Oral history of British science

Coombs, Mary (Part 5 of 9). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Computer Software

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home

  • Interviewees

    Coombs, Mary, 1929- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: Comments on differences in programming LEO I, LEO II and LEO III computers, with detailed examples of instructions and remarks on space and speed considerations. [07:20] Remarks on squeezing programs into a small memory, rewards for good programming practice from DC or section leaders. Remarks on section leaders John Grover and FL, and smallness of original team including DH, JG, with whom she played tennis, and LF. [10:32] Remarks on fast growth of team: FL joining a few months later, employment of outside graduates. [11:24] Remarks on being busy, picnicking in the park at Hartree House, eating lunch in the supervisors cafeteria at Elms House, often eating lunch with FL. [12:37] Description of Hartree House: part of Whitley's department store; LEO II/5; long room for programmers, some from external companies and councils; Margaret Bushnell, a visiting programmer she provided accommodation for and later met whilst working for Stephanie ('Steve') Shirley [SS]. [15:24] Remarks on joining of other female programmers, such as Kate Keen and Joan Hyam, previously DC's secretary who MC had been at school with and later moved to Israel. [17:08] Remarks on greater responsibility as team expanded, liaison with clients - partly done by consultants, such as Doug Comish. [18:28] Remarks on: considering that many of the statistical programs requested by British Oxygen were unnecessary; inexperience meaning it wasn't clear what applications would be needed beyond the basics such as Payroll; not having the status to be involved with negotiations with client over applications unlike Doug Comish. [21:48] Short discussion about interview. [22:49] Comparison of British Oxygen situation with an example from later career in the water treatment industry where a colleague neglected existing clients in favour of finding new ones. Remarks on consultants being more interested in selling services than assessing if they were really needed, clients getting carried away with what computers could do. [26:28] Comments on her role in British Oxygen job: lasing with client on detail, greater changes responsibility of consultant. [28:14] Comments on enjoying working with clients; having a good working relationship with Miss Hanney from Glyn Mills; difference of Glyn Mills Army payroll job from other payrolls, as worked on by John Lewis; information exchanged with clients; never having her own office, [32:25] working at Hartree House and at British Oxygen at Mayfair; working little in the office after converting Glyn Mills payroll c.1962 for Leo 3. Remarks on customer reactions to computing.

  • Description

    Interview with computer programmer Mary Coombs.

  • Related transcripts

    Mary Coombs 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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