Oral history of British science
Edwards, David (Dai) (Part 4 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.
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Computer Software; Electronics
Interviewee's home, Preston
Edwards, David B.G., 1928- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 4: Story about publishing his first paper: contributions by DE, GT and Brian Pollard [BP] of Ferranti brought together by TK, who binned the first draft, leaving DE to tidy up and submit the paper to the IEE on his own initiative. Remarks on IEE: DE needing support of FCW to join, benefits of IEE membership, later chairing committees, thinking that IEE didn't support computing early on. [06:00] Remarks on British Computing Society [BCS], never being a member, giving talks for BCS. Remarks on: activities of IEE North West committee arranging lectures, IEE conferences and library access. [08:30] Remarks on limited interest in computing outside engineers and users, small size of early conferences at Manchester and Cambridge. Remarks on Cambridge conference: driven with TT by FCW, meeting other groups for first time, items of interest. Remarks on minimal knowledge of work at Cambridge and the NPL, later knowing Bill Renwick well. [12:15] Remarks on visits from Americans in naval intelligence and IBM, such as Samuels, who may have been influenced by floating point ideas from Meg computer. Comments on early 1950s: MSc thesis on expanding the Manchester computer, helping Ferranti produce the Mark 1, becoming assistant lecturer, initial thoughts on next computer, getting his PhD in 1954 on Mercury computer, getting married. [17:00] Remarks on: FCW leaving computing after difference of opinion over floating point arithmetic, as needed by users, and his growing interest in transistor; computer team consisting of DE, TK, TT, and research students. Comments on work of research students on development of multipliers. Remarks on team effort of computer team, FCW's idea in the bath, TK management, involvement with Ferranti. [23:15] Comments on Ferranti involvement leading from Meg to Mercury, AR's design of a core store for Mercury. [26:40] Comments on designing Mercury, improvements over previous designs, development of faster circuits, use of electrical delay lines built in house, floating point instructions, discussions over time. [33:20] Comments on designing circuits: able to design most circuits on back of envelope; complications of powering parallel circuits; architectural compared to engineering problems; incremental design improvements. [37:25] Comments on inauguration ceremonies for new computers with dignitaries and journalists. Comments on building computers bit by bit, with reference to later MU6 computer, testing units in the process. Remarks on laboratory facilities available: technicians, mechanical workshop, Ferranti built improved chassis designed by TT and DE. [42:00] Remarks on Meg completion and move to new building in Dover Street, differences of wiring of Meg and Mark 1, development line from prototype computer to Mark 1, scrapping of expanded prototype, layout of computer development rooms. Description of improved facilities at Dover Street, with rooms for Mercury computer development and Mark 1 computer service. Remarks on a BBC TV programme featuring both computers and FCW. [47:40] Comments on development of computer service: AT and Cicely Popplewell's handbook; move to more user friendly service with Tony Brooker [TB]; split of computer development and service under TK; AT's help of more experienced users; FCW's exit from computing. Remarks on early transistors unsuitability for computers, experimental transistor computer build by Dick Grimsdale [DG], later produced by Metro-Vickers. [53:45] Comments on his PhD viva, examined by MW, on same day as TT. Comments on assistant lecturer duties, teaching electronics with TT, heavy marking and examination workload, following FCW's lecturing style, growth of class sizes from his own student days. [1:00:10] Remarks on: changes in university; computing not being taught as a subject at the university until 1965, aside from visiting lecturers,such as from Xerox. Comments on disputes over computing patent arrangements between FCW and university. [1:05:40] Comments on discussions over establishment of computer science department and computing courses, and their comprehensive nature that included hardware and software. Remarks on split from electrical engineering, move to new buildings, later computing building. Comments on design of computer building to accommodate computer service and computer science and Manchester University's scheme to link building by walkways. [1:11:45] Comments on patents, role of NRDC patent agents in taking out patents, deciding whose name goes on a patents, payment and exploitation of patents, arrangements of FCW and TK's CRT patents [short pause] used by IBM and others, changes in NRDC patent arrangements to sell them in job lots, later one-level store patent infringement by ICL.
Interview with computer scientist and electrical engineer David (Dai) Edwards.