Wicks and Wilson Celebrates 40 Years
For many, 1973 doesn’t seem that long ago. In the United States, a small company called Federal Express was born, Secretariat won the Triple Crown, Burger King broke marketing ground when they told customers they could have it their way, 7-Up became the uncola and President Richard Nixon (in)famously stated, “I am not a crook.”
Across the pond, the United Kingdom became a fully-fledged member of the European Economic Community (today’s EU), an international oil crises caused the government to impose electricity rationing on the country’s businesses, Kate Beckinsale was born, Pink Floyd released Dark Side of The Moon…and a company named Wicks and Wilson was incorporated. While the latter may not have made the evening news in 1973, today it is a digital imaging industry giant with success that has withstood the test of time.
WICKS AND WILSON HISTORY
Incorporated in November 1973, Wicks and Wilson was originally located in West London before moving to the town of Basingstoke in the Hampshire region of England – a medium-sized town with a Tudor past that is now considered part of London’s “commuter’s belt.” Wicks and Wilson was formed by Tony and Margaret Wicks and Terry Wilson with an initial focus on the manufacturing of aperture cards and chemicals.
When PC’s arrived on the market in the early 1980s, Wicks and Wilson aperture card duplicators were among the first machines to offer computer-controlled microfilm equipment. Later in the decade, Wicks and Wilson became the first to manufacture a full range of scanners and plotters for aperture cards which were sold worldwide through a network of resale partners.
In the late 1990s, the company applied its design skills and manufacturing expertise to develop a popular series of 16/35mm microfilm and microfiche scanners. These units, the Scanstation series, continue to be updated and in use worldwide today.
In 1999, the company was the subject of a management buyout in order to allow the Wicks’ to retire. Terry Wilson had retired in 1986 and, sadly, passed away this July just short of his 95th birthday. Bob Brash, Ian McMinn and Bob Randall became the company principals and took the firm into the 21st century. Wicks and Wilson once again broke ground with the development of the innovative C-series aperture card scanner, the first-ever desktop USB aperture card scanner.
More than a decade later, the firm was sold in a friendly offering to The Crowley Company, which allowed the former principals to retire. Crowley has continued to nurture the talent of the staff and has expanded the firm’s offerings and reseller network.
WICKS AND WILSON TODAY
Today, with a strong core staff – many of whom have been with the firm for decades – the Wicks and Wilson division is known not only for their aperture scanners and Scanstation series, but for the UScan Universal Film (UF) scanner that was released in June of last year. Already in its third generation, the UF Series scanner is finding great use in libraries and government offices where patrons and corporate archivists need to view, scan or copy records or photos from microfilm, microfiche, negatives and more. Additionally, Kevin Keeler, head of manufacturing, has been appointed vice president of research and development for Crowley’s UK and California operations.
“The Wicks and Wilson division is a strong complement to our business model,” notes company president Christopher Crowley. “As a brand, and working together as a part of Crowley, Wick and Wilson continues to improve and make an impact in our industry. This first 40 years is just the beginning.” Keeler agrees. “For 40 years, Wicks and Wilson has been a leader in technology,” he says. “Now, working under the Crowley umbrella with R&D on two continents, we’ll continue to develop the next generation of market-leading products.”
This September, the Wicks and Wilson team celebrated an early anniversary by embarking on a City Explorer GPS treasure hunt in London. In addition to team-building, it provided a relaxed (although competitive!) atmosphere to reminisce. Here are a few employee stories:
Nick Edwards, 38 year employee
“I joined WWL on 1st September 1975. I was the sixth employee, but three of them owned the company! When asked why I have stayed so long I always answer “It’s the secret of keeping me young.”
Chris Richards, one month employee
“Coming from several large corporations where you are just a number, it can take quite a while to find your place. Wicks and Wilson is like working with your family. It’s easy, comfortable and you just slot right in place. The products are complex and interesting and working alongside our colleagues overseas adds another dimension that will be exciting and fruitful.”
“I joined the company in October 1977 to produce the D200 Aperture Card Duplicator. In the intervening years, the company has produced a succession of innovative microfilm products, a history I am pleased to continue into the future within our Crowley group.”
Daniel Okebukola, three month employee
“I love it here… not only as a good working environment, but also as a large family of genuine people that care. I have acquired a lot of experience here and am very happy that my programming skills are being utilized in meeting the objectives and goals of the organization.”
Chris Clarke-Williams, 33 year employee
“It seems almost a lifetime ago when I was interviewed for a job in 1980. I remember Tony Wicks joining the interview and asking me why I liked gardening. My answer was that it was quite different from engineering because you had to wait for things to happen in their own time. This must have been the correct answer because I was asked to start in the morning. The job has been good to me, paying my mortgage and putting food into the mouths of my family. I hope I have given something in return.”
FIND OUT MORE
For more about 1973 in the U.S. (including a darn good playlist), click here.
For more about 1973 in the U.K., click here.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact The Crowley Company by calling (240) 215-0224. General inquiries can be emailed to [email protected]. You can also follow The Crowley Company on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.
I still have very fond memories of my time with Wicks and Wilson as a software developer between 1995 and 1998 (the 1998 WWL Fantasy Formula 1 trophy still sits on my shelf!); a great company and great people with innovative products. Congratulations on the big 40!
Just received the following quote from Alastair Blair, a 30-year employee
“When I applied to join Wicks and Wilson, it was the start of a new chapter in my life, as my twin daughters had just been born and the company who I was working for at that time was going through a bad patch. I had already been in engineering for 10 years and was instantly impressed by the quality products which Wicks were producing and by the very friendly nature of those I met.
My twin daughters have just celebrated their 31st birthday and the quality and friendliness that I found with Wicks and Wilson is still very much apparent today.”
WWL was my first full time job (1986 to 1989). I remember it like it was yesterday. I was introduced to the importance of RS232 which turned out to be the intro which I’m still building my career on. (After WWL I moved into ‘Data Communications, then Networking and everything around it as a senior Technical Lead at Cisco). During my time at WWL, punched paper card duplicators and collating machines were most popular items being manufactured. I think one of the very small models was a 2900 and I seem to recall something called a DCA. I started in Machine Test and moved to Electronic Test and Repairs. The most memorable part of my time there were the people. They passed on knowledge happily and created a family like environment. Among the names I remember are Richard Wildash, Ken Crawley, Chris (C squared) williams, Dougie, John West, Skelton, Alan, Dangerous Dave, Martin in stores, Welsh Wayne, Gary (Heat Seeker), The Sheriff, George O’brien and of course Robin Cull (RIP) who became my best man. (And lots more whose faces I can still see but names currently escape me). Would love to get hold of some photos of that time in the factory and offices (people and products). Great times.
Thanks for sharing those memories, Ken. Several of those you mentioned still represent us proudly and we agree – they are all good people!
I joined WWL in the early 1980’s, I started as an electronic engineer working on 6502 based computer controllers of the Card Duplicators.
I really enjoyed my time and was there right up to when I retired in 2010.
I did get promoted to Machine test manager and after that I joined customer support and travelled all over the world installing and solving problems on all the WWL range.
Got to say it was the best job I ever had 🙂
I am sure that WWL will still be the number 1 dealer in the microfilm world for a very long time to come
All the Best
Thanks for sharing and for your kind words. We’re pleased to hear you enjoyed your time at WWL; thank you for your years of service!
I joined WWL in 1981, i started as a prototype wireman. I was interview by Tony Wicks & Roy Elmslie. I was an avid electronics hobbyist and had started to build my first computer in 1979 which then cost about £600. My interview was very good to have the MD there and he was very technically strict. I was taken on a factory tour and into the R&D labs where they were trying to debug a basic program, in a second i could see the error, pointed it out, they correct the program typo and ran it……. It worked. I was then given the job, (not sure if that was a test or not ).
I worked with a great team, Alan Hollocks, Chas Smith, Owen Haywood, Reg Hubbard, to mention a few. I got my first hands on experience with Commadore PET computers and a floppy disc drive which I had never seen before. All this computer experience led me to sadly leave WWL employment to gain more knowledge in the world of computer engineering and to go into computer servicing working for a small local company. This position allowed me to still maintain contact with WWL and get them some good discounts for all the computers their were investing in at the time. This employment lasted 3 years and liquidated and I contacted Mr Wicks to see if wanted any cut price computers, namely Apricots, I remember he snapped and said YES HOW MUCH…. He ask me to get many, many units for £10,000 and went into WWL one evening and her and Margarete were counting out the cash for me to take back to buy the equipment, I think he was very grateful, so grateful he offered me my old job back in 1983 and I then became WWL inhouse computer repair guy along with being a protype engineer which I then developed the in house small scale PCB production process, and we went from Vero board prototypes to rapidly made PCBs.
Without WWL and Mr Wicks my career would not be where it is, and without some great mentors I would not have gained such valuable knowledge.
It was a large family of friends, a training ground to skills and all the people did the extra mile because they got the same back.
If I saw a job position, I would go back to WWL today, I would go immediately because I am sure it still has the same values, even if most of the original staff I know have gone. I admire all those left and remain loyal and dedicated.
Glad to hear you had an amazing experience and thank you for sharing your story!