Bowling in the fast lane
THE Biggs family are well known as the owner-operators of the busy Coolangatta-Tweed Tenpin alley at Tweed Heads since the 1970s.
But fewer people would be aware of the impact that one of the family's second generation, son Ross Biggs, is having on the game globally.
Every week around the world over one million games of tenpin bowling are played on software and hardware developed and produced by Ross and his team of five employees here on the Tweed.
In fact his company, Computer Score, based on Machinery Dr, has captured more than 80% of the Australian market.
His equipment is powering more than 400 bowling centres around the world, with more than half of those in America.
So you could say Ross is beating the Americans at their own game, because in that country tenpin bowling is widely played socially and is one of the highest rating sports on TV.
"We started exporting into the States around 1995, but we were selling into other countries before that," Ross said over the cacophony of the family's bowling alley.
Currently the biggest centre their equipment operates in has 64 lanes in Palm Beach, Florida.
Ross says they are by no means the most successful such company selling into the States, but they don't need to be, as it's a huge market.
They have distributors in the US, Malaysia and South Africa.
Ross said it was his father Don and uncles Max and Bob's desire to design a system upgrade in-house for the family bowling centre that was the launching pad for the company.
The family had been working with contractors, but after Ross graduated from the University of Queensland with an electrical engineering degree in 1988, he took over.
His system features a combination of custom-designed electronics and components made locally, combined with imported electronics that are then assembled in their workshop.
The dual scoring chassis have embedded PCs run on a custom- designed licensed Windows-based program that is also written locally.
The console is produced by themselves and other local fabricators.
The keypad is made by a Brisbane company and the scoring camera is programmed locally.
For all the handwringing about the future of Australian manufacturing, Ross says in niche industries like his, this country enjoys some advantages.
He says an Australian-design mentality that produces easy-to-use products was a big selling point, especially in industries like his that were not IT-oriented.
"We get a lot of feedback from Americans that they like our system because it's easy to use.
"It's got a certain design philosophy that turns out to be simple to use.
"We are in a very specific market.
"If we attempted to make a similar sort of product for a larger mass market we'd be swamped by Asian, American and European manufacturers."
"I just don't think that sometimes as Australians we back ourselves enough."
But it's the potential for big things locally that really animates this born-and-bred Tweed boy.
"Sometimes I despair of people thinking they can't make an opportunity for themselves in Tweed.
"There's a lot of very talented and capable people in Tweed and we should celebrate that."
AMONG the coolest places Computer Score's equipment is installed is Google's corporate headquarters in California and in Middle Eastern royal palaces.
One of the company's emerging markets is the home tenpin bowling alley.
An increasing number of wealthy people, especially in America, are forking out $50,000 on average to install bowling lanes in their pads.
They include American rapper Lil Wayne who has Ross' equipment in his recording studio.
"He paid an extra $4000 to have red lanes because Mr Wayne, or Lil to his friends, likes red," Ross revealed.
While he admits he's probably the only one who notices, Ross gets a buzz when his scoring equipment is used in bowling alley scenes in high-profile US TV programs like The Big Bang Theory.