netprise™ is the family of e-business solutions that assist clients in many industries including retail, oil, transportation and wholesale distribution to harness the power of the Internet and to take advantage of latest developments in web technology.

Through Advanced Networks, Wang Global delivers the expertise to plan, develop, deploy, and manage next-generation networks that provide innovative converged voice and data services as well as e-commerce and Web-based applications.

The millennium is upon us and the Wang name will soon pass into business history. But the Wang culture of inventiveness, teamwork and resiliency will live on in the worldwide Getronics organization, inspiring all who work there to find new and better ways of putting the wonders of technology into service for people and businesses everywhere.

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See Also: Honeywell Chronology

Dr. An Wang

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