Mr Apricot waves goodbye to his baby

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There was a little bit of computer industry history yesterday when Roger Foster - the man know as Mr Apricot - waved goodbye to his baby. The event was played out in the stark surrounds of a merchant bank where Mr Foster announced he had agreed to sell his 30-year-old company ACT, formerly know as Apricot Computers, to a rival group.

This might not sound worthy of mention outside of computer circles but it was under Mr Foster that Apricot shot to nation-wide attention in the computer boom of the early 1980s.

Sir Clive Sinclair sold his computers business to Amstrad; Acorn had to be rescued by Olivetti, but for a few years Apricot was a British computer that was holding its own. For two years from 1983 Apricot Computers outsold the mighty IBM in Britain.

Apricot still flourishes, of course, though under new ownership. ACT sold the computer manufacturing business to Mitsubishi in 1990 to concentrate on software.

"I suppose it's a sad day," Mr Foster said yesterday. "But I've been in the job for 30 years and you can get past your sell-by date. I hope to still get involved in the industry in some way, but in the meantime I plan to hack about on some golf courses."

But Mr Foster certainly made his mark. He was known for his flashy product launches, full of dry ice, dancing girls and fanfare at the Royal Albert Hall.

Mr Foster and his Apricot colleagues started out in Birmingham in 1965, running a computer bureau that ran payrolls for companies too small to afford their own computer.

The group floated on the Stock Exchange in 1979 and in 1983 launched the Apricot PC. Mr Foster renamed the company ACT when the manufacturing business was sold to Mitsubishi for £39m.

Yesterday's historic deal - on paper anyway - is worth around £1m to Mr Foster.

Merger details, page 30