The Elliott Brothers Computer Company.
Elliott Brothers (London) Ltd was an early computer company of the 1950s–60s in the United Kingdom. The company was an active participant in the birth of the information age in Britain. By 1961, the company was supplying 50% of the digital computers delivered to UK customers in that year. Yet by the end of that decade, Elliott-Automation had effectively disappeared in a flurry of takeovers, leaving little apparent trace of the technical excellence that had once characterised the name Elliott.
Our Elliott 803 arrived at TNMoC soon after the museum opened. Previously it had been used by Vaughan Programming Services, and following its decommissioning it had spent 15 years in a barn.
Initial restoration was performed by John Sinclair following the successful restoration of another 803 at the Science Museum in London but sadly that machine was never put on public display. Despite it being over 55 years since our 803 was built (in around 1962), it continues to run reliably needing only occasional maintenance.
In recent years it has received two upgrades in the form of the addition of a Calcomp drum plotter and some additional input/output features. The Calcomp plotter was originally connected to an Elliott computer owned by E.M.I. Electronics and thus it shows the correct Elliott branding. It is connected to the 803 through an interface board built by museum volunteers to the original circuit design and where ever possible it uses original 1960s components.
The 803 can regularly be seen (and heard) operating. We have the full suite of software provided by Elliotts for the 803 which includes a compiler for an early high level language called Algol-60.
Using these contemporary tools our trained volunteers are able to develop new programmes to run on the 803. These include programmes for solving mathematical, scientific and engineering problems together with some very simple games and music players. Often ideas for new programmes come from 1960’s scientific journals and occasionally 803 programmes are discovered in research papers from the era.
Due to the 803’s age, the software library also includes functions for printing sums of money in the Sterling form of “Pounds,Shillings and Pence” which was used before decimalisation in 1971.
The Elliott 903 first came into production in 1965 and is an 18 bit discrete component machine with a basic memory of 8K word. This could be upgraded up to 64K. The unit on display in the museum has an expansion of 8K which makes it 16 K word which required the second cabinet.
The input and output is 8 bit paper tape with interface for a serial tele printer.
The 903 was kindly donated to the museum in 2011 by Oliver Harlow who had the machine in storage for many years and used the machine from the 1970s into the 1980s.