BULL computers chronological history

Beginning of a Restructuring

Bull attempts to enter the Open systems (UNIX) software market, launching an ambitious program of system administration (née ISM Integrated System Management). It started to trim down R&D GCOS expenses (shutting down the GCOS6 product line. Instead of pursuing its own UNIX product line, Bull started to negotiate alliances with RISC microprocessors producers (MIPS then IBM) to develop jointly UNIX systems designed to eventually replace mainframe product lines.
Several restructuring plans (aimed to decrease the human resources cost) are initiated in USA and in France.

Francis Lorentz

Bernard Pache

1989 Honeywell reduces its shares into Honeywell-Bull Inc under the consolidation threshold at 15.6%. Bull owns now 69.4% of Bull HN (née-Honeywell-Bull Inc)
2 Oct 1989 Bull acquires the microcomputer business of Zenith, that will be named Zenith Data Systems, at a price of $635M
Oct 1989 Bull acquires a  sales license from MIPS for the high end R-6000 UNIX systems
a technology license agreement for a Bull multiprocessor system based on the future MIPS R-4000 processor is also granted. Francis Lorentz enters the MIPS board
1989 results: 1988 results: sales 41,250MF (incl. 8.55MF from Zenith), losses 267MF (including provisions for a 1200p lay-off).
1 Mar 1990 Jean-Claude Albrecht (ex-CEO of ICL France) joins Groupe Bull to be president of Bull SA
May 1990 Hervé Gallaire (ex-ECRC joint venture) replaces Philippe Picard as head of the Networks division
Sep 1990 Manufacturing of Zenith product line for Europe at Villeneuve d'Ascq
8 Nov 1990 "Plan de Mutation" to reduce the total staff of Bull from 44 480p
31 Dec 1990 Attempt of creating a joint venture with Videoton in Hungary
Dec 1990 Christian Joly retires from Bull and is replaced by Lucio Pinto, as head of  engineering
1990 results: sales 34,579MF, losses 6,790MF
Jan 1991 Alain Couder (ex-HP) replaces Hervé Gallaire at the head of Distributed systems and Software division.
Mar 1991 Announcement of Bull Computing Model, (code-named PurpleWay) a concept of Distributed Computing using open standards.
The model, that is essentially UNIX based, applies also to mainframes GCOS computers and to PCs.
May 1991 Bull interrupts its effort to base UNIX computers on MIPS and looks for other partners.
MIPS is almost one year late on R-4000. The R-6000 is too expensive and non-competitive. MIPS and NEC cooperate (NEC is the major silicon founder of MIPS), but Bull does not want at that time to increase its dependency from NEC. MIPS will soon fall into the hands of Silicon Graphics. Bull is courted by Hewlett-Packard and IBM. that want more partners for their architecture.
1991 Honeywell relinquishes all its participation into Bull HN bought by Bull.
NEC will exchange soon its 15% of Bull HN for a 4.7% share of CMB (the holding of Bull)
May 1991 Axel LeBlois replaces Roland Pampel (leaving the company) , as Bull HN president.
May 1991 Belfort Bull Périphériques activities are suspended. The assets are partially taken back by a  new subsidiary (Nipson) for non-impact printers. SERRIB, another subsidary, takes over the maintenance of peripherals.
May 1991 Bull interrupts its strategic alliance with MIPS.
During the second half of the year, Bull will be courted by Hewlett-Packard (searching partners for its HP-PA RISC architecture) and by IBM (wishing to extend its PowerPC alliance)
Jun 1991 Lucio Pinto resigns from Bull for Olivetti. Michel Bloch is promoted as president of Bull Produits Systèmes (engineering and marketing).
1991 results: sales 33,450MF, losses: 3,301MF
1992 First shipment of a new GCOS-7 system (Auriga 1) shipped as DPS-7000 high end model.
Auriga is a new 6-way SMP system built in CMOS technology.
20 Jan 1992 Announcement of the agreement between Bull and IBM
Bull adopts the PowerPC architecture (shared between IBM and Motorola), Bull will develop a SMP PowerPC  multiprocessor computer for itself and IBM., IBM would distribute Zenith notebooks computers, IBM will take a 4.5% share of Bull (5.7% initially)
The Bull-IBM link had been challenged publicly by part of the French government, including the prime minister, Edith Cresson, who preferred an agreement with HP.
May 1992 Jean-Claude Albrecht leaves the Company for GIAT Industries. He is replaced by Albert Lévy-Soussan
Jul 1992 The French government requests  the resignation of Francis Lorentz who is replaced by Bernard Pache.
1992 Creation of a software engineering joint venture with the French software house STERIA, named BSGL (Bull Steria Génie Logiciel)
1992 France Telecom decides to adopt Bull's Distributed Computing Model.
1992 Bull and NEC agree to consider a joint development of a new line of GCOS/ACOS computers, based on Bull's CMOS technology.
That program will lead to Jupiter for GCOS8/ACOS6, made public in 1975. NEC also considered the import of Auriga2 computers to complement their ACOS4 as a medium size computer. After one year study of enhancing Auriga2 with XSA architecture (defined in common between Bull and NEC), that project was cancelled end of 1993, due to timing constraints for NEC.
1992 results: sales 30,180MF, losses 4,700MF
Mar 1993 Michel Bloch leaves the Company and is replaced by Francis Ackermann (previously head of Unix engineering in Grenoble). André Lévy-Soussan is replaced by Hervé Mouren as head of domestic sales.
Apr 1993 First shipment of DPS-9000-500 (code-named RPM-2) a GCOS8 computer designed by Phoenix engineering on the base of the Auriga French technology and manufactured in Angers.
1 Sep 1993 Bull Angers is split in Bull Electronics Europe (printed boards manufacturing for OEMs, noticeably Packard Bell) and Bull Systèmes Industries (assembling Bull sold systems)
Sep 1993 Bernard Pache leaves Bull and is replaced by Jean-Marie Descarpentries as PDG.
J-M Descarpentries's first decision will to transfer his  headquarters from the prestigious La Défense's tower to the Louveciennes' barracks
31 Dec 1993 Closure of the Paris Gambetta building., the cradle of the company for 62 years
After the establishment of headquarters in avenue de Malakoff, then at La Défense, Gambetta building surface was partially sold and only half of GCOS-7 software people was staying there. After the closure, those engineers were transferred to Les Clayes.
1993 results: sales 28,250MF losses 5,070MF(including provisions) personnel 31725p
Jun 1994 Introduction of the first GCOS7 single chip computer (Auriga 2 or Artémis, sold as DPS-7000)
the CPU chip includes 5 million transistors. A system may include up to 6x CPU boards grouping 4 x CPU, a total of up to 24 CPUs, that can be partitioned in several operating systems and/or being dedicated to specific functions.
Sep 1994 Introduction of  PowerPC multiprocessor system Escala (née Pegasus form a cooperation between Bull Italia, Grenoble and IBM Austin) operating under an advanced version of AIX.
Sep 1994 Important Bull HN assets, including the maintenance in North America and the Federal business, is sold to Wang.
Sep 1994 Thierry Breton named directeur général
28 Oct 1994 The La Defense's tower is emptied from the Sales people, transferred in Louveciennes.



Revision : 29 avril 2002.