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

Tom Thomson colinthomson1 at
Tue Aug 10 20:44:10 BST 2010

John Wilson wrote:
or contradict my assumption).
> The 2980 was not microcoded but the 2970 and 2960 were.

As were also the 2966 and 2956 (both soft microcoded).
> 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.

That was partly a question of "what is fashionable" - at the time mini-computers were fashionable and mainframes were not.  Of course the 2903 was tried and tested hardware - the microcode to emulate a 1900 series machine was new.
We developed a 2905 - same hardware as 2903, emulating an NR machine - in Dalkeith, and the Bracknell ME29 team started a 2900 emulator on their new hardware (but their real aim was to do a 1900 emulator and kill the 2903, so they never completed their NR emulator although they managed to fake up some demonstrations). Our 2905 never got released (would have needed to add more store than the hardware could take so that it could run VME-B, or write a new 2900 OS; it did run VME-K - or VME-T if the name had changed by then, I can't remember which we ran -  but to be useful it needed to run something sensible).

> 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".

I joined ICL (in Dalkeith) in late 1971 (having left English Electric about 3 years earlier; I was offered an ICL job on the GE takeover of English Electric, but had heard so much griping from people from both ICL parent companies about how awful the merger was doing - and the pay ICL offered wasn't really an incentive - so I tried other pastures for a while) and didn't see anything like the sort of petty stupidity you describe.  I transferred officially to Kidsgrove four years later but spent the first 5 months of my "Kidsgrove" time in Bracknell.  I ran into some nonsense in 1976, but it was more of a turf war than petty stinginess (and was quickly sorted out).

The senior management I knew in the early and mid 70s were generally quite bright - people like Ed Mac, Syl Stefani, Mike Forest, Bruce Stuart - none of them Kidsgrove based, though. OK, Ed was almost blind but none of them seemed sclerotic (except a Technical Director whose name I can't remember who was fired by Geoff Cross).  I don't recall any really senior management in Kidsgrove (I worked for Dave McElfresh when I first went there; for Clem Jones in Dalkeith; not sure how senior Brian Warboys was then, but he became Director of Methodology long before I moved from Kidsgrove to West Gorton, and we still worked together on joint ICL-MU projects after he became head of CS at MU; he was an exciting guy to be around, far from sclerotic). 

I never heard of the lifts decree - but we didn't have lifts in Dalkeith so it wasn't relevant.  It wasn't in force in Kidsgrove in Nov 1975, as far as I can tell.


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