Firebird History

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British Telecom entered the video game market in 1984 as Telecomsoft. The move was instigated in the Spring of that year by the General Manager of BT’s 'Information Services' division, Dr Ederyn Williams. Dr Williams and Richard Hooper (Chief Executive of BT’s Value Added Systems) had been looking at the strategic issue of ‘network versus content’ with Prestel. With networking likely to become cheaper in the future, it was reasoned that content would therefore become the more valuable commodity. With that in mind, it was decided that BT would enter the publishing arena to create content, and the publishing labels Firebird, Rainbird and Silverbird were the result. In Richard Hooper's own words, he wanted Telecomsoft to be "just like Penguin" - referring to the successful and long-established Penguin Books publishing empire.

In May 1984, BT started looking for titles from hopeful games programmers. They advertised in newspapers and placed full colour adverts in the computer magazines as FIREFLY Software. The copy for the advert said:

Turning a great idea into a profitable idea isn't easy.

It needs skill, patience and sheer hard work. But to be really profitable, it also needs the backing of a large, respected company.

At British Telecom we are now looking for writers of games and educational programs to help us launch a new and exciting range of software.

If we like your idea we'll send you a cheque straightaway as an advance on royalties.

Then we'll package your program, advertise it and distribute it with the care and attention you'd expect from one of Britain's biggest companies.

The response was very positive, with a large number of games sent in for evaluation. Soon after the advert went to press, Tony Rainbird was enticed away from his own fledgling software house (Micro-Gold) and was persuaded to join the company by Ederyn Williams. Trevor Havelock phoned James Leavey (who was already working for mainstream BT), and persuaded him to handle the marketing and PR side of the business, and ensure that BT's image was protected. Finally, James Scoular was headhunted from Personal Computer Games magazine (where he had been the publisher) to be employed as Head of Telecomsoft.

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