Oral history of British science

Bird, Raymond (Part 11 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 11: Story about the Business Efficiency Exhibition, where HEC was beaten by a maths genius. [Short pause] Remarks on archives. [02:50] Remarks on social life at BTM Letchworth, pubs. Remarks on Cambridge Symposium and being isolated as an electronic experts at BTM. [05:40] Remarks on JRW, his work on ACE computer at the NPL. Remarks on BTM's earlier agreement with IBM, a visit by Tom Watson, IBM's ruthless efficiency, British pride amongst customers. [09:50] Remarks on customer reactions to HEC2M computers. Story about problems with HEC2M at ESSO Fawley dealt with by a veteran tabulator engineer. [13:50] Discussion of how his outlook differed to non-university educated BTM engineers: JL's minimal supervision of RB at Imperial, original ideas, occasional importance of knowing background physics, [17:30] and unsuccessful diode based store project foiled by cosmic rays, properties of valves, an unlikely circuit design by ADB. [23:20] Comments on a problem on cable shielding [25:40] Comments on production of HEC4 computers, pre-production stage, production engineering, company mechanisms to solve problems. [29:00] Comments on link up between GEC and ICT, as a result of GEC losing a contract for the Pyestock laboratory and ICT's problems with Plessey components, which resulted in Computer Developments Limited [CDL], managed by Arthur Humphreys [AH], E.C.H. Organ [ECHO] and DE. Further remarks on DE as a manager, alcoholism, and earlier work on microwave links. Remarks on sub-manager Norman Bligh. [35:00] Comments on RB and JW's development of new computer designs at Kenton: comparative roles of RB as manager/planner and JW as technical developer, idea of a computer that 'beats as it sweeps as it cleans,' development of block design, growth of team thanks to DE. [39:00] Comments on important role of Noel London's industrial designer for computer. Short discussion of interview. Remarks on facilities at Kenton. Remarks on new computer: transistorised, megacycle speed. [43:30] Story about JW covering the floor of the conference room with the computer's logic design and using people to pretending to be pulses to simulate the computer's operation. [46:00] Remarks on punched card input output, plug and socket problems and GEC Coventry's solution of wrap joints, servicing by substitution, arguments between GEC's designers and ICT field engineers, ICT field engineers ingenious solution to problems of servicing wrap joints. Mentions visit to last surviving computer in Kent. [50:30] Remarks on transistorisation. Comments on problems with AMPEX magnetic tapes. Remarks on failure of BTM magnetic tape company. Mentions production of computer at Coventry, under ECHO and Colin Ladds and George Gibson. Story about a game of golf with GEC Coventry after a heavy night. [54:30] Remarks on heavy drinking culture and being a manager with technical skills. Remarks on increased importance of programming. Remarks on problems of lack of communication facilities on the 1301 and slow production. Remarks on new boss, Peter Ellis [PE], Manchester schooled, Power Samas employee before merger.

  • 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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