A brief introduction into Ranger computers
Founded in 1987, Ranger is a private company based in Duston, just to the West of the town of Northampton in central England.Ranger provides specialist technology to corporate customers in the entertainment and book trades in the UK and elsewhere. Unusually, Ranger is also an equipment manufacturer, producing integrated POS (Point of Sale) equipment including the Phoenix and Oscar systems.
In the 1980's Ranger worked with Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor of the world's first pocket calculator, to develop professional applications for his pioneering Z88 portable computer, the forerunner of all modern laptops. Z88 was successfully deployed in applications as diverse as at one extreme battlefield intelligence gathering and at the other, film scripting for the famous Aardman animations company.
Through this pioneering work the company came to the notice of the UK Music Industry and Ranger were invited to submit a tender for the capture of sales data in independent record shops in collaboration with market research company Millward Brown.When this tender was accepted in 1993, Ranger took over an existing network of 1500 'Epson' portable computers already installed in independent record shops throughout the UK. Within the first year, Ranger had managed to lift the quality of the data returned from these stores from a somewhat problematic sample to a virtual measurement of sales performance with immense benefits to the UK music industry.
The music Industry wisely assumed in 1993 that independent retailers would rapidly move to automated POS systems and that this would lead to a further enhancement in the quality of sales data being collected. Several big-name computer companies had expressed an interest in providing POS systems and initially Ranger were contracted to work with these companies in facilitating the flow of sales data through to the chart system. Unfortunately, record shop automation proved to be much more difficult than these companies anticipated. Gradually their efforts were abandoned as they appreciated the true implications of processing thousands of product lines, constantly changing prices and relentless new releases. One by one, they disappeared from the market.
So, in 1995, Ranger were asked by the industry to design a music specific Epos system. It was decided to pursue the development as a commercial venture, rather than seeking industry funds, so that the company could have freedom of action. What resulted was an entirely new, and unique, Epos system - Oscar.From the outset, Oscar was designed to be 'information rich', meaning that much more information would flow from the system to the user. This turned conventional Epos thinking, where information flow is almost entirely that keyed in by the user, on it's head and explained why the other attempts at record shop automation had failed.
Crucially, Oscar was designed around MBI's music catalogue, permitting any music item to be instantly identified, priced and sold along with itemised receipt and recorded sales details. This was the first time that an Epos system had been designed with an industry database as it's core and to ensure that the system gave users sufficient technical flexibility to use the information, Microsoft Windows was chosen for the operating system.
The result was not just an Epos system, but an information network optimised for the music industry that completes a cycle of placing product information in the hands of retailers, allowing them to make sales, incorporating those sales into official charts that prompt consumers to buy more records, and so on. Today, Oscar is the de-facto standard Epos system for independent music retailers, not just in the UK but increasingly in other countries as well.