50 Years Ago in Computer Weekly - Autumn 1967

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50 Years Ago... from the pages of Computer Weekly

compiled by TNMOC Volunteer Archivist, Brian Aldous

A selection of stories from Computer Weekly from the autumn of 1967.The full archive of Computer Weekly can be seen at TNMOC, where there are special rolling displays of front pages from 25 and 40 years ago.

Heart Patients to go On-Line An on-line real time system to monitor patients suffering from heart ailments is to be set up at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, using an IBM 1800 computer. It is claimed that this is the first such system in the British Isles. (CW61 p.16)

Strand Palace DEBBIE Guests’ accounts at London’s 800-bedroom Strand Palace Hotel are to be handled by a dual PDP-8 system which is due to be installed early next year and come into operation in the autumn. Known as DEBBIE - Duplex Electronic Billing, Book-keeping and Information Equipment - the £50,000 system will be able to provide a guest with a detailed account within 15 seconds. (CW63 p.1)

Elliott 803 Aids Sheep Breeding In an effort to improve the breed of Eire’s largest single sheep species - the Galways - the Eire Agricultural Institute are using an Elliott 803 computer, located at their Rural Economy Division in Dublin. (CW63 p.1)

PCM Comes into Operation On Tuesday the Post Office moved from the experimental to the operational application of Pulse Code Modulation (PCM), when PCM telephone circuits came into use between Sunbury-on-Thames and Faraday Building in central London. PCM is a technique allowing up to 24 telephone conversations to be carried over two pairs of wires.- instead of two conversations as at present. CW63 p.20)

Mass Memory by Laser Techniques A potential key to the growing need for cheap mass memory systems has been developed by scientists at the Honeywell Research Centre, in Minneapolis. The technique makes use of the polarisation properties of the laser, and the stray magnetic-optic effects of a film of manganese and bismuth. (CW61 p.16)

ATLAS for London Bridge Programs Load-distribution calculations for the superstructure of the new London Bridge have been performed using a suite of computer programs developed by International Computing Services Ltd, ICT’s bureau subsidiary, and run on the Atlas computer in Manchester. The 107-foot wide bridge will be constructed from pre-cast concrete sections of about 10 feet in length, and will have a three-span cantilevered construction with a suspended centre span. It will carry six lanes of traffic and two pedestrian footways, and an elevated walkway will be added at a later date. (CW60 p.20)

London University to have CDC 6600 The computing power of London University is to be increased by a factor of at least three by addition of a CDC 6600 installation. The new machine is scheduled for delivery at the end of 1968 and it is estimated that, together with the machines already available, this will satisfy the university’s computing needs until the early 1970s. (CW55 p.1)

Low Cost Challenge of new l/C PDP-8 A very competitive newcomer to the ranks of small computers was announced this week when Digital Equipment Corporation (UK) announced the integrated circuit version of the PDP-8 the PDP-8/I which will sell in this country at a price of only £5,625 for the rack-mounted version. The new machine is fully compatible with both the hardware and software of the PDP-8 and the PDP-8/S. (CW59 p.1)

ICT Move into Giant Machine Market A giant computer, the 1906A, with more than twice the power of Atlas, has been announced by ICT. A prototype has been in operation at the West Gorton plant for some months, and a production prototype is due to be switched on towards the end of 1968. (CW57 p.1)

All-British Punch Unit Introduced A new all-British keyboard punch verifier is to be put on the market following an agreement between Datek Systems Ltd and Ultronic Data Systems, the business machines subsidiary of Ultra Electronics. Ultronic are to sell and service the equipment which will be made by Datek. (CW51 p.1)

4-K Machine Compiler from ICT Users of 4K ICT 1901 computers will shortly be able to compile small-scale programs written in ASA basic FORTRAN or IFIP ALGOL. Compilers have been developed which are able to cope with programs of up to 70 or 80 instructions on 1900 machines of a minimum configuration of 4K, 24-bit words of core store, paper tape input and a line printer. (CW52 p.1)

Bankers Order £1m System An ICT 1906E computer system, worth over £1m, has been ordered by the Committee of London Clearing Bankers for their Inter-Bank Computer Bureau planned to come into operation in March next year in Lombard Street. (CW52 p.1)

Thin Film Memory Module Developed The successful development of a new thin film memory module for military computer applications has been announced in the USA by the Federal Systems Division of Univac. The system is claimed to be competitive in cost and superior in performance to conventional core memories in the speed range of 200 to 400 nanosecond cycle time. (CW52 p.9)

US Airline buys Elliott 4100 A London International Computer Centre equipped with a £130,000 NCR Elliott 4100 computer is to be set up by TransWorld Airways to handle the payroll for their London, Paris and Rome stations. As well as payroll, the computer’s initial applications will include the provision of passenger and freight sales statistics and analyses, expenses and general ledger analyses and the performance of ticket and airway bill stock control. (CW52 p.16)

First NRDC Aid for a New Application The £100,000 computer system which Cunard are to install in their new liner, the Q-4, will be based on a Ferranti Argus 400 computer and will have a range of functions far greater than that of any other existing merchant-ship installation. Cunard have co-operated with the British Ship Research Association, The National Research Development Corporation, Ferranti and the ship builders in the two-year preliminary investigation and research stages. (CW52 p.16)

£150,000 Oilfield Program As part of a five-year oilfield study conducted on behalf of the Iranian Oil Operating companies, CEIR have developed a complex computer model for forecasting the performance of Iranian oilfields. Development costs for the project amount to about £150,000 and the programming effort involved 16 man-years of work. (CW53 p.1)

Post Office Prepares for the NDPS One of the final actions of the last session of Parliament was to pass the Bill allowing the Post Office to establish a National Data Processing Service. Until that Bill became law the department was prohibited from setting up such a service, but a study of data processing developments within the Post Office shows that it was necessary to the reorganisation carried out prior to the Post Office becoming a state corporation. If the Bill had not existed it would have had to have been introduced very quickly. (CW53 p.12)

Production Snags Delay System 4 Production problems with peripherals of English Electric’s System 4 computer range have caused delays of up to three months in delivery. Announcing this, the company's marketing director, Mr Kenneth Barge, said the delays would be quickly overcome and that by the end of the year deliveries would be taking place at the rate of one a week. (CW53 p.20)

Automatic Program Testing with PATSY A suite of programs for automatic testing of programs on the 1900 series computers with a minimum of 8K 24-bit words of core store has been developed by ICT. Called PATSY, the package allows batches of programs written in PLAN, COBOL or NICOL to be amended, compiled and run with test data and requires the minimum of operator intervention. Source programs are batched on a magnetic tape file and dealt with in sequence in a continuous compilation and testing procedure. Error details are printed out for the programmers’ attention. (CW54 p.3)

Health Centre 360/75 System Aids Research Medical research data from over 300 projects will be processed on an IBM 360/75 system being established at the Centre for Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. Visual display terminals, such as the IBM 2250, linking remote locations to the system, will provide information in graphic form. The multi-million dollar facility was made possible by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and the 360/75 is replacing the centre’s original IBM 7040 and 7094 computers. (CW54 p.11)

£1m Contract for Air Traffic Control Centre Experimental data processing equipment to be tested at Euro-control’s experimental air traffic control centre at Bretigny, near Paris, will be based on a Marconi Myriad II computer with an associated French machine from CII, the Plan Calcul organisation. A £1 million contract was signed in Brussels last week. (CW54 p.20)

NDPS Offered Air Customs Real Time Job The National Data Processing Service, which was set up under the Post Office (Data Processing Service) Act, has been invited to set up and manage the £2 million real-time computer system proposed by Customs and Excise and the airlines to handle the control of imports at London Airport, Heathrow. (CW54 p.20)

NCR Introduce the 5900 A low cost bridge between the accounting machine and the general purpose digital computer has been developed by NCR, using components of their now well-established 500 series computers. The 5900 is, like the 500, a visible record computer using magnetic striped ledger cards for permanent data storage, and can be operated by accounting machine operators with little re-training. (CW55 p.2)

First System 4 Disc Supervisor At the same time as English Electric Computers announced the availability of the first disc operating system for System 4, two of the company’s systems programming executives were delivering a paper on the technology of supervisor construction to an ACM-sponsored symposium in the USA. Mr DHR Huxtable and Mr MT Warwick presented a paper entitled “Dynamic Supervisors - their Design and Construction” in which were described the principles and the techniques employed in the writing of the J-disc operating system for System 4/50 and 4/70 machines which was announced last week. (CW56 p.16)

Big Machine Study by EE-EA The most important task for the joint product planning team of English Electric and Elliott-Automation computer specialists, which is announced today, will be the steering of a project for very large computers. The team, headed by Mr Andrew St Johnston, joint managing director of Elliott-Automation Computers, will also be responsible for the introduction of new products and the integration of the current range. (CW58 p.1)

Speeding Tempo of Military Operations To many people the mention of military applications of computers normally conjures up pictures of electronic machines controlling weapons or planning strategic battle manoeuvres. Such eye-catching applications do exist - the British Army has announced that it will use the FACE system (Field Artillery Computing Equipment) for controlling the firing of guns on the battlefield, but they represent only a small proportion of the total use that the army makes of these machines. (CW58 p.8)

Computer Ships for use in Apollo Moon Probes Five US Navy ships, each carrying computing and message relaying equipment, are to be used as communications outposts during the Apollo moon probes. The equipment will be the same as that used at the majority of the land-based Manned Space Flight Tracking Network stations and includes a data processing system based on the Univac 1230 computer. Three of the ships are to be used during the earth orbital and trans-lunar injection phases of the Apollo flight and the other two will provide coverage during the re-entry period of the spacecraft. (CW62 p.10)

Production Control on Kidsgrove KDF9 An advanced control system, devised by English Electric’s bureau division at Kidsgrove, and the aircraft equipment division at Netherton, is being used in the production control of aircraft constant speed drives. These hydraulic drives, which are coupled to an aircraft’s engines to convert the varying power into constant speed to drive electrical generators, contain up to 500 parts, some machined to tight tolerances on advanced N/C machines. (CW62 p.11)

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