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Text Lite
Text Lite BV was a Dutch electronics company that was founded in 1979 by five entrepeneurs. The company was based in Amsterdam (Netherlands) and developed Electronic Display Systems and a so-called Pocket Telex. The display systems were assembled in Ireland by Text Lite Ltd, a full subsidary of Text Lite BV, that was also responsible for the distribution of the Pocket Telex.


In the Netherlands, the PX-1000 Pocket Telex was marketed and sold by Philips Netherlands. In other countries, the PX-1000 was also sold by Siemens, Alcatel, Ericsson and others. The device, that supported strong encryption basedon the DES algorithm, was taken of the market in 1983 at the request of the NSA, and was replaced in 1984 by a delibarately weakened exploitable variant.

In 1987, Text Lite BV got in trouble after Philips stopped ordering Pocket Telex units whilst the company had enormous stocks of them. As the display systems business was still running well, the company tried to cover up the loss made on the Pocket Telex units. Finally, in 1990, Text Lite BV went into receivership, leaving a debt of more than 30 million Dutch Guilders (approx. 13.6 million Euros). It became the first major stock exchange fraude case in The Netherlands [2].

Some of the business was taken over by Text Tell Ltd. in Ireland that had been separated out of the Text Lite group some time earlier. They remained active in the business of Labelling, Safety and Identification until the early 2000s. The company has since disappered [1].

 
Text Tell products on this website
First generation pocket telext, sold by Text Lit, Philips, Siemens and others. Improved version of the PX-1000 pocket telex Advanced pocket telex, sold by Text Lite and Philips

 
History
Text Lite BV was founded in The Netherlands in 1979 by five entrepeneurs: Kees Bannink, Cor Hommel, Wim Hommel, Arie Hommel and Hugo Krop, with the latter being the technical director. The company started with Electronic Display Systems such as the MM300, MM500 and MM1000. Each system consisted of a series of 5 x 7 LED units that were mounted together as a complete scrolling text display (Dutch: lichtkrant). The first display units entered the market in 1980.

The display systems were designed and developed at Text Lite BV in Amsterdam (Netherlands). The cases were produced by Samwell Electronics in Taiwan and the LED panels were built by Liton (also in Taiwan), whilst the PCBs were assembled in The Netherlands. At this time, Wim Hommel was responsible for sourcing of components in Taiwan and Japan. Later display systems, such as the MM-300, MM-500 and MM-1000, were assembled in Enniston, Limerick (Ireland) by Text Lite Ltd., a subsidary of Text Lite BV, led by Kevin Neville who owned 15% of the shares [7].

The first pocket telex, the PX-1000, also entered the market in 1980. For both product lines, the enclosures were designed by technical director Hugo Krop [7], who was also responsible for the functional specification of the products. Whilst the development of the hardware and software of the PX-1000 was fully done in Amsterdam (Netherlands), the actual units were produced by Samwell Electronics in Taiwan. The later PX-2000 was built by Seiko (Epson) in Japan.

The initial version of the PX-1000 allowed messages to be sent over a phone line in encrypted form, using the DES encryption algorithm. At the time, DES was believed to provide high-level security and a DES license was obtained from the American Bureau of Standards for just US$ 8.

In 1983 however, the American National Security Agency (NSA) noticed the PX-1000 and expressed its concern against the availability of the DES algorithm to the general public. This resulted in a secret order from the NSA to let Philips Usfa implement an alternative algorithm and buy the remaining stock of DES-based PX-1000 devices. During the time the new algorithm was implemented, the CALC-version of the PX-1000 (with a simple spreadsheet) was sold.

The PX-1000 was succesfully sold in approx. 10 countries under various names, such as Philips, Alcatel, Siemens, Commex and Text Tell. In the Netherlands, Philips actively marketed the PX-1000 until the beginning of 1987, when the orders suddenly dried out. As a result, Text Lite BV, who still had large quantities of PX-1000 units in stock, ran into trouble and tried to cover up the losses with the successful sales of the MM-series display systems. This went on until 1990.

In 1990, the company finally went into receivership, leaving a debt of more than 30 million Dutch Guilders (approx. 13.6 million Euros). Text Lite Ltd. in Ireland, that had been separated from the group in 1987, took over the display business. The bankrupcy of Text Lite BV became known as the first large-scale stock exchange fraud case in The Netherlands, mainly bacause shareholder Arie Hommel had made some suspicious transactions when Text Lite went to the stock exchange in 1984 [6]. The resulting investigation took nearly a decade but finally the Dutch Supreme Court ruled the board of directors personally liable for the damage and for mis-management [2].
 
Company names
The following companies were part of the Lext Lite group or were related to them:
 
  • Text Lite Holding NV
  • Text Lite Holding BV
  • Text Lite BV
  • Surtronic BV
  • Text Lite Ireland Ltd.
  • Text Lite Communications Ltd.
  • Text Lite Inc. USA
  • West-Tec Ltd
  • Text Tell Ltd.
Last known addresses
  • Text Tell Ltd. 1
    7 Montpelier Parade
    Monkstown Road, Blackrock
    Co Dublin
    Ireland

  • Text Lite BV (1985) 1
    Corn. Schuytstraat 74
    1071 JL Amsterdam
    The Netherlands

  • Text Lite BV (later) 1
    Hogehilweg 10
    1101 CC Amsterdam
    Netherlands

  1. These addresses are no longer valid.

References
  1. WayBack Machine, www.texttell.com
    Internet archive, showing the state of the Text Tell website in 2001.

  2. L. Timmerman, JB Wezeman, Arresten ondernemingsrecht
    Court rulings about fraude and mis-management at Text Lite (Dutch).
    W.E.J. Tjeenk Willink. Kluwer, 2001. ISBN: 90 271 5322 1. p. 1350 onwards.

  3. Martijn de Mulder, Verrassing! Arie Hommel weer failliet.
    About the backrupcy of Text Lite chairman A.W Hommel in the late 1980s.
    Quote (Dutch). 6 May 2009.

  4. Gerard Reijn, Curator Text Lite boekt succesje in miljoenenjacht.
    About the NLG 30 million claim on the Text Lite board.
    Volkskrant (Dutch). 13 May 1997.

  5. Nico Goebert, Curator Text Lite weg wegens enquêterapport
    About Text Lite's receivership. Volkskrant (Dutch). 14 December 1994.

  6. Gerard Reijn, Mevrouw Hommel-De Vries
    Volkskrant (Dutch). 13 May 1997.

  7. Hugo Krop, Personal correspondence and interview
    Crypto Museum, 25 August 2013, 15 December 2013.

Further information

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