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1977 - The Beginning

At just seventeen years old, Jackson College (now GO TAFE) student John was curiously considering his future as he approached Certificate of Technology graduation. One summer evening, as John sat in the family kitchen doing homework, his uncle stopped by for a late-night espresso. “My uncle turned his attention to me and asked whether I was sick of doing homework.”

There were of course, many other things I would rather be doing than homework, but I always loved to learn.” John said. His uncle told him there may be a job opportunity and asked how he felt about attending a job interview.

It turned out that job was for an equipment technician with an Office Equipment Company called Witlox Office Machines. A little anxious, a young John walked down to Witlox Office Machines after school to meet with Tony Witlox.

Witlox Office Machines

Tony was a lovely man who was very passionate about his Dutch Origins and office equipment, and probably one of the most talented people John has ever met. He was the type of person that could completely restore a written off car, construct his Nixon Street, Shepparton shop and fly an Ultra-light aircraft.

During their discussion, he asked John to explain to him the workings of a photocopier. John looked at him blankly but remained optimistic. “Do you have a manual?” John asked. He stood up and started moving through stacks and stacks of paper in his huge library of office machine manuals.

He threw John a copy of the ‘Working Operation of a Photocopier’. Tony said, “Come back next week and explain to me how a photocopier works, and that was the end of the interview.”

Manuals

With that, John returned home to the kitchen bench and studied the manual cover to cover. John says, “Back when I was young, learning meant reading every word, again and again.” We of course, did not have access to the internet where we could rely on summaries and videos to make sense of things.

A week later, John provided  an explanation in great detail. The nervous presentation was well received with the acknowledgment of an opportunity to work on office machines upon one condition, John went back & completed the year at Jackson College.

Olivetti Lexicon 80

On the first day in his new career, John was thrust into the workings and operation of a typewriter. Part by part, an Olivetti Lexicon 80 was stripped down to componentry level in front of him by Tony Witlox. John stared down at the workbench which now had a mess of metal type arms, brackets and rails. John wondered how he would ever remember the reverse order of the dismantling process. John took the manual and got to work reassembling the typewriter where he began to comprehensively understand the workings of the Olivetti typewriter.

John persisted, “Each and every time the complexity of each machine became that little bit more familiar, my understanding got that little bit better and my skills developed to becoming the product specialist” he said.

“Once I had completely put it back together and made all adjustments required, the next component of the task was to sand the covers of the typewriter using emery paper, paint it with a spray gun and totally overhaul a typewriter,” said John. 

No Shortcuts

“This was the thing about working for Tony Witlox, there were no shortcuts. Not only did he know the equipment, but it was equally as important for him that we knew the mechanics of the machine. There was a degree of expectation with his technicians that they were patient, persistent and thorough in their ability to work and understand the equipment they were working on.  Otherwise, how do you build, sell or service a machine that you do not completely understand yourself.  This lesson is something I have always carried with me throughout my career,” John said.  

Solar City Office Equipment

After seven years working at Witlox Office Machines, John worked with Rod Kilgour Office Machines for some five years. At this time, John decided to establish himself and started his own business, Solar City Office Equipment. This was his first foray into business ownership. John has been in the Director’s chair for 32 years now.

The business has now grown and developed with 30 staff and 2 branch offices based in Shepparton and Albury. A few years ago, they acquired a Telco/Communications business that contributed to our re-brand. With that, Next Tech Group was born, with Next Office Tech and Next Com Tech.

What a journey

John says it has been an interesting journey working with businesses, schools and local councils, particularly seeing how communication has developed, many of whom once used dial phones, calculators and typewriters are now installing cloud phones, NBN services and interactive screens.

We are established in North East Victoria and Southern New South Wales, servicing Albury, Wagga Wagga, Wangaratta, Shepparton, Euroa, Mansfield, Wallan and surrounding areas.