Oral history of British science
Bird, Raymond (Part 13 of 15). An Oral History of British Science
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Legal and ethical usage »
Computer Hardware; Electronics
Interviewee's home, Newbury
Bird, Raymond, 1923- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 13: Remarks on CDL transfer from Bracknell to London and RB moving to work at Letchworth under ECHO as data processing manager. Comments on duties of data processing manager supporting ICL production of computers and tabulators by ensuring stock control of components for production, with remarks on differences between supplying mechanical and electronic components. Remarks on computer arrangements: ICL1900 computer room with viewing gallery. [04:00] Comments on ICL software division at Reading [muted between 04:14 - 05:20] Remarks on being posted to Reading as administration manager in a new building for software development in Bracknell. Remarks on: arrival of Geoff Cross and other American managers; RB's appointment as chief engineer of ICL south; working with Don Neely who was developing the System 10 computer; RB taking early retirement at 60; last duties implementing BS5750 quality standards, later ISO9000. [09:15] Comments on later job as a British Standards auditor implementing BS5750: interesting job; got to see many aspects of companies, such IBM and Burroughs; later jobs as self employed consultant on BS5750 as part of a government scheme; retiring in 1994 after wife's death. [12:30] Comments on role of data processing manager: managing a team of programmers and providing computer services to production side of ICL, such as production control, payroll, development routines. Remarks on: ECHO support for computer control machine tools; RB's development of 'Milmap' software; software for production of printed circuit boards, prior to decision to buy in circuit boards. [15:30] Story about a fire in the data processing installation at Letchworth destroying the computer, prompt replacement by Jack Saville, salvaging of damaged magnetic tape. Description of computer installation at Letchworth and staffing. [0:20:30] Remarks on managers, ECHO's style of management, status of eating in the management dining room, social drinking, Americans removing dining distinctions. Short description of management dining room, lunch time conversations, guests from outside, entertaining customers. Further remarks on entertaining customers, such as a Swedish Orrefors glass maker, who gifted RB a glass that was subsequently stolen. [26:00] Remarks on ICL's drinking culture, after work drinks, ECHO liking company in the pub and being a good man manager. Remarks on nickname Dickie. Short description of computer room viewing gallery. [29:25] Further remarks on computing at Letchworth, development of production control software 'PROMPT', source of other software. Remarks on there being little use of the computer for activities outside work, no problems with people illegally selling computer processing time, security of data in payroll operations. Remarks on illicit computer use elsewhere, US companies' problems with Japanese industrial espionage. Further remarks on computer security. [35:00] Description of a typical working day. Remarks on: concerns of a data manager; recruiting staff. [38:20] Comments on social life outside company with family in village of Little Gadsden: living a country life, amateur dramatics, children. Comments on children [with reference to photo on wall]: Andrew, Sarah, Linda; granddaughter in Afghanistan; Andrew retired after career in data processing and managing engineering company; Sarah, housewife and secretary for a company that audited disabled access, now employed in tourist industry; Linda, married accountant and keen golfer. [44:10] Remarks on: grandchildren; children finding their own careers; Andrew having an engineering bent, entering ICL as an apprentice. Remarks on career moves: became a data processing manager after not wanting to work in London and ECHO offering him the job; moving to Reading when ECHO moved him at request of Mike Forest, not enjoying being an administration manager. [48:00] Remarks on ICL software at Reading working on operating systems and compilers, work that RB was not involved with. Discussion on duties of administration manager: keeping building running; security provisions with advice of local police; problems with Post Office telecommunications; repairing problems with power supply; story abut purchasing a fuel tank to ensure energy supplies during 1970s three-day week. Remarks on changes in computer systems over his time there. [55:00] Further remarks: on problems with Post Office communications; limited problems with unions; limited socialising with staff as he lived quite far away, except for lunchtime drinks. Remarks on changes in ICL and American managers: Geoff Wilmot, replaced by American Geoff Cross, who brought with him Ed Mack as development manager and other American managers; RB having little contact with them himself; hard American management style compared to British style. [1:01:00] Description of building in Bracknell, originally supposed to overlook Thames, problems with maintaining fluorescent lighting.
Interview with electrical engineer and computer designer Dr Raymond Bird.