Scala Turns 25: Looking Back at Floppy Disks and Acid Wash Jeans on the Chicken Farm

By October 9, 2012 No Comments

This week, Scala celebrates its 25th Anniversary! Over the weekend, our CEO Tom Nix caught up with Scala founder Jon Bøhmer for a timely online chat about Scala’s beginnings.

Jon Bøhmer: I think it is quite remarkable that Scala is the world’s oldest independent multimedia company.

Tom Nix: I agree, look at what you started, an incredible achievement.  Would love to hear your story, since I tell the story of the company from what I’ve heard second hand.

Jon Bøhmer: The back story is that I was turning 20 on Oct 10, 1987 and I was freaked out since I had not started my own company yet. So I ran down to the government office and registered it. The InfoChannel idea came a few months later.

I had graduated from high school that spring and was working in a hamburger factory to make money to buy my first Amiga. I was just going to run the company for a year before starting university just to get some experience… First I was just making videos for companies and events but then I talked to the local cable company and they were sending out letters every month to all the subscribers – this was required by law. So I said – hey, just connect the Amiga to the RF modulator – you will have your own channel, but they had no idea how to use it, even a mouse was a novelty back then. I designed a very easy to use thing, hired a friend to help code it, then I sold the two floppies for $2000. I had to pay my friend with food from my parents’ farm since I had no capital.

When I made the first sale to the biggest cable company in Norway I knew we had something. We set up in Denmark within months. Then Sweden, UK and Holland. Then I got some more developers – Øyvind Harboe, Daniel Bloch and Jan-Ivar, and we started making the first networked version. Then we cut some features and made the MM100. Sold over five million of those for the Amiga. Pretty astounding when you realize they only made about ten million Amigas. It was bundled with every Amiga in the last few years.

I remember the early years better than the later ones because it was just so much more fun. The ultimate underdogs, but we always had the most amazing software. We did tricks that Apple only could do after OSX. Ten years ahead of Jobs the guru…

Tom Nix: Jon do you have any photos?

Jon Bøhmer: OK I have two photos. 1994 – the whole developer team:

(Scala team in Oslo, April 1994 —Inge Arnesen, Michael Sinz, Jan-Ivar Bruaroey, Jerry Horanoff, Thomas Hansen, Jon Bøhmer, Øyvind Harboe, Lars Hamre, Dana Williams, Daniel Bloch, Øivind Danielsen, Nico François, Scott Drysdale, Steen Hardy Danielsen, Jeff Porter, Ken Farinsky, André Tieg and Darren Greenwald.)

Jon Bøhmer: Many faces you will recognize. Peter Cherna, Jeff Porter, Jan Ivar, Darren Greenwald, John Orr.

Tom Nix: Peter still looks that age.

Jon Bøhmer: So one from 1989 – vintage. It’s a Norwegian newspaper clipping:

Scala at the start

Jon Bøhmer: Headline: “Boys with million visions”. It talks about how we have signed a large deal and are setting up offices in Sweden and Denmark.

Tom Nix: Love it, and the acid wash jeans.

Jon Bøhmer: White socks mind you.

Jon Bøhmer: The photo was taken in my attic office on the chicken farm. My quote: “It has been hard to make people believe in us, but now things are looking up”. So five years later you see the team on the steps outside the Oslo office. Quite a progression. The company was still called Digital Visjon. We changed to Scala the year after I think.

Tom Nix: Good stuff! Really enjoyed this treat tonight.  Hope we can catch up soon.