Oral history of British science

Coombs, Mary (Part 9 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 9: Remarks on: water treatment systems sold, a job for a Greek shipping company's oil refinery. Story about arranging packaging arrangements of spares to safeguard against shortages. [03:15] Remarks on size of water treatment plants, [04:01] need of electronics industry for ultra clean water, a local firm that sold purified water that was taken over by Vivendi. [05:46] Remarks on: level of technical knowledge needed for her job in water industry, reference to earlier job at printers dealing with plumbing materials, familiarity with stock control and costing processes. Remarks on colleagues: got on well but no lasting friendships, women doing a variety of admin. Remarks on daily administration activities. [08:16] Remarks on environmental legislation and working arrangements of firm. Remarks on relationships with clients, problems with supply of components, implementing a bonus scheme for prompt supply, disagreeing with company's focus on cost rather than than customer satisfaction. [12:44] [short pause] Remarks on conditions working for ESMIL: poor pay, non-contributory pension, pressure to get things done from consultant. Comments on relationship with consultants: good relations, unofficial relations with clients to avoid sales director who was more concerned with next job than finishing current one. [18:05] Remarks on enjoying working in the water industry because she finds ways of making work interesting. Remarks on troubles in ESMIL, slow computerisation of company, reluctance of older draughtsman to computerise, small ESMIL water systems company remaining after Yorkshire Water takeover who she considered working for. [Closed between 21:51 - 22:49] Remarks on winding down ESMIL operations, staying in contact with assistant Yorkshire Water sent down to help her. [24:07] Remarks on retiring at 64 then spending next 15 years doing paperwork for son's building business, finding tax returns have got easier. [26:13] Comments on activities since retirement: playing church organ, stamp collection. [27:50] Remarks on being interviewed: interviewed before, surprised by level of detail compared to previous interviews done with Janet Abate from Maryland USA and the BBC, requests to write journal articles, interviews with Peter Bird for LEO book. [30:37] Remarks on finding attention a bit odd as it concerns events so long ago, differences between talking to ex-colleagues and researchers. [32:12] Remarks on delight at interest in LEO Computers, importance of 50th Anniversary in sparking interest. Comments on LEO Society activities. Remarks on archive material. [35:27] Comments on being happiest to have been involved with early LEO developments due to its pioneering nature. [38:18] Comments on being first female commercial programmer, with reference to earlier women programmers of scientific computers. [39:39] Remarks on achievements of LEO team: got commercial programming off ground, problems being a catering firm, far-sighted senior managers. [41:32] Remarks on difference between working on commercial mainframe computer and using a PC in education. Remarks on effect of family on career path, possibly staying in computers if she hadn't had a handicapped child, wanting a quite large family. Remarks on quite enjoying interview and surprise at British Library project.

  • 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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