Oral history of British science
Land, Frank (1 of 18). An Oral History of British Science.
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Land, Fred Frank, 1928- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 1: Born 1928, Berlin, Germany. Remarks on coming from quite prosperous family with motor car accessory manufacturing business, which was confiscated by the Nazis. Remarks on father being optimistic about Hitler, Kristallnacht, an Uncle sent to Dachau concentration camp, family leaving Germany for locations across the world, emigrating to England in 1939. Anecdote about arriving dressed as they thought English people would dress, which proved to not be the case. [04:15] Remarks on settling in Kilburn, attending Essendine elementary school, a teacher helping them to learn English. Comments on evacuation to Bedmond: billeted with the Gentles; Mr Gentle, a carpenter and poacher who taught him the country life; [07:54] influence of families on each other, the Gentle's son working in air radio; [09:12] friction between local children and evacuees; [09:55] not having good enough English to sit 11-plus and school advising them to join Post Office. Remarks on mother: educated at University of Vienna, strong minded, [short pause - phone] persuaded grammar school to accept her children. [11:28] Comments on entering London School of Economics [LSE] to study economics: graduating and becoming researcher at LSE; [13:10] meeting future wife Ailsa Dicken [AL] at LSE, married in 1953, later professor of operational research; career adviser Rowen Evans advising changing name from Landsburger to Land. [15:12] Remarks on finding a job with Lyons: clerk in statistics office, boring work, colleagues taking pride in not using calculators. [16:36] Remarks on seeing a notice advertising a course for LEO, taking aptitude tests with help of wife, joining LEO team at same at time Mary Blood, now Mary Coombs. Comments on early LEO work: exciting, restrictions of small computer memory, ambitious scale of work, not considering himself a natural programmer like John Gosden, small team. [20:27] Remarks on first job on LEO amending initial orders, differences between LEO and EDSAC instructions. [22:04] Comments on manager, David Caminer: meticulous, inventor of systems engineering, strict taskmaster, concerned with getting things right. [25:00] Comments on scale of ambition at Lyons, with descriptions of job scheduling deliveries of rationed foodstuffs and [26:31] tea shop stock ordering job. Remarks on LEO being used by outside companies, with reference to application for Nivison’s stockbrokers. Remarks on becoming responsible for regional offices as LEO expanded: insistence on systems study to advise companies their operations, with mixed reception. [30:58] Comments on IBM's entrance to the UK and changes in client-computer provider relationship as clients wanted computers not solutions. Remarks on dealing with senior management of British companies, who were often detached from business processes, compared with continental companies. [33:06] Short story about dealing with a machine tool company head who knew everything about their products but not much about business processes. [closed between 35:38 – 35:58] [36:10] Short story about status of computer staff in a later study of Barings Bank under the Alvey programme. [37:25] Remarks on status of technicians and engineers in Britain. [38:01] Remarks on becoming chief consultant for LEO computers. [38:45] Comments on merger with English Electric [EE]: takeover; LEO head T.R. Thompson [TRT] now second to EE's Mr Scott; different cultures of EE and LEO; wide spread of aptitudes of LEO staff [closed between 40:38 - 41:26]; loosening ties with EE-LEO, almost joining CEIR consultancy, being refused sabbatical. [42:58] Comments on joining LSE in 1957: Gordon Foster at LSE winning a National Computer Centre [NCC] grant for developing information systems; becoming research fellow in management and computer services manager in 1967. Remarks on final years at EE-LEO-Marconi, responsible for computers use in factories, EE's less ambitious applications, difficulties working with factories.
Interview with computer programmer and information systems theorist Frank Land.