Oral history of British science
Bird, Raymond (Part 9 of 15). An Oral History of British Science
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Computer Hardware; Electronics
Interviewee's home, Newbury
Bird, Raymond, 1923- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 9: Comments on software and programming on HEC1 and HEC4: HA, vacation student programmer; changes in programming and relations with customers. [short pause] Remarks on naming of HEC and BTM1200 series computers. [05:00] Comments on support and production staff not development engineers having responsibility for customers. Remarks on role development engineers in producing new machines and modified tabulators and computers. [09:00] Comments on freedom, interest in work, salesmen and BTM's technocratic management. Comments on changes to BTM with the decline of punched cards: redundancy at Castlereagh factory, changes in the board, mergers. [14:00] Comments on Power Samas, developers based at Mountain Pools, Whiteleaf Surrey, involved with Ferranti in large machines but lacked a small computer. Mentions other computer companies: Elliot, Metro Vickers, Plessy; and Atlas computer. Remarks on position of development engineer. Comparison of BTM's success in the UK and IBM's in the USA. Remarks on having little contact with academic computing apart from a symposium run by MW at Cambridge. [18:45] Comments on EDSAC, manufactured machines and LEO. Further remarks on working with LEO engineers, Caminer, Kay, John Pinkerton. [22:25] Remarks on women in the computer industry, story about a female vacation student's obsession with HA, programmers. [24:30] Mentions unsuccessful cooperation with an American firm and EMI merger. Short story about origins of BTM cooperation with GEC, lost a contract for the Pyestock laboratories, production difficulties with Plessey, formation of Computer Developments Limited [CDL]. [27:20] Story about PhD: problems with WJ leading to MSc, becoming a corresponding student of ADB at Birkbeck, with his thesis on HEC4. Story about his PhD viva with ADB, Professor Porter of Aldermaston, and MW. [31:00] Remarks on difference between engineering and science, and on PhD's minimal impact on his career. Remarks on not knowing what happened to HEC computer in the USSR. Comments on customer support. Remarks on importance of this period for his career.
Interview with electrical engineer and computer designer Dr Raymond Bird.