Book Of Digital Signage Revelations: RIM Started As A DS Company

February 24, 2012 by Dave Haynes

I was having a quick run through my RSS feeds and noticed a curious B&W photo of three very nerdy-looking guys posing with a couple of old TVs and what look like calculators, in front a shopping mall Kmart.


What the hell is that? And why is the guy on the left vaguely, really vaguely, familiar?

Turns out, after reading the post on The Verge, that the guy on the left is Research In Motion founder Mike Lazaridis, and before he started monkeying with wireless data networks he was doing really, really early digital signage.

The Canadian news magazine Macleans has more detail:

His breakout moment arrived in 1984, during his last year of university. Along with Fregin, with whom he would maintain a lifelong friendship and professional association, Lazaridis built a computer display system called Budgie that allowed users to write words onto their TV screens. That March, using $15,000 from his parents and a student loan from the Ontario government, the pair incorporated Research In Motion so they could start selling the product. (Lazaridis had hoped to call the company Paradigm Research, but that name was taken; he settled for RIM after hearing a football play referred to as “poetry in motion.”)

But Budgie never really took off. Sales were dismal. Not one to accept defeat, Lazaridis used RIM’s new-found exposure to land a $600,000 contract with Computer Advertising Signs to design and build LED information boards for General Motors plants. A year later, the technology was snapped up by Corman Manufacturing, which provided RIM with a consistent revenue stream. By 1990, annual revenue had ballooned to over $1 million.

It was at that point that Jim Balsillie got involved with the company, and for some strange reason they collectively saw more money for RIM in wireless messaging than pixel-boards in GM plants.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I often get asked why there are so many digital signage software companies in southern Ontario. I say awareness breeds interest, curiosity and competition. Then there’s the whole research tax credit thing. Turns out there’s also a history aspect to it.


  1. Lyle Bunn says:

    And who can forget Dave Nichols who in pioneering “no name” grocery, used TV and video loops in point of purchase merchandising to brand and sell his “President’s Choice” brands.. It’s all about the content..

Leave a comment