How it all began

A leap of faith

Way back in the 1970s one of our founder members, Nigel Taffs, was working for an HVAC manufacturer producing quotations for coils, fan coils, air handling units and chillers. Back then the work was laborious, being completed manually and requiring calculation or look up from tabulated data. It could also take three weeks to get drawings back from drafting.

Recognising the benefit of automating these calculations, Nigel had already been working on this using a programmable scientific calculator with Reverse Polish Notation (RPN). However, he managed to persuade his employer that a personal computer (retailing in 1980 at many thousands of pounds) would be just the thing to speed things up.

Nigel had failed to mention a small but important point: he had never used a desktop computer before. On finding an enormous box on his desk one morning and discovering the Commodore 8032 inside, the next stop was his local library to teach himself programming – in super-fast time, from a book!

Our other founding member, Ray Nottage, knew Nigel professionally. On seeing the coil selection program Nigel created on the Commodore, entrepreneurial Ray immediately recognised the potential of this ground-breaking, automated approach.

It’s incredible to think of now, but Ray’s biggest challenge at the start was trying to convince new clients that their work could be done by a computer program. It was so radical at the time, it took a bit of imagination to see the possibilities.

After some eloquent sales talk from Ray and a leap of faith from the client, in November 1980 Computair secured its first contract for £12,000 (about £50,000 in today’s money) for an AHU program. The journey had begun.

In the 21st century it is impossible to be competitive in the world of custom air handlers without software to layout, run selections and generate drawings. The sales processes of all modern air handler manufacturers involve the use of AHU design software. It all started with Computair in 1980.