Oral history of British science

Bird, Raymond (Part 7 of 15). An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Computer Hardware; Electronics

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Newbury

  • Interviewees

    Bird, Raymond, 1923- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 7: Comments on being in the Scouts at Chaldon and Coulsdon, camping, self motivation, hiking, meeting scouts of different social class at Jamborees, influence on him. Mentions career path of staying within one company. [05:00] Remarks on his engineering view of music, modern pop music compared to Gracie Fields. Comments on facilities at GEC research laboratories Wembley [07:45] Comments on working with Marconi Osram on problems with valve microphony, detailed description of technical fix and having the freedom to pursue research on higher frequency valves. Remarks on colleagues. Story about a model bombing demonstration for laboratory open days for children. [12:15] Remarks on patent agents with story about model electric racing cars. Remarks on social life at GEC, conversation over lunch, a German Jewish refugee colleague who favoured European integration, circle of friends. [15:50] Remarks on slow career progression at GEC, relationships with other firms. Anecdote about colleagues using a magnetron to cook with. Remarks on being in a stimulating environment with an excellent library, facilities and technicians for glass blowing, coil winding and other support. Remarks on quality of industry support facilities compared to academia. [19:40] Remarks on freedom of working practices at GEC, producing patents. [Short Pause while patents are found] Comments on patents: patent department at GEC, interaction with patent agents, such as Cartwright, process of patenting, use of patents in competition with other companies, IBM, patent wars, publishing and patenting, GEC patent policy. [25:45] Remarks on distance of management. Story about a phone call from WJ, leading to a job offer from John Womersley at BTM to work on 'counting with valves.' Remarks on NPL Pilot ACE and salary. [30:00] Comments on BW, ex RAF, and electronic punched card calculators developed at Letchworth. Story about division of laboratory by a chalk line drawn by BW, whom he got on well with. Remarks on alcoholism in the computer industry and changes in its management. [34:00] Remarks on moving to Letchworth, lack of pubs due to Quaker influence, Spirella corset factory and engineering companies, near Bulldock. Comments on JRW: manager and stimulator rather than inventor, formerly of the NPL where Davis and Turing had a bet on when he would first write an equation, visited TRE, SERL and Maurice Wilkes [MW] with RB. [38:10] Comments on ADB: married to Catherine Britain; near genius, swapped computer plans with BTM for punched card equipment. Story about visiting ADB at Fenny Compton, near Banbury, with Bill Davis and Dickie Cox [DC] to copy computer, which ADB was building in his father's barn. Remarks on plugs and sockets problems. [43:20] Description of HEC1 computer. Remarks on interfacing tabulators with HEC1. Comments on HEC1 being in a museum in Birmingham and his hopes of its transfer to Bletchley Park with the help of Roger Johnson. Remarks on DC and the importance of RAF trained radio hams to electronics work. [48:10] Remarks on apprentices, workshops, tabulator factory in Northern Ireland, electronics at BTM. Remarks on BTM's secret production of Bombe codebreaking computers under Dr Keene at Letchworth. Remarks on differences between BTM staff and university educated electronics personnel, Keene's low opinion of computers. [52:20] Story about taking HEC1 to the Business Efficiency Exhibition at Olympia in London: BTM equipment compared to Power Samas; industrial designer covering HEC1; troubles with unionised electricians; Harold Ashforth [HA] programming the Coal Board gang payroll; [58:15] programming noughts and crosses; Ronnie Michelson, Jewish actuary, who liaised with BTM's customers and programmed an ACOL bridge game. [1:03:15] Remarks on press reaction to computer. Story about bookmaker William Hill's representatives visiting the exhibition.

  • Description

    Interview with electrical engineer and computer designer Dr Raymond Bird.

  • Related transcripts

    Raymond Bird interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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