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

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The summer of 1968 in computing compiled by TNMOC Volunteer Archivist, Brian Aldous.
A selection of stories from Computer Weekly from summer 1968. 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.

Fingerprinting with pattern recognition The rapid identification of fingerprints by computers, using pattern recognition techniques is now being studied at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, in co-operation with the city's police. (CW 092 p16)

NPL plan national network A data communications network that could be the model for a national system is to be established within the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, next year. One of the principal aims of the scheme will be to demonstrate the practicality of a modular type of network. The NPL system will simulate a local level of a national net and will be used by the staff at the laboratory to access an information library held on disc file under the control of a small computer. (CW 093 p1)

DEC launches two more PDP machines backed by new language Two new low-cost computers, the PDP-8/L & PDP-9/L, and a new language, FOCAL, Formula Calculator, have been introduced by Digital Equipment Co Ltd. of Reading, placing the company, already one of the leaders in the small machine field, in a strong position with a still bigger share of the £100 million OEM and education, research and industrial markets. (CW 095 p12)

Elliott 903 monitors train movements at Leeds Station Train movements along the 47 miles of railway track around Leeds City station are being monitored by an Elliott 903 installed in the basement of the station. The computer is used to translate signals received regarding rail traffic and to supply information to the signal box where signalmen can control movements of passenger, goods and shunted trains in the area without any need for visual observation. (CW 091 p7)

Giro Service Aims at one Million Customers With the first of three ICL System 4/70s installed and fully operational at their centre in Bootle, Lancs, the GPO have announced that the official opening of their Giro service will be on October 18. Initially the 4/70 will be supported by two RCA Spectra 70/45s, installed earlier at Bootle for development work, though these are later to be replaced by further 4/70s. The GPO believe they have the first Giro in the world to be entirely computer-based from the outset, and to make this possible have needed to invest in what is thought to be the largest single EDP centre in Europe, and among the largest in the world. (CW 101 p12)

Supermarket chain to get B3500 One of the major supermarket chains in the UK, Fine Fare Ltd, are to replace their second generation IBM 1401, installed in 1965 with a £200,000 Burroughs B3500 system at their head office in Welwyn Garden City. Using COBOL, a comprehensive management system is to be developed. (CW 090 p24)

Programs to aid the blind A regular weekly Braille News Summary will be one of the most important results to be derived from a suite of programs developed over the past two years by the computer unit of the Royal National Institute for the Blind. (CW 091 p1)

Model of national economy on hybrid A simulation of the national economy is one of the research projects that will be developed with the aid of the hybrid system, one of the most powerful in the UK, which was opened at Cambridge University Engineering Department, on Tuesday by Professor B. H. Flowers, chairman of the Science Research Council. (CW 092 p1)

Optimisation of Refinery’s Units on 1800 An important step towards on-line automatic optimisation of several processes in petroleum refining has been taken by American Oil Co with the installation of a data acquisition and control system based on an IBM 1800. The system, which replaces three separate computers, controls two units at the company’s refinery in Whiting, Indiana — the 7.5 million tons a year crude distillation unit and the one million tons a year ultra-forming unit which produces high quality gasoline from low grade stock by re-shaping the hydro-carbon molecules. (CW 092 p8)

GE’s Direct Access for N/C Tool Users Allowing for a considerable time reduction by substituting an automatic application for the present manual one, De la Rue Bull’s GE 265 time sharing service is offering direct system access via ordinary STD lines to numerically controlled machine tool users to create coded tapes through teletypewriter terminals installed in their plants. (CW 093 p16)

KDF9 Proves Winner for Sir Thomas Lipton Now the single-handed transatlantic race organised by the Observer is over it is worth having a closer look at the computer program which aided the Sir Thomas Lipton sailed by Geoffrey Williams to be the first and fastest boat across. Williams suggested to English Electric early in 1967 that a program could be written to determine the best course to use from day-to-day to get the greatest advantage from expected weather conditions. (CW 094 p6)

Bulgarian Order for First System 4 A first order has been taken by English Electric Computers in Bulgaria for a System 4 computer, bringing the total number of orders from the socialist bloc for the series to five. The Bulgarian order is for a £352,000 System 4/40 to be installed in Sofia for use by the Institute of Constructional Cybernetics, and by the Ministries of Construction, Transport (Railways), Architecture, Roads and Power. (CW 095 p12)

New UK Firm in Disc Pack Market By the end of the year the first British-produced exchangeable disc packs should be on the market. This is planned by Memory Magnetics Ltd, a new company partially financed by Memory Magnetics Inc, of California, whose product line already includes similar discs. (CW 096 p1)

Off-the-Shelf Argus Leads Low Cost Bid A low cost computer hardware package which will soon be available ‘off the shelf’ is being offered by Ferranti from their Argus range of process control equipment. The package, known as Argus Model L, is designed as a low cost laboratory system for use in research departments by industry, government and the universities. The basic L configuration comprises an Argus 400 or 500 mounted with peripheral control equipment and power supply module in a single equipment rack, together with a desk, monitor panel, fast paper tape reader and printer. The standard Argus interface is included, so that customers can attach their own equipment to the computer or extend the system on site. (CW 097 p20)

ICL launch mag-tape encoder The first new product to be launched by ICL is a magnetic tape encoder jointly developed with the Potter Instrument Co of the US. The companies have been working in close co-operation and Potter recently ordered $1 million worth of exchangeable disc stores from ICL’s subsidiary, Data Recording Instrument Co, of Staines. The new encoder, known as a magnetic tape data recorder, will be demonstrated at IFIP. A self-contained unit, it provides for direct recording from a keyboard on seven-or-nine-track, half inch tape at densities of from 200 to 800 bits per inch. (CW 098 p1)

Two 1902As for Stock Exchange Service The central accounting service planned by the Stock Exchange is to be based on two 1902A processors working back-to-back. Talks on the final configuration are now in progress with ICL. The system will have disc and tape storage, paper tape and card I/O, and six- or seven-line printer. (CW 099 p20)

System 4 wins over IBM customers Compatibility with IBM’s 360 series has been a key factor in ICL gaining two further orders for their System 4 range. Announcement of the orders came within days of Arthur Humphreys, managing director of ICL, stating that “We shall use the System 4 for our attacks on IBM users” when defining ICL market strategy in Edinburgh last week. (CW 100 p1)

Datel Development Aided by Survey The demand for data transmission facilities over the next 15 years is to be assessed by Scientific Control Systems Ltd, formerly CEIR, under a survey commissioned by the GPO. This survey, the largest ever undertaken on its subject within the UK, will run for the next eight months in parallel with the GPO’s own R and D programme and is expected to yield results vital to the development of the Datel services. (CW 100 p16)

Black Arrow order includes digital equipment Automatic and manual check out systems for Britain’s Black Arrow satellite systems valued at £399,000 have been ordered from the Solartron Electronic Group. About 50 per cent of the value is accounted for by digital computer equipment. The order is the largest so far received for equipment incorporating the EMR 6130 computer which is to be made at Solartron’s Farnborough works. Further orders are expected. (CW 102 p12)

Burroughs Machines for On-Line System An attempt to design and implement an on-line management information system is to be made by the British American Tobacco Co based on three Burroughs computers that are part of a £610,000 order. Design of the system is being carried out by BAT and Scientific Control Systems. At present only the basic design is complete, and the precise computer configuration is not yet decided. However, the system will rest on a B3500 located in London, two B500 satellites at BAT’s UK factories at Southampton and Liverpool, and an unspecified number of on-line terminals. (CW 102 p12)

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