Altium Limited (formerly known as Protel until 2001) is an American, Australian-domiciled owned public software company that provides PC-based electronics design software for engineers who design printed circuit boards. Founded as Protel Systems Pty Ltd in Tasmania, Australia in 1985, Altium now has regional headquarters in the United States, Australia, China, Europe, and Japan, with resellers in all other major markets.
Nicholas Martin, an electronics designer working at the University of Tasmania in the 1980s, recognized that the tools then available limited the ability to design printed circuit boards, either through a difficult manual process, or by requiring high-priced software that required expensive mainframe computers. With the development of the personal computer, Martin saw an opportunity to make the design of electronics product affordable, by marrying the techniques of electronics design to the PC platform. In 1985 he founded Protel Systems Pty Ltd, launching the company's first product later that same year — a DOS-based printed circuit board (PCB) layout and design tool. Protel PCB was marketed internationally by HST Technology Pty Ltd. since 1986. In October 1986 the San Diego-based ACCEL Technologies, Inc. acquired marketing and support responsibilities of the PCB program for the USA, Canada and Mexico under the name Tango PCB. In 1987, Protel launched the circuit diagram editor Protel Schematic for DOS. This was followed by Autotrax and Easytrax in 1988.
Protel's headquarters resided in Hobart, TAS, Australia until 1990 when Nick Martin decided to move the company to California's Silicon Valley, which was proving to be a hot spot for technology companies. In 1994, he moved operations back to Sydney, followed by the successful IPO in August 1999.
In 1991, Protel released Advanced Schematic/PCB 1.0 for Windows, the world's first Windows-based PCB design system.
The company continued to develop and release new versions of this design tool, including Protel 98 in 1998, Protel 99 in 1999 and Protel 99 SE in 2000.
In August 1999, Altium was listed as a public company (ASX:ALU) to assist in funding of strategic technology development and acquisition.
After a number of strategic technology and company acquisitions (see below), Protel Systems changed its name to Altium in 2001. Through various acquisitions Altium has maintained a significant presence in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Protel DXP was issued in 2003, Protel 2004 in 2004, Altium Designer 6.0 in 2005.
In 2011, Altium announced it would be expanding its presence in Shanghai, China in the second half of 2011 to take advantage of lower wages. The company will remain an Australian headquartered company and will continue to be listed on the Australian stock exchange, with a major administration presence in Sydney. Development continues to be a global effort, with product development staff in United States, Ukraine, Australia and the Netherlands.
On October 15, 2012, the Altium board removed Nick Martin as CEO and named executive vice chairman Kayvan Oboudiyat to replace him. On October 23, 2012, Martin called for a general board meeting and disclosed he planned an attempt to oust four directors, including Oboudiyat. Briefly afterwards Martin called off the meeting and conceded that the company should continue on without belligerence.
On January 16, 2014, Altium announced Kayvan Oboudiyat's retirement and succession by Aram Mirkazemi as CEO. In May of the same year, Altium announced that the core R&D operations for its flagship PCB CAD tools would again relocate in a "cost neutral" move to San Diego, California.This move is proposed in order for the development and senior management to be closer to the North American user base in an effort to maintain customer centricity for PCB CAD tools. Key hardware design services and Internet of Things (IoT) development teams remain in Shanghai, to better service customers and business partners in China; again reflecting a commitment to what the customers in each region need most.