Oral history of British science

Edwards, David (Dai) (Part 8 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Computer Software; Electronics

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Preston

  • Interviewees

    Edwards, David B.G., 1928- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: Comments on initial reception of Atlas and lack of enthusiasm from officialdom. Remarks on later wish that Atlas had been built in silicon and on ICL's lack of interest in Atlas and the one level store concept. Mentions feeling that London and Harwell were happy with their Atlas's. [03:50] Comments on Atlas 2, involvement of Ferranti Orion team and University of Cambridge in altering design, changes between Atlas 1 and Atlas 2. Remarks on relationship with Cambridge computer lab. Briefly sums up feelings about small numbers of Atlas machines made. Mentions need to talk to Tony Brooker about use. [07:05] Comments on working with Hilgar and Watts company and crystallographers Owen Mills and Bill Busing to develop an X-ray goniometer for Atlas with funding from the SRC. Remarks on later program with Hilgar and Watts to develop a small computer controlled goniometer, sold abroad and to the SRC, which won a Queen's Award for Technical Innovation. [13:15] Story about Ferranti's later unsuccessful attempt to interface their small computer with the instrument and bankruptcy of Hilgar and Watts. Discussion of pragmatics of cooperating with other groups to succeed, with reference to a disagreement with ICL on MU5. [17:20] Remarks on not noticing much change in working with Ferranti after ICL merger. [18:40] Further comments on formation of computer science, with reference to Tom Kilburn, provision of computer service, status of computing as a science, outgrowing electrical engineering, F.C. Williams, support from university hierarchy. [24:30] Remarks on where he fitted in to new department as senior lecturer, promotion to reader, professor, and ICL professor of computer engineering in 1967. Remarks on bar level chat and ICL's decision to fund a chair, now held by Steve Furber [SF]. [27:10] Comments on the duties of a professor, senate membership, faculty meetings and funding. [30:15] Comments on funding and split of staff between computer science and electrical engineering, with reference to Professor Hoffman and TK's descision to fund some staff out of earnings, and the rapid growth of computer science. [32:30] Remarks about being awarded a chair after unsuccessfully applying to Nottingham and Southampton universities. Remarks on family in 1966 three children: Ann, a teacher in the USA; Huw, a researcher in gas and oil; and Keith, carbon black factory manager; and grandchildren [35:50] Comments on being a father and short story about Huw transferring to a Quaker School, before university at Manchester and Imperial. Remarks on having three more children and reflections on career. Mentions living in Chorlton-cum-Hardy around 1952, before moving to Gatley. Further remarks on life in Chorlton. [40:20] Remarks on move to a larger house in Gatley, close to Manchester Grammar School and Manchester High School and convenient for travel. Remarks on life revolving around work and family, children enjoying swimming at Wythenshawe, Huw getting interested in sub aqua and earning BSc in 1977. [43:30] Remarks on travelling for work to STC in the Midlands, Plessey, IEE, Hilgar and Watts, and the Biomac project, all in London. Remarks on being busy on Atlas in the 1960s. Remarks on the death of his Father. [45:55] Comments on AMREX TM2 tape deck, electronics being designed by Ferranti in Edinburgh, and resolving problems with David Aspinall. Remarks on relationship between central and subsidiary Atlas sites at Edinburgh, Nottingham and Jodrell Bank. [50:00] Remarks on visiting other Atlas sites little, but Tom Kilburn meeting directors of other installations. Mentions improvements to computer user service. Comments on division of Atlas between University and Ferranti. Remarks on the Computer Board, with reference to the Flowers' report. [54:30] Comments on patenting of one level store, with reference to Peter Hall at ICL, NRDC sale of the patents in a job lot to IBM. Comments on ICL's infringement of the patents, legal action and settlement in 1981 after Tom Kilburn retired. [57:35] Remarks on objections to single level store, with reference to memory size, memory and transistor cost. Comments on increased teaching load as student numbers rose and move to Coupland Street. [1:01:40] Remarks on thinking about the next machine and advance of technology and integrated circuits. Comments on the new computer building on Oxford Road. Remarks on beginning a new computer in 1968, with an SRC grant and a computer to aid development. [1:06:00] Remarks on importance of satisfying SRC committee. Comments on ideas for new computer based on Atlas experience, limited use of extra B registers to programmers, increasing importance of high level languages and demands of users. [short discussion about interview] [1:10:55] Comments on the usefulness of casual 'bar level' discussions, sometimes with ICL or Ferranti personnel. [1:14:00] Comments on role of chair of computer engineering: course planning and IEE accreditation, keeping up with developments, such as working with electronic engineering, increased importance of simulation. Remarks on personally endowing a prize for the best computer engineering student. Further remarks on split between computer science and electrical engineering departments, loss of skills, such as those of Peter Hoffman. [1:18:20] Comments on concerns in building of the IT building, opened by Princess Anne in 1988, to combine computing and electrical engineering skills.

  • Description

    Interview with computer scientist and electrical engineer David (Dai) Edwards.

  • Related transcripts

    David (Dai) Edwards interviewed by Tom Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

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

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