Recollections of Sömmerda

Personal -
In this small section of the Soemtron website we hope to gather personal thoughts and recollections of Sömmerda, the Soemtron brand and its people.  To kick this section off the first is from Bernard Green who was Senior Engineer at Office and Electronic Machines Ltd. (OEM Ltd.)[1] in London UK.  Has sent us his recollections of his time at the factory and its influence in later life.

From Bernard Green by email October 2009, reprinted with permission.

"For me the visit to Sömmerda was very important for personal reasons as well as reviving information about the ETR220 and ETR224."

"Forty two years ago almost to the day, I had left Sömmerda after a ten week training course on the workings, repair and customer service of the ETR220.  I went there in July 1967 as 20 year old who spoke no German and with some trepidation about going behind the Iron Curtain as Sömmerda was in the then East Germany.  So many unknowns."

"The inner workings of the ETR220 were extremely well taught right down to the basics of how a transistor works.  What was obvious was the amount of work that had gone into creating the logic design of the ETR220 to provide all the mathematical functionality with the fewest possible components.  A brilliant design technique that has been almost lost with the advent of millions of transistors in little chips and software to tell the transistors what to do."

"That training course provided me with the solid knowledge and skills for developing a successful career in electronics evolving from service engineer to senior designer in both hardware and software.  While directed at the ETR220 the basic design techniques are valid for all designs of electronic equipment.  The ethic of minimising component count as far as possible standing me in good steed throughout."

"But more came from those 10 weeks.  Being in self catering accommodation I had to learn German to buy food.  I also had to learn German to follow the training course as the interpreter provided was a primarily a translator and didn't work in real time as an interpreter does.  For two weeks I did have an interpreter who encouraged me to give the revisions to the class in German and helped me to expand my vocabulary.  So I came back to the UK speaking pretty good German which also opened many doors during my developing career."

"And from the visit I learnt that irrespective of the language they speak, recent history, aggressive propaganda, conflicting political regimes and differing standards of living, people are basically the same where-ever they are."

"Those 10 weeks were a turning point in my life.  So to be back one more time in Sömmerda was very important to me."

"The people of Sömmerda in 1967 were very friendly and helpful, the people in Sömmerda in 2009 continue to be as friendly and as helpful.  Some of the people from 1967 I am back in contact with.  To meet them again was good."

So, Bernard has started this little nostalgia trip! lets have a few more postings, email with your thoughts.


  1. OEM Ltd.   Office and Electronic Machines Ltd., 140-154, Borough High Street, London, SE1 1LH.  Marketing company for mechanical desk calculators.  "Distributors for the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland of Adler, Triumph, and Imperial typewriters, calculators, invoicing, accounting, word processing machines, and other office equipment and machines."  (Text from an advert placed by OEM Ltd, in the Glasgow Herald of the 11th June 1973 which gives their results and prospects for 1973-4.

    They were also known at various times as - Office and Electronic Machines PLC., O.E.M. (Systems Furniture) Ltd. (#01396792), O.E.M. Orion Ltd. (#01666907), O.E.M. Orion (#1179756).  They appeared to have petitioned for the winding up of several other companies as their creditors in 1979 and 1982[top]

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