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Atex is a company specializing in the development of advertising and content management systems. The company was established in Massachusetts in 1973 and grew to become a worldwide software supplier to the publishing industry. It participated in much of the change in the print industry involving the move from hot-metal through photo and then laser typesetting, culminating in computer to plate (CTP). The company expanded to include web publishing as an integral part of its product line.
The company claims to have over $1 billion USD worth of software installed worldwide, and claims more than 1000 customers in 55 countries. The company is based in Reading, Berkshire, U.K. and backed by Norwegian investment company Kistefos. It employs over 600 people globally.
Atex was founded in Massachusetts in 1973 by Douglas Drane and Charles and Richard Ying, graduates of MIT who had an idea for a new type of electronic composition system. By 1974 they had created a prototype video display terminal, encased in a cardboard whiskey carton.
By 1977, Atex had successfully connected reporters and editors via a paper-free system that allowed working on-screen instead of on typewriters. The system used a terminal-and-server paradigm, but used modified DEC PDP-11 minicomputer hardware running a custom Atex multi-user operating system. Terminals were little more than keyboards, with the servers directly generating video signals for each terminal. The memory-mapped screen images were monochrome and not high resolution, but they could scroll quickly and fluidly without restriction by conventional serial data connections, which at the time were not very fast. The servers were paired for redundancy; each story saved to disk was written to two separate systems. The systems talked to each other across a high speed intersystem bus, making a set of servers seem to their users to be one big system. A built-in messaging system provided email-like functionality among system users, greatly aiding collaboration. Wire stories were funneled into the system electronically rather than having to be re-keyboarded from teletype printouts. The workflow advantages of the system proved popular with staff and management of newspapers and large magazine publishers.
Between 1978 and 1979, the new system acquired early adopters including Newsday and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Much of the growth can be traced to a series of patents Atex received in 1976 for its text editing and display system.
In 1980 developed a news pagination system for the Star Tribune. The resulting product, Atex News Layout, delivered ‘parallel pagination’ which allowed layout changes to automatically flow between copy editors and layout editors.
The company was eventually acquired by Eastman Kodak for $77 million. Kodak thought Atex would help them access the commercial industry and build a strong customer based in emerging computer based technology.
In the mid-1980s Atex for the first time expanded its operations outside the United States with an implementation at The Economist. This was followed by major installation at Rupert Murdoch’s News International in 1985 and a $23 million contract with The New York Times in 1987.
After nearly two decades of continuous growth, which included the construction of a 1,500 person manufacturing plant in the United States, Atex ran into difficult times at the beginning of the 1990s. Citing the need to refocus on its core business, Kodak sold the technology company  to a group of European investors in 1992. Those investors started the development of Enterprise and Prestige, which were formerly the core of the Atex product portfolio.
The company’s investors sought fresh investment in 1995, leading to a takeover by Sysdeco Group AS of Norway.
Sysdeco Group bought Atex and a Finnish supplier of editorial and classified systems, and became known as Sysdeco Media. The two acquisitions were not successful and in 1995 Atex was spun off again, becoming Atex Media Solutions, retaining its largest shareholder, Norwegian based Kistefos AS.
Atex was able to address Year 2000 problems in its proprietary operating system and publishing applications, but many publishers chose instead to replace older Atex systems with new systems from other vendors.
Starting in 2002 when it merged with Media Command, Atex made a series of acquisitions.
With a new Group CEO, John Hawkins, Atex acquired, in 2006, the media business of Unisys Corporation and then in early 2007, Mactive, an advertising systems developer, which increased the US market share. In 2007 Atex also purchased Vogsys, a publishing technology company based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In 2011, the company headquarters were moved to Castle Street in Reading, England, and Jim Rose was appointed as Group CEO. In June 2012, Rose left Atex after a seven year career with the company, and Gary Stokes was appointed as Group CEO.
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