1981-1985 Foundation

Past history

It was the age of electronic hobbyists- As there was not such a range of electronic equipment in the 1980s, many electronic hobbyists had to meet their needs for amplifiers, flashing disco lights, light beam switches and much more by developing it themselves. The Contag brothers did this too, as they enjoyed electronics and microtechnology and just "tinkering".

The required circuit boards were made at home with caustic acids on a desk. Their mother wasn't exactly enthusiastic about the chemicals and the power failures following short circuits, but was pleased that the children had a more sensible hobby than "TV and hanging about".

Their father was a professor of chemistry and he knew how to make circuit boards properly, so he asked his sons if they weren't interested in opening up their own shop. The sons were full of enthusiasm. He carefully showed them the production at Berlin's TFH technical college and gave them starting capital for the first three months rent, for insurance premiums and to order some material. Then he said "The rest is up to you, if you've got any questions you can call me - this is how to become independent."

The business model

"CONTI's CIRCUIT BOARD SERVICE" makes the production equipment available in the shop and the electronic hobbyists and students could etch and drill the circuit boards themselves.

The start

It began on 14th October 1981. They were looking for a wooden shed under a railway bridge. What they actually found was a proper, small "shop" with 2 rooms, each 20 m, in Siemensstadt.

Telephone and running water? There was none of that in the first year. That would have been too expensive for a schoolboy and a 1st year student. Water for the production was fetched from the hand pump in the street, which was mostly used for washing cars in those days. The publican next door always turned a smiling, blind eye, when they need to use the toilet...


The small man next to the shop door, manually cut out with great effort, was supposed to attract the "electronic hobbyists" from the Siemens plant across the road.


The rooms were decorated very cosily. Mother was responsible for this, amongst others, with home sewn curtains.

Then the first order: Received from their best friend, who needed circuit boards to build his flashing light system.

The advertising

An old beaten-up R4 was sprayed bright yellow and labelled all over. This "attraction" was then parked in front of electronic shops. With loads of flyers in the side windows, the hobbyist was appealed to.






The first advertising flyer was sponsored by the Siemensstadt church parish, as a reward for help with renovation and youth work in the church. The hobbyists could make their circuit boards themselves and paid 6.00 DM (about 3.00 ) for a single-sided board. Of course the Contag brothers would make it for you, but then it would cost 8.00 DM (about 4.00 ).

Funkausstellung trade fair Berlin - An emotional climax

1983 - Our own small exhibition booth at the Funkausstellung trade fair. Here to, it was "do it yourself" and they drilled, hammered, sawed and painted. Every letter on the wall was carefully cut out with a jigsaw, as anything else would just have been too expensive.

Will the business model work?

In the first years, the "shop" was only open 2 hours in the week (Monday from 16:00 to 18:00), they simply hadn't got any more time available. The Contags had other jobs to do such as a "Night-time snow-clearing service" so that they had enough money to keep the circuit board shop afloat during the day. And there was a course to study at the university too...

In the first year only a few students came, who saw flyers at the university. Then there were a few hobbyists, who found out about it in electronic shops. After 3 years, it was too much to cope with for the two of them and just 2 hours per week. University friends helped out, and opening hours were extended to include Wednesdays (also from 16:00 to 18:00).

 

Your personal contact

Guido Strehl
Assistant to the general
manager
+49 30 351 788-225
guido.strehlcontag.de