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ShowCAD Control Systems Ltd. is owned and run by Rowland Hughes and Mick Martin, who have been in the lighting industry since the 1970s, meeting at Illusion Lighting and subsequently forming Martin Hughes Developments in 1980 and later, in 1984, AXON Digital Design Ltd.

This company (Axon) was renamed ShowCAD Control Systems in 1997 due to our commitment to name all further products under the umbrella titling of ShowCAD and for ease of recognition by the industry. It remains in all other details the same company as Axon.

Currently our aim is to produce the most advanced control systems possible. Lower end controllers are of secondary importance to us, although we will be producing low cost spin off products from the principal systems in future.

Video 4000

Although we have considerable experience in both manufacture and installation, our interest and efforts have largely been in the field of lighting control. Mick's first successful controller was Illusion Lighting's Video 4000 (1978), designed and prototyped with the able assistance of Tom Keating. The Video 4000 won the 1978 Billboard award for Best Lighting Controller. Innovations included the dimming of neon strip and slave Power Pack capability, making the Video 4000 something of an industry standard for many years.

Sun City

The first large scale control system was installed in Sun City, South Africa in 1979. This was a custom made control panel offering total control of the discotheque from one panel and slave packs. This system consisted of technology developed for the Video 4000, although it spawned the next generation of ideas.

Camden Palace


In 1981 we built a 256 channel control system specially designed for the Camden Palace in London. We designed and constructed two large racks of analog dimmer packs driven by a 256 analog output demultiplexer connected to the console control panel by an RS422 8 bit wide synchronous digital signal transmitted at 32Kbytes/sec.

The control panel deployed an integral VDU, touch actuators and digital fader wheels. It could store 256 cues, 256 groups and 256 chases. By the way, but as something of a recommendation, the Camden Palace went on to upgrade this system to 512 channels with additional features in 1985 and in 1988 an OSKA system (see below) was installed there - and again in 1994 a ShowCAD system (see further below) was installed in their ¬£2 million refit. So from Illusion controllers in the seventies through to ShowCADs in the nineties, that's 5 different control systems and numerous upgrades and expansions all carried out by ourselves in a period spanning more than twenty years. I think that we could claim this as a testimonial from satisfied clients! 

Litesynth 96

The Litesynth 96 was developed in 1982/3 to specification jointly produced by ourselves and Tony Gottelier. This was a 19" by 3U unit producing 96 channels digitally, with the ability to record and playback static looks, sequences and scenes. It was specifically designed for medium installation.


In 1986 we formed a coalition with Pulsar Lighting of Cambridge, England, for whom we developed an extension of the Camden system. This was called OSKA, an abbreviation of Matrioska (the Russian doll within a doll within a doll - reference to the window within a window method of accessing information through OSKA's touch screen front end). Pulsar were at the beginning of their relationship with Clay Paky and jointly producing the GoldenScan. At that time, only very primitive control was available for intelligent lighting, but with the development of OSKA, the GoldenScans came to life, producing effects never before seen. Such applications demanded that the control system have certain abilities that had not even been considered before this time.


The OSKA system consisted of the touch sensitive 51cm interactive CRT monitor, through which all control was effected, and 16 digital fader wheels. The output was via a DMX512 serial interface.

In 1986 there was considerable resistance to the adoption of DMX512, but it is now evident that the exponential growth of the effect lighting industry is due, very largely, to the acceptance of DMX.



showcad controlled systemBy the late eighties the PC was coming of age. Hardware was coming down in cost in a kind of direct correlation to increases in power and performance. The promise of an ever-evolving industry-standard platform was the basis for the ShowCAD philosophy. It was also clear that developing customized hardware of an ever increasingly complex nature was not cost effective. After reviewing a number of options, we decided on the use of the PC as a platform on the basis that it was globally available and we anticipated that it would still be around in an improved form in the years to come. In this respect, our assumption was vindicated - beyond our wildest expectations! The intervening years have seen the prices of PCs plummet whilst their performance has risen exponentially. Their acceptance is universal and availability is now commonplace, whereas many competitors from the eighties are now either non-existent or still occupy a niche market, no matter how good their products.

Anyway, the end result of this made our systems easier to support and upgrade than any other (non-PC based) systems, and the vast range of interfaces & accessories designed for the PC were also open for use.

showcad system

Please take a look at our latest show control system - Artist