Being safe on the internet (was Re: Here we go again - ISP DPI, but is it interception?)

John Wilson tugwilson at
Tue Aug 10 18:29:12 BST 2010

On 10 August 2010 17:27, Peter Tomlinson <pwt at> wrote:

> In my view it was first the merger creating ICL that caused a loss of the
> ICT determination to keep on forging ahead and succeeding financially. And,
> despite the problems of getting the 1906A finished, plus the delays to first
> George 3 and then 4, before the merger we were hearing of worse problems at
> Kidsgrove. Engineers who were supposed to be designing the 4-85 being
> diverted to 4-70 / 4-75... [1]

I wasn't in Kidsgrove then (joined in 1971) but if it was an FP
accuracy problem then it was probably the Amdahl's big mistake when
designing the 360 FPU (the exponent was scaled giving "jitter" in
precision - pretty much gave the scientific market to CDC and Cray for
decades). I believe there were attempts to partially fix the problem
by holding more bits in the registers - didn't really solve the
problem, though.
> But I left in autumn 68, although I spent the following summer doing a
> little work on NR ideas.
> NR should, in my view, have had a soft microcode, i.e. stored in rewriteable
> memory. Instead it seemed to plod on with hard coding (maybe someone can
> confirm or contradict my assumption).

The 2980 was not microcoded but the 2970 and 2960 were.

> And then the engineering discipline
> that had dominated West Gorton failed in the combined company - that was the
> real commercial wrong turn. Eventually the Chinese Army syndrome set in. I
> remember visiting West Gorton when there was the first small batch of 2970s
> being commissioned - by chance Alan Chambers and I, in the area for a
> meeting at Daresbury, just walked in through the door, asked for Rob, and he
> said to come in - the shutters had only gone up that week [2]. He had
>  worked under me in my last 6 months at West Gorton, and hinted at a certain
> amount of chaos as we gazed at a 2970 doing nothing. In 67/68 we built one
> 1904A prototype, made it work (very quickly), then it went to manufacture,
> but it seemed that NR went into pre-production before it was ready. Later I
> remember visiting the 2980 installed at Bath [3], seeing the Chinese Army in
> action, testing (sic) software that didn't work properly.

ICL kind of lost focus on the NR mainframes when they launched the
2903 (designed in Stevenage - a small business machine). It did
extremely well for a while and may well have saved the company's bacon
at the time. Most of the company's sales and marketing effort went
into the 2903 and the senior management forgot about the mainframes
for a while.

My time at Kidsgrove was technically exciting but the senior
management was sclerotic. The pettiness was amazing even in the early
1970's (you could only get a pencil from the stores if you took a
suitably short pencil stub back - of course we sawed new pencils into
4 parts, sharpened them and rapidly emptied the stores of pencils). I
remember the MD decreeing that you could only use lifts to go up "to
save electricity".

John Wilson

More information about the ukcrypto mailing list