20feb2021  Memories from John Harding
I came across the EMIDEC website quite by chance, and it brought back many memories. I left school at 18 in 1961 not wanting to go to University. My ‘much-older’ cousin suggested that Computer Programming would be a good career – he was Head of Computing for HM Inland Revenue. I joined EMI Electronics as an Apprentice Programmer (possibly a UK first) with day-release to Slough Technical College to take Business Studies. I initially sat in an office with John Stewart/Stuart Murphy, who wrote technical manuals, and ?Beryl Coombes. Other names that I can remember are Bert Pitts, Tony Hetherington, John Lea and Rosemary Leigh who married to become Lea or Leigh – I have forgotten which way round the names were. After two years I decided that in order to advance I needed a degree, so left to go the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. I subsequently joined W.D. & H.O Wills in Bristol as a Programmer. Wills were using Leo equipment, but changing to KDF9 (EELM). When EELM were taken over by ICL, I went on a training course to ?Virginia Water, were I came across the centre Manager Brian England whom I remembered from Raleigh Road. I have no idea if this web site is still in use, but writing this has been very nostalgic. It would be interesting to hear back. John Harding EMI Electronics Sep1961-Jul1963.
17jan2021  Memories from Tony Nichols
I come from Southall Technical College. At the end of my 3rd year, EMI offered me a position as a Trainee Engineer. This was a 5 year course which I started in September 1954. After my first year of basic workshop, inspection and drawing office, I was taken to various departments. One of these was with the Emidec 1100. First an embarrassment - each Monday we had to do a tap test on the boards to look for dry joints. I went to work, as instructed, tapping away. Later a fault showed up which was traced to a board I had worked on. In tapping I had knocked the paint off a transistor, which made it become a light detector. The later version of the transistor had an aluminium case over it. I can remember writing the clock track on the drum. The speed had to be correct, the frequency had to be correct, and the result had to be an exact width square wave. If the joining waveform was not correct it had to be done again. Even in those days there were jokers about. The programmers had made a lamp post, a dog walked on to the screen and stopped at the post. After relieving itself it carried on across the screen. This was on the little 4 inch screen on the consul, with a green picture. The computer was designated for the Barclays bank. According to their website this was delivered in 1959. I did some work on the high speed tape machines. These had two boxes with a vacuum pulling the tape down so that there was a buffer length of tape for stops and reversals. I remember the tape spools had only one cheek. If things went wrong we ended up with a great deal of tape on the floor. There was also work on a printer - this involved a large germanium transistor trying to push a printer key forward fast enough to make an impression. I believe this was my second year of my training, at just 18 years of age this was good experience. Looking back it was also historic.
13jan2021  Memories from Dave Loynds
I joined EMI in May 1962 as a computer operator on the EMIDEC 1100 which was situated on the ground floor of EMI House in Manchester Square. I became a shift supervisor in August and the Installation Supervisor in November. If the night shift ended early the operators taught themselves programming. I remember that when I went on a programming course I knew more than the instructor who had himself just come off a course. In November 1963 I became a programmer within the Standards Section which was led by Dai Jones and based in Hayes. Eventually I was appointed Head of the Standards Section in January 1966. When a decision was made to replace the EMIDECs I was part of a team evaluating proposals from several manufacturers including ICL, GE and Univac. During this period I started programming part of an EMIDEC 1101 simulator for use on an UNIVAC 1108. Unfortunately, although the team preferred Univac the decision was made to go to ICL. Subsequently Univac advertised for staff and I left EMI in August 1967 to join UNIVAC as an 1100 Series Operating System Consultant. I have fond memories of the Westmoreland Arms near Manchester Square. If on the night shift we used to meet there (usually with Ray Fisher) before starting work. When I worked in Hayes the local was the Blue Anchor just over the canal. The landlord was Ernie assisted by Iris and George. I remember we played a lot of cribbage as John Becker was always ready for a game. It was while working for EMI that I met Margaret Burton who joined shortly after I did. We got married in September 1964 and are still together.
The following gives the names of people I remember from those days and the areas in which they worked...
John Becker Installation manager, Margaret Burton EMICOP/EMIART/EMIREC, Peter Chandler Head of EMICOP and EMIART teams, Laurence Clark Operator, Jimmy Devoil Engineer, Ken Finch Operator and later programmer in the Standards Section, Ray Fisher Installation Manager, John Frater EMIART, Roger Giles Operator, Pat Groves EMIPAY, Enzo Hamilton Operator (son of Oscar), Oscar Hamilton Head of EMI Computing Services Division, Chuck Hancock Pathe Marconi, David James EMIPAY, Johnny Johnson Head of CSD after Oscar Hamilton, Dai Jones Head of Standards Section, Miles Langrish Operator, Stuart Loveday Operator, Tony Manley Pathe Marconi, Ray Monk EMIWIP, Elsie Nowell Secretary to head of CSD, Brian Owen Head of Bureau operations, Dennis Parsons Not employed by EMI - Bureau customer, Mick Pilditch Chief programmer, Derek Pitman EMICOP, John Pullen EMICOP, Sam Renwyck Operator, Graham Rowley Operator then EMIWIP, Harry Shirley Head of Data Control at Manchester Square, Colin Sinclair EMIWIP, Alun Thomas Chief engineer, Dudley Underwood EMIART, Brian Watts EMIPAY, Laurie Wilkinson EMIREC, Cilla ? Assisted Harry Shirley in Data Control.
24aug2020  Science Museum Talk by David Robinson
I was one of the principle logical designers of the 1100, under Bob Froggatt and Godfrey Hounsfield, and I also designed the multiplication logic for the BMC computer, which was based on valve logic. In 2009, I gave a talk at the Science Museum - click to view.
04may2020  Pictures from Paul Dyer
I stumbled across your website whilst doing some research into the former Royal Naval Stores Depot at Copenacre in Wiltshire where I once worked in the 1980s and where once was installed an EMIDEC computer (but that’s not something I was involved in at all). You might be interested in these photos which appeared in our internal magazine, dating from 1962.
08dec2019  Memories from Derek Vincent
Found this site just idling whilst watching LSU vs Georgia in the SEC championship game. Didn’t work for EMI, but for ICT. Upon leaving the Navy in January 1967 started as a computer engineer with ICT and was located at J.Sainbury’s Head Office in London where they had two EMIDECs. One an 1000 and the other an 1101 iirc. Became Senior Site Engineer before leaving for Honeywell in 1970. A great engineers machine to work on. We fixed everything including making new shafts for the Samastronic printer. Ampex and Potter tape drives. A lot of fun. I still have the complete set of LBDs.
19may2019  Memories from Derek Pearson
I joined EMI Records in late 1965, to mid-1968, joining as a Computer Trainee, coming straight down from Leeds - there were seemingly no openings in the new computing 'up North'. A while ago my memory was such that I could probably have named almost everyone I ever worked with in and around computing for all my working life, however since retiring I seem to have wiped out seeming 'irrelevancies'. Starting for 12/15 months as an EMIDEC 1100 operator I do have some disjointed memories:
- a colleague about a year younger at 19/20 who was already going bald;
- driving programmers and analysts home in the middle of the night in the new Cortina Estate;
- 'permitted' kip breaks in the shreddings room;
- opening all of the external doors (to the canal) when the computer rooms got too hot;
- the Blue Anchor of course (am I right in remembering only a foot/bicycle bridge over the canal? - Ian: yes, the bridge was gated, but I did squeeze my Mini through the pedestrian gap on one occasion!!)
After this moved up to 1st floor as Programmer/Analyst again for about 12/15 months, but remember no names or individuals. Overall only recognised a couple of names or photos from those listed on the site. Leaving EMI in 1968 I moved on to Honeywell assembler programming and then IBM 360. Best wishes to all old boys and girls. Derek Pearson
10jun2018  Memories and QUESTION from Phillip Bone
I came across your fascinating website while looking to find out where an old memory card I have might have originally come from. I picked the card up while rummaging through a scrap bin on the 2nd or 3rd floor of the EMI Engineering Building, Hayes, about 1970. At the time I was an Electronic Apprentice working in the research building (CRL) down the road. Being a keen hobbyist, I was eager to get hold of any old circuit boards I could strip down & salvage components from. This particular board caught my eye at the time & I have only just rediscovered it in my loft. I am writing to you just in case you, or one of you contributors, recogises it as being from one of the early EMIDEC computers. It has a magnetic core memory comprising a grid of 20 x 38 tiny ferrite cores. The board is almost 8.5 inches across the long side & is hand wired. There are holes on the front (opposite side to the connectors) where a front panel could be mounted. The only ID on it is '16A/390D SIDE 1. ISS. A.' I have looked at photos of other magnetic core memories & haven’t found any like this one. In particular the rhombic layout of the cores. See photos attached. As a bit of coincidence, in early 1972 I started working with Godfrey Hounsfield while he was still in the small lab on the 5th floor at CRL. At the time they had just installed the first CT scanner at Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon & needed more help. It was a very small team at the time. I worked closely with Godfrey & Peter Langstone on circuit design, Tony Williams worked on the mechanical design & Steven Bates on the software. By the time I left in late 1979 Medical Systems, as it became known, had grown exponentially & poor Godfrey was spending little time doing the work he loved & was best at. He hated touring the world & giving speeches. He just wanted to be back in the lab. It would also be interesting to know if Godfrey worked on the magnetic core memory design of my board. Any ideas - click to email.
15mar2018  Memories from Bryan Watts
I was on a graduate apprenticeship at EMI from 1959-1961. In May 61 the training dept suggested I went on the EMIDEC programming course. I was obviously OK as I joined CSD. Initially I did some programming for the records invoicing system, but then headed a team to transfer the payrolls from punched cards to the computer. Other members of the team were Sandy Leckie, David James and Pat Groves. At the time Oscar Hamilton was in charge of CSD. In the early days the computer was in the basement of Manchester square Offices of EMI records. The payrolls were run at night and in the early days often came to a halt on a blank instruction, so I was phoned at home and had to go to Man Square in my mini from Harrow to sort the problem on the program switches. We also implemented later versions at Morphy Richards. Eventually I was asked to take over customer training of programmers from Len Gibbons. I moved on in 1966 but stayed in IT until I retired.
13dec2017  Memories from Bob Harris
I've just come across your excellent EMIDEC site, which brought back a flood of memories for me, which you are welcome to include if they are of interest... I joined EMI CSD as a trainee EMIDEC operator in 1970, having applied to an advertisement in the Middlesex Chronicle. I worked at Hayes for three years, about equally divided between operations on the EMIDEC, then on System 4, then COBOL programming for System 4. I left to join Eaton Corporation in order to gain IBM System 360 and 370 programming experience, which in those days was a passport to well-paid employment just about anywhere in the world (I worked in Canada for about six years). I have many fond memories of working at Hayes, many of which feature elsewhere on this site. But here are a few others which might not have been mentioned:
The operators' initiation of snapping open and closed the bulky tape reel locks with a flicking motion of the edge of your hand without sustaining major bruising! (I believe the electronics in the tape drives still had thermionic valves at that time). Or having to deal with your first paper wrecks on either the line printer or the offline decollator or busting machines. The dread of the non-standard or emergency halt during a long program (Sod's law said it was inevitably near the very end of the run) in the middle of the night. On night shift rigging up the telephone receiver alongside the console loudspeaker, so that we could enjoy a game of cards/Monopoly/Totopoly in the operators' room with the another phone receiver within earshot to listen out for program alarms - the reassuring undulating buzz from the loudspeaker while the program was running normally akin to a baby's contented gurgling. The fascination of being able to view the contents of core storage or the magnetic drum storage on the tiny oscilloscope screens, rather like a doctor might view an MRI scan in real time, but with the added ability to modify individual bits if necessary. A foretaste of the future: the arrival of a sleek horizontal half-inch tape deck in the EMIDEC machine room that was used in the conversion of EMIDEC data files for use on System 4.
Another Hayes landmark, to add to the Blue Anchor and the Chinese Restaurant: the Brothers Restaurant in the town centre - they did a nice omlette & chips, just right for the low point on the dreadful evening shift. And not forgetting the olfactory landmark: the aroma of roast coffee wafting across Hayes from the Nestles works.
Some other names I remember:
Bob Lawrence, a fellow operator, a very cheery and cheeky pal who hailed from the Old Kent Road.
Derek LePage, my first shift leader, softly spoken, with a wry sense of humour.
Frances Abbott, a systems analyst, a very classy lady who used get my pulse racing whenever she was nearby.
Cliff Rapley, John Weston: two other shift leaders that I spent a lot of time with during my first years at EMI and both very supportive to a young lad still wet behind the ears.
Calm and amiable John Stanbrook who provided my training in COBOL programming, ICL Usercode, testing and debugging that got me started on the road to software design and development.
Martin Stead, Bob Horwood, Roger Hutchby, David Colcheth, Christine Mobley, Jill Smith, Jimmy Devoile - all names from my System 4 programming days, some of whom might have previously worked on EMIDEC systems.
Looking back on it all now from another century (!) I'm most grateful to EMI for the opportunity to work in an area that was both satisfying and great fun, and was my first step on a fulfilling IT career that kept me going for the rest of my working life.
06oct2017  Memories from Barrie Thomson
Now resident in South Africa, I have only just discovered your web site, having tried to find someone who might be interested in the Boots User Manual that they issued to employees in 1960 as the Emidec 1100 began to work for them. I was one of the first programmers on the site, joining in 1960. I worked for the computer department for a couple of years before leaving to take the position of systems programmer with Walls Ice Cream in Gloucester on their ICT 1500 computer. The only person whose name I can remember from the Boots days was a Barry Hall.
Click to view PDF of whole booklet
04Oct2017  Memories from Chris Wakeman
Started at EMI Records as a shift operator on the EMIDEC 1100 in 1963 almost straight from school, no qualifications, never seen a computer before that day. I alternated shifts between Hayes (where I grew up ) and Manchester Square. After showing some potential I was put on the programmer training course conducted by Len Gibbons, progressed to senior programmer until I left, after many interesting years. Little things: Blue Anchor (who could forget it) - driving to the canteen on night shift - Chinese Restaurant Clayton Road - Sam Renwick's pipe - many hours playing bridge on night shift - overnight trips to Blackpool Tower to deliver the monthly payroll by hand - finally the two guys who traveled every night to and from Paris to deliver and collect the data tapes. Reading through the other memories triggered thoughts of how many characters actually came through the Hayes offices over the period I was there. Here are two photos to jog the memory.
24Sep2017  Memories from Max Shanahan
I have attached the faded notice for my farewell GPU [CLICK TO VIEW], produced by Joe Tully and the list of names from my farewell [CLICK TO VIEW]. I found the list recently and did a search on Joe Tully and encountered this site, which brought back memories of the great working environment with a great bunch of people. I worked at EMI as a senior programmer from August 1970 to March 1972 as a 25 year old Australian on an extended working holiday. I had been a programmer in Canberra from 1966. I worked in the Royalties team with Mervyn Fulljames, Frances Martin, Joe Tully, Tony Sergeant and many others as we converted Royalties from the EMIDEC to ICL. I joined just after the implementation of one phase (Artist Royalties I think) and was involved in the development and implementation of the next (Copyright Royalties but it may have been the other way round). They were a professional group of people and my experience there started an interest in best practice IT, which continues today. I still think in many ways they were ahead of their time. The period involved the Beatles White Album (I think it was), with sales that the system could not cope with, the regular telephone calls from someone with an Irish accent, just before pubs closed so the building had to be evacuated, and the incident when one of EMIDEC operators dumped printout into the Grand Union Canal, in a failed attempt to hide the fact that he was absent when a particularly long job failed. I can still recall the paper slowly unfolding down the canal when I crossed the bridge in the morning. I enjoyed the Blue Anchor and while I could never get into cribbage, I often sat after work to enjoy a pint while others played it. I almost stayed when EMI offered to get me a longer work permit, but decided to go back to sunny Australia after a hitchhike through US/Canada and eventually had a career in IT audit in Canberra.
17mar2017  Memories of Dennis “Laurie” or “Larry” Lawrence (from his son, David)
My father worked for a year at the EMI Cabinet Factory in Hayes on the build and test of the Emidec 2400 for the Ministry of Pensions. He said the 2400 was laid out in the Cabinet Factory just as it was to be at Longbenton, the only difference being that the cables connecting the various peripherals were laid on top of the floor whereas in Longbenton they would be under the floor. The system was then dismantled, shipped to Longbenton, and reassembled. We moved to Whitley Bay in 1961. My father was the local Chief Maintenance Engineer at Longbenton for the 2400 [photograph of my father on the telephone by the 2400 console] [photograph of my father at 2400 console]. He, and his other colleagues, were presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on the opening of the new computer building on 2nd July 1962 [see the official programme]. To make the system look as if it was actually doing something during the Queen Mother's visit my father had arranged for all the tape drives to rewind. The wives of the engineers, including my mother, Elaine, were allowed to watch proceedings from the viewing gallery. One of the Queen Mother's ladies in waiting had visited the site before the actual day to check arrangements. A toilet had been specially decorated in purple for the Queen Mother's personal convenience. My mother said that once it was known that the Queen Mother had finished with the toilet, she, and the other wives, took turns to use the royal throne! My father took me to Longbenton as an infant on occasions. I remember once he sat me down behind a teleprinter in the computer hall and I was encouraged to press the keys. My father later worked on the ICT/ICL 1900 series. In 1970 he moved to ICT in Letchworth retiring from ICL in 1985. Sadly, he passed away in 2015.
18feb2017  Memories of Peter Woodward (from his son, Ian)
My father, Peter Woodward, worked for EMI at Feltham after the war. My cousin and I can remember attending the Children's Christmas Parties at the EMI Feltham factory when we were very young. Later, my father went on to the computer side with EMI, mainly on the engineering side. He may have been based in Hayes for a while. I can recall once being driven up to Doncaster by him for a job on the NCB computer. He was also sent up to the North-East for a period of time, perhaps in connection with a computer at the DHSS but I could be wrong about the customer. He developed a taste for Newcastle Brown Ale while there and we used to take the car to a pub in Shepperton to stock up; I think it was the nearest Scottish & Newcastle pub in the area back then. I think he stayed in Whitley Bay when up there because, when that football team came down to play Hayes (in an F.A. Cup match perhaps), he and some of his chums went along. In time, his employer changed to ICT and then to ICL. My father died in 1981, and I attach what I believe to be his last company ID card.
30dec2016  Excellent link from Peter Wooledge
Peter runs a website all about ICL and its products of yore! There is a fascinating section of photos and documents related to the Emidec at http://www.vintage-icl-computers.com/icl44a.
08sep2016  Memories from Craig Lowrie
My Father, Tom Lowrie, worked on the Emidec 2400 computer originally during its build phase, and then later at the DHSS Longbenton [click here for photo of Longbenton] and I still have some photos that he took when the Queen Mother opened the facility many years ago. He also had a copy of the last printout that the 2400 generated before it was shutdown for the last time. He later worked on the 1900 series with ICL at a variety of sites including Longbenton, but also at the Coal Board, BSRA, The Newcastle Civic Center, Northern Rock and others. As a youngster, I often went along with him and helped with the maintenance on the 1900 series at weekends and later the 2900 series and this eventually paved a career for me in computers. Sadly my Father died a few years ago, but those great memories live on...
30may2016  Information request re A H Doveton
Hallo. Having almost given up hope of tracking down any record of my father’s professional life, I was fascinated to find the Emidec website. However, no mention of him! His name was A H Doveton, often called Hud (or Hod) or Michael. He was an AMIEE and worked at Hayes in the EMI computer division from around 1950 until he suffered a stroke in 1964, just as his analogue work was being chucked out to make way for the digital. If you have any information, please contact me via the EMIDEC website [click here]. Thanks - Robin Doveton.
30may2016  Memories from David Marks
I joined EMI at Hayes in September 1953 as a trainee technician under the wing of training manager R G Beavan. I did the usual "Cook's Tour" which led me to spend some time at Dawley working for "H" as we all knew him. I recall two engineers Roger Towell and Ken Cocksedge and a fellow trainee Mike Munday (Mike and I ran a lucrative coffee making scam there!) We were working on a valve operated rack of equipment (mainly comprising double triodes) which was attempting to record data onto a magnetic oxide surface on the circumference of a rotating aluminium drum which had prerecorded clock pulses. The input keyboard (and the output) was an old teleprinter (can't remember the name, may have been Flexiwriter). The idea was to store a sentence on the drum in digital format and then recall it. I remember the morning that Ken Cocksedge succeeded and when "H" came in he was invited to read the first ever message which, as I recall was along the lines of "Now can I have a rise please H?" My other activity as junior member of the team was to thread the ferrite core matrix memory with what I believe was 40swg wire! One curious memory I have is of Ken telling us about having a nervous breakdown "I knew something was wrong" he said "when I could see the water in the kettle boiling through the lid". You can't make up stuff like that! I spent nearly five happy years at Hayes in various departments before leaving to go to Battersea College of Technology in order to obtain a degree and avoid National Service! Having worked under a future Nobel Laureate I then, at Battersea, encountered a maths tutor (Henryk Zygalski) whom I later found out had been one of the three Polish mathematicians who had first broken the Enigma code. Pity I wasn't as clever as them!!
09apr2016  Memories from Ken Willson
I worked on the EMIDec 1100 in Dawley 2, supervising the production of core planes. I was a Student Apprentice at the time. I remember H coming in saying I have got an idea, we used to say go way we are trying to build the last ideas you had. The machine build was done in the front of Dawley 1. Also remember that H’s car (Standard Vanguard) was the only one you could get in forward and reverse gear at the same time or so the story went. This must have been in 1957 as I remember it being my 21st birthday. Later I returned to work with EMI Medical and so returned to H again. Although this time in the commercial side.
22mar2016  Memories from Peter Stoveld
I joined EMI at Blythe Road in 1970, as the EMIDEC on the first floor was being retired and replaced by an ICL System 4, as part of a Trainee Programmer class. While I never worked on the EMIDEC I do remember it playing Christmas Carols thru the console at Christmas time and I recall many of the names mentioned on this site – plus a few more: Ralph Gardener, Shirley ?, Tony Perch, Martin (long beard) ?, etc. Besides the Blue Anchor I have fond memories of playing soccer for one of the works teams and spending many hours in the Sports & Social Club across the street. I left EMI in late 1973 to join Sir Robert McAlpine in Hemel Hempstead to gain IBM experience and then moved on from there a year later, emigrating to the US in Feb-1975. The last EMIers I saw were Mike Pacey at my wedding in 1976, and a re-union with Ian Simpson in London during a visit back home. Happy to exchange emails and reminisce at... click to email.
13nov2015  Memories from Harry Ellis
I joined the O&M department of Smiths Industries (the still called S Smith & Sons) in the summer of 1962 to work on their 1101 as Senior Programmer, their very first! I then became Chief Systems Analyst before moving to the Aviation Division in Cheltenham where I became Management Systems Manager.
25jul2015  Memories from John Sykes
I joined EMI in 1966 as a trainee programmer straight from graduating in Classics at university. Classics graduates were especially preferred as there was no such thing as a Computer Science degree at that time. On my first day I was plunged straight into a 3 week course to learn the programming language along with Martin Stead and Mike Ladbrook. The tutor, John Frater, took us to lunch at the State Chinese Restaurant in Coldharbour Lane, Hayes. After the course, when not having a liquid lunch at the Blue Anchor, the three of us regularly continued to go there and why not when you could get a 4-course lunch for 12.5p (yes really, that was half a crown in old money). I worked on the payroll project (EMIPAY) with Geoff Bond and Chris Wakeman and had many a late night shepherding through the hourly payroll on a Tuesday evening. The weekly payroll on Monday evening usually went better as did the monthly on a Wednesday afternoon.
13jun2015  Memories from Maurice Hall
I was clearing out the attic and came across an EMIDEC program I had written in 1971, which inspired me to check on Google to see if there was any info on the EMIDEC. Its hard to believe that a computer with 1k core could run the stock control system for the the Royal Navy Electrical and Electronic Supplies, Armaments, Victualing and a payroll for 140k employees. Personally I started at a fairly low level in the early 60s as a Job Controller then operator, programmer and finally manager before it finally closed in 1972. When I mention to people now that sometimes a program failed, maybe with a checksum error, you could look at the words in binary on an oscilloscope, spot the fault correct the word with console switches and carry on, they find it almost unbelievable. We originally had huge twin web Samastronic printers and often they would drop a character and you would clean the large spinning stacks contacts to regain it; todays H&S would have a fit at such a dangerous operation. It was a mercy when we purchased a 600 line a minute Analog printer, controlled by punched mylar tape instead of exchangeable gear wheels, although every print program had to be rewritten. Also I am sure you would not be allowed to dive into a cabinet and move a live cable to take a tape deck from on line to off line for printing. We had a total failure and we spent a weekend up in EMI Hayes on a standby mission to run essential processes. Apart from a small program to make everything whizz around for the official closing ceremony my last task was to write programs to convert one of the systems from the 6 bit word to the 5 bit of a Univac which was to take over the processing. An interesting task as the only way to do this was to use the converter on an ICL 1900 which inverted the first 4 bits so the bits had written inverted so the inversion returned them normal. I say my last task but one of systems above was run in emulated mode on ICL 1900 and a couple of years later when I had moved on I was asked to help with a problem and I wrote a trace program to sort it out. I have many happy memories of my time on the EMIDEC and remained associated with IT all my life until retirement, working for some iconic companies Dec, 3Com, USRobotics.
31may2015  Memories from John Peirce
Long after I stopped working on the ICT 1101 at Smiths Industries, where I went from trainee Programmer to Programming Manager I saw an advert for an ICT 1101 Programmer. At that time I did not believe that any still existed, so I phoned the advertiser. He confirmed that there was no 1101 but that he wanted someone who knew how to program, and that Emidec or 1101 programmers were the best. I agreed with him. I still have my ICT template, but it is not the cheap floppy one on your web site, but hard stiff clear plastic.
20feb2015  Contact request from Colin Devellerez
I was a student of the EMI College of Electronics in Pembridge Square in 1955 to 1956. I would like to get in touch with fellow collegiates who studied at the time. My name is Colin Devellerez now age 85. Click to email.
25jan2015  Memories from Jim Gilby
EMIWIP - approx 1971 to 1974. Now Living in Richmond, North Yorkshire and have swapped cribbage for 5s and 3s dominos. I still exchange Christmas cards with Hilary Swan (Standards Dept) now Hilary Dove and living in Hull. Have you heard that the Blue Anchor has been burnt down? Alas! Many a happy hour spent there drinking, chatting, playing cribbage, and even working - much informal problem solving and tuition went on as well. Click for news article - [There is a lovely line in the article... "there is evidence that street drinkers have gained access." - nothing changes then!!]
06jan2015  Memories from Derek Abrahams
I joined EMI Computers in 1956, when the new computer department consisted of Derek Hemy (Boss), John Ciopley (Deputy Boss), with four programmers - Tony Hetherington, John Raphael, Mike Thornley and me. Our office was in Silverdale Road, Hayes. The leader of the hardware design was Ron Claydon, who had worked on the English Electric Ace and Deuce machines. Two other programmers then joined us. I can picture them now but I have forgotten their names. From the hardware side, John Kason later became MD and chairman of UCC, a large international Service Bureau company. Ken Barnes started Systems Computers Limited (SPL) which employed 500 programmers at one time. And of course, Geoff Hounsfield got a Nobel Prize for his MRI scanner. We were working at first on a pilot machine which was to test techniques for the EMI-Austin Motors (later Austin Morris, British Leyland, BMC...) payroll machine in Longbridge. In fact, the Payroll machine was delivered before the Pilot was working properly. In the end the Pilot machine did work, but I don't think the Payroll machine ever did. They were built with valves (tubes), about 3000 valves in the payroll machine. Of course, it is nearly impossible to keep 3000 valves working all at once on a regular basis. In the end it was decided to keep the thing running because switching it on or off killed too many circuits. The programs were stored on a drum with tracks of 64 x 36-bit words. Instructions were read from the first track. They could be refilled from the other tracks. I wrote all the engineering test programs - and it wasn't easy. Tony wrote the "Synthesis Instructions" which were wired into the START button. We moved to Dawley Road after a year or so. There we were put to work on a new machine, which was to use the new 1mm ferrite cores for the program and control sections. The machine was to be in two parts. The computing part was made with valves, and the other part containing the buffers was built with the new transistors and designed by Doug Hounsfield. There were a few logical positions left over on the control matrix so I suggested three instructions which were in fact implemanted. One Instruction added a modifying register to the current instruction and then subtracted something from the modifier. The other two were "Rewind the tape and change to READ" and "Rewind the tape and change to WRITE". I needed those for the Sorting routines I had to write. I am still in contact with Tony Hetherington, Sandra Rock (now Hawkins) and Mike Plumb. I know I recruited Len Gibbons because he lodged with me for some time and brought me to work in his old Rover, but now I have lost touch with him. Tony, Sandra and Mike will have more memories of those days. I left EMI in 1959 to go to AEI Hotpoint as OR Manager.
02sep2014  Memories from Bryan Fifield
I worked as a maintenance engineer on the EMIDEC 1100 in the early 60s. Working on computers for DEC took me to the States in 78, where I have been ever since. I am now 75 retired and living in Southern California. I have been reading with great fondness the memories of people who worked with the EMIDEC back in the 60s. I was one of those people, working in both Manchester Square and Hayes. My memory for names is not what it used to be, but I do recall some of the people listed. One memory really sticks with me and that is the night that Kennedy was shot in Dallas, I was working the evening shift in Hayes and we were having a break in the Pub across the canal from the computer room when the announcement came on the TV.
21mar2014  Memories from John Prouse
Barclays in 1963 had 2 Emidec 1100s. The Tape drives amused me. The tape was moved by the closing of pinch rollers. Left had to move tape left and right hade one to move right. A common fault was where there was a valve failure and both rollers came into play at the same time. We used to call it a programmer fault as he was using the new instruction “Rewind and stretch tape”. I think that Barclays was one of very few paper tape users. Every local Barclays Branch had Creed printers and tape readers and was sent via the new high speed telephone line 75baud. +/- 80 volts DC. Being friendly with the engineers like Nick Meyer I also visited other sites during the night - Sainsbury did a good free breakfast. London Transport at Baker Street had the 1101. I did the conversion for them for decimalisation currency for the printing output. How times have changed. Am still working with computers now at 75. My claim to fame is wrote the Formula 1 screen which showed the track with the cars and drivers with the times on. BBC use that on the TV. These skills were learnt on the 1100 as, being so basic and memory stinted, you had to be very interactive and innovative.
16feb2014  Memories from Terry Chapman
I was in EMI CSD (1970-74) working with Dai Jones in Standards along with the brilliant Andrew Craddock as my Senior Programmer. I initially worked on EMIDEC to System 4 file conversion programs before working on Paragen and the G9001 Print Program. Most my work was in assembler but I later worked in COBOL with Mike Pacey and Dave Baldwin on Film & Theatre programs before moving back to Standards with Alan Pitches on his "Test Harness" and S4 to Honeywell conversion programs. I left in 1974 to join Univac. For a long time I was aware of what was happening at CSD as my auntie (Gladys Dare) was one of Roy Gray's secretaries! A long time ago.....Blue Anchor unforgettable! Although not an ex-EMIDEC hand I have happy memories of my 4 years in CSD.
01jul2013  Memories from John Swallow
I was employed by EMI from 1955 to 1986 in various roles in a variety of personnel departments. In the early 60s, I worked in the Central Personnel Department at Blyth Road recruiting largely for companies on the Hayes site but also for the STADAN radar facility in South Australia and graduate trainee computer staff for the EMIDECs in Manchester Square and Hayes. As opposed to electronic engineers, there was no difficulty obtaining candidates, and I saw them in droves. John Becker was my contact, and it was a pleasure working for him as he always knew what he was looking for and came back to me very quickly with instructions as to who should be offered jobs. I too am terrible at remembering names, but I do remember Mike Carden who stood out from the crowd in many ways. Later on, I worked with Mike too, yet at the time I remember thinking he was the last person to work in IT! Happy Days!
20apr2013  Memories from John Martin
Afraid I never worked with the EMIDEC but your website brought back a lot of old memories for me as I joined EMI CSD in No 1 Accounts in 1972 as a Computer operator on their ICL Systems 4/40 and 4/70s [I started out on the LEO III at CAV, Acton]. I can remember a lot of the people, especially those mentioned by Chris Thomas. Mike Carden, Roy Grey, Mervyn Fulljames, Francis Askew, Sue Warren, Derek Le Page, Brian Owens, Adrian Crockett who married Rosa, Peter Chandler, Dudley Underwood, Alan Pitches, Mike Pacey, Norman Dallow, Jack Bye, John Wallis, Alun Thomas, Johnny Johnson. I often remember Dudley Underwood and Alun Thomas talking about the EMIDEC. I worked with most of them as after starting in operations I moved to Programming were I worked initially in the Royalties team, then Payroll and Pensions before transferring into Brian Owens International System Division (ISD). We were eventually merged back with CSD where I was working for Norman Dallow in the new Quadrangle Building by Hayes Bridge. I have current email addresses for the following, whom you can contact via the Emidec.org.uk website... John Stace, Sheppy Shepherd, John Morgan, Geoff Axford, Jim Hall, Pete Marr, Adrian Crockett, John Gardner.
12feb2013  Memories from Pat Gargini (now Trishia Blewitt)
I used to be a programmer at EMI, it was my first job. I remember a few of the names, especially Patrick. I think he took the picture that I am attaching. I started with a group of trainees, including Judy Wakeman and Pam Winnett. Judy and Chris and my partner and I got married about the same time and we shared a house in Hayes End for a couple of years. I still have the programming manual, and have very fond memories of working at EMI. I was on the Royalty team and remember Derek. I remember Patrick starting with some others as graduate trainees, and we used to have a laugh. I was awarded the Garggigglini certificate for the most giggles in one minute! (I still have it somewhere!). I have had a long career in computing, programming, systems analysis, centre manager and IT manager for Odeon Cinemas for 8 years. I still work part-time, doing support for home users and I teach in Adult Education for West Sussex, IT of course!
01aug2012  Memories from Jeffrey England
What a great collection of memories to which I would like to add a few of my own.
I joined EMI Electronics in 1960 from Durham University after studying chemistry - I saw an advert for "computer programmers" at EMI, had no idea what a "programmer" was but decided to try my hand. I went for an interview at Dawley Road and was scrutinised by Geoff Moss and Bert Pitts. I remember it well because Geoff asked me if I had a job and I told him I had an offer from Shell as a shift chemist at £500 a year. "It won't work because it doesn't divide by 12" he said "and we're on the monthly payroll here. If you can tell me the next multiple of 12 above 500, we might consider you." Panic! Then 480 plus 24 dropped into my head and I said "What about 504?" "Start on Monday" was Geoff's reply.
I started in Tony Hethington's team working in machine code at first, which is where I met John Coleman and many of the other people he mentioned. I well remember the competition to find the smallest and quickest bit of code to completely clear the core store. Can't remember who won it but I think it involved two double shifts of zero 36 places to the left that progressively filled the store with zeroes until it stopped at register 0. When considered vaguely competent, I went over to be shouted at by Sandra Wilson in commissioning support where we seemed to spend endless nights pumping instructions in manually on the console as the machines staggered into life. Sandra was the smart one so she manned the top 18 switches while I hit the bottom 18 and only had to worry about getting the a-address, function and modifier bits right. It was quite cosy I recall!
After that, I was sent out to help at RNSD Copenacre - I suppose I would have been the software support person to George Halse, the resident engineer. George and I weathered two interesting storms I recall. The first involved testing the daily/weekly backup tape procedure. Each tape generation was stored down in the limestone tunnels along with a variety of other Naval "stores" which we weren't allowed to know about. The tapes went down in the lift OK but when they came back up later they kept misreading. George found that some data had been corrupted. We knew that the tapes were stored downstairs in an area of pretty constant temperature and low humidity which was good. But, we didn't know that the area also housed the largest de-gaussing plant in Europe which was used to de-gauss large chunks of submarine. It was also pretty good at ruining some of RNSD's backup data! After that we kept the back up tapes above ground...
On another occasion, the OIC (Mr Oliver I think) came into the office, shut the door and said very quietly that he was extremely worried about our resident engineer. On his daily round of "the deck", he'd noticed that George was doing his routine maintenance during which he'd obviously had a major problem, lost his cool and was visibly attacking the machine. We retraced the OIC's patrol and sure enough George was in the middle of testing for an intermittent fault. The circuit board was out on an extender and George was "attacking" it with a kid's rubber hammer to try to turn it hard. After explanatory assurances, the OIC wandered off muttering that they didn't have to knock their ships about to find a fault.
One of the most interesting aspect of the RNSD job was file handling as the Navy stores application really needed variable length records and the 1100/1101 tape system only handled fixed length blocks of data. So, we designed a structure which held a list of the numbers and types of sub-records in the heading data of each master record. This told the tape read and write subroutines how many fixed length tape blocks made up the complete master record as it was being read or as it was being written out. Scary stuff at the time as we didn't really have a very satisfactory way of inserting subroutines into application code...
I then moved over to the sales support team under John Grover where the international cast included Roy Britton, Geoff Holland as well as myself Jeff England! During this stint, I worked alongside others at RAF Innsworth, Ministry of Labour and the National Coal Board. Sales support also included helping on training courses in the Research Building - for my sins, I became the resident expert on programming the Samastronic. I'm sure I've been permanently damaged by the experience!
A final recollection still sticks. At one stage, there were four machines on the commissioning floor at the same time and somebody came up with the idea of trying to reproduce a string quartet. In the early hours of one morning, several hundred meters of coax connected the four machines together so that they could be simultaneously clocked by one "master", four lots of "music" programs were loaded and, on the "conductor's" signal, four run buttons were pushed. An eerie but recognisable electronic version of a Mozart string quartet wafted across the commissioning floor to great applause. It was so late, the pubs were closed so no celebratory drinks were consumed!
For those who wonder to this day why Tony Hetherington used to swing round in his office chair and stare out of his Dawley window for ages before answering a technical question, you'll be pleased to know that he confessed several years later that he usually had no idea of the correct answer but that a long pause would give his eventual suggestion greater credibility.
What wonderful memories! Thanks to all who've contributed to the EMIDEC website. Long may it entertain!
09mar2012  Memories from Fred Harman
I joined with only O-Levels in May 1967 I think, and left joining CAP in May 1970.
Additions to Operators: Stuart Bass (one-time shift leader), Peter Whiting (another cyclist), Ian(?) Ridgewell. Also I'm still friends with Rob Flahey.
I remember most of the programmers mentioned, and the trauma for most people of preparing for System4 & COBOL.
Asides: Mike Carden was hilarious - especially when he said ' f***ing hell ' with a cut-glass accent!! John Lewis came across goody-two-shoes, but was OK when you got to know him. Wil Brown - fine - if you could understand him....... ditto for John Frater (I'd drive him home to High Wycombe, p***ed as a newt a few times). Alan Pitches (fag-on permanently) I liked, and Dave Godleman (good cricketer) I car-shared with after I came upstairs as a programmer!! Derek Green - me and the soon-to-be missus went to Jazz dos in London with him.
Anecdotes: The night one of the plonkers managed to print a whole box of invoices so badly aligned, that they tipped them in the canal - but were found out!! Regular mad frantic drives down the M4 to Heston services for something to eat in the wee small hours. Frequent trips to Heathrow in the Cortina Estate (?) to pick up engineers with Johnny Johnson or whoever. I took a boot load of tapes we sold to Thorn (round the N Circular somewhere) - I don't think it was cash !!! When it got hot we did open the end doors to cool the rooms down, with interconnecting doors kept open!!. Drinks were banned in computer rooms (and the machine made dreadful coffee) - but got spilled and was hastily mopped up - to hope we could get away with it. If the rooms got colder - once in a while - we'd lay full-length on the console !! When REALLY bored we'd roll tapes in cases along the floor alongside the rack of tape-drives like ten-pin bowling. I was on shift when Man Utd beat Benfica 4-1 in May 1968 to win the European Cup. An engineer (I cannot place his name) brought in a TV so we watched the second half. Inspirational!!
I left EMI to join Computer Analysts & Programmers, also spent time working for Memorex, Manpower, OKI, and AMD amongst others, retiring from Met Office December 2011.
10jan2012  Memories from William Ringer
In 1964 I was the first computer operator employed by Smith's Instruments in London NW2. I attended the final stages of production on the floor at EMI in Hayes, and participated in the sign-off prior to shipping the computer to the new computer room in Cricklewood. The programmers had been working prior to that with their first application - Payroll and had been testing their programs on the machine at London Transport. When the computer arrived on site at Smith's I helped with the recommissioning tests before taking ownership. I was trained as an operator alongside the ops in the EMI 1101 computer room at Hayes. I trained the first 4 operators for the 1st shift (8 - 4pm day); and then trained the next four for the 2nd shift (4 - midnight evening); sometimes there was still work left over and I ran the machine until 2 in the morning. I clocked up a lot of overtime in those days but it helped me to qualify for a mortgage on my first house! In all I trained 16 operators to run 4 rotating shifts around the clock (24/7) except for engineering maintenance. We ran three main applications for the factory - Payroll; Stock control; Production control; plus some development work for Smith's Aviation. Those early days were good days to remember with nostalgia.
08jan2012  Memories from Sam Harvey
I think my grandmother - Nellie Hall - worked on this computer. Her memory is a little vague these days (she's 98, so entitled to be so) but she is very proud of the work she did on the 'first computer'. Not exactly sure what she did, but I think soldering components was a major part of it. In the old cliche I have read about women working in factories at this time I believe it was her steady female hands (developed from doing needlework from a very young age) that was prized. She is also pretty switched on, which I guess was one of the less openly recognised characteristics required. It would be lovely to know a little more about what she did and worked on - especially since I love technology myself and also had a stint working in some of the geekier 'leading edge' bits of EMI.
26oct2011  Memories from Anthony Gould
Great to find a site devoted to my first experience with computers! I worked for Kodak Ltd in what was known as Sales in those days (later Marketing). It was decided that someone from Sales ought to find out about this new Computer Department, which had been set up some time previously, so I was seconded to them for a short time. In fact there was a Manager (Bernard Bligh) and about 5 people in the Computer Department. There was no computer! We used Leo at J Lyons to do our payroll and that was it. All stock control and estimating was done by PI clerks with Monroe manual calculators and reciprocal tables. However there was great excitement in the Computer Department as we were about to receive our own Emidec 1100 and I remember it being delivered to our Ruislip offices although the computer Department was initially based in London (Kingsway). It was planned to buy later models from ICT but we were overruled by our parent US Company and switched to IBM 360s and I recall learning PL1 (on another secondment) as IBM used this rather than other program languages such as Cobol. Keep up the good work of reminding people about early Industrial Computing in this Country.
28sep2011  Memories from Stuart Loveday
This photograph was taken in 1963 at Manchester Square. I am seated and the guy directly behind is Dave (cannot remember his surname). The guy to my left was a programmer but I cannot remember his name. To the right with his arm on the console his name escapes me as well. I left Manchester Square after I got married in Oct 1964 and moved to Hayes, initially working on the Power Samas machines running Artist Royalties then moved to Graham Rowley's EMI Electronics WIP team as a programmer until I left to join the fledgling Honeywell Information Systems in SW Branch in Ealing, joining the likes of Graham Rowley a few years later and Roger Giles who eventually moved to Paris with Honeywell Bull. I hope to catch up with Graham Rowley on my UK visit on the 12th November for the annual Honeywell get together at the Beaujolais day - I now live in Victoria Australia having retired here in 2002.
30may2011  Request from Richard Waltham about Hounsfield biography
I'm involved with 3 others in preparing a not-for-profit biography of Godfrey Hounsfield. This will cover all parts of his life including his work with the team who designed the EMIDEC 1100, as well as the CT scanner. I worked with Godfrey and Bob Froggatt (one of his colleagues in designing EMIDEC 1100) at EMI in the 1970s. Incidentally, Godfrey once told me that if an EMIDEC programmer wanted an instruction which was not in the instruction set, for example a square root instruction, he could thread a new wire through the cores in the microprogram store. I can't imagine any programmer doing that today, and David Robinson tells me that adding a square root instruction would have been a big challenge. But programmers in those days were an enterprising and pioneering breed ... one of them might have been tempted! I have talked by email with several very helpful people and enjoyed Malcom Fidge's nice anecdote on the website. Dennis Hacking sent me an excellent story about Godfrey absentmindedly forgetting to bring money to pay the tea-trolley lady, being told that he couldn't put any more on his 'slate' and having to borrow money from Sam Yates who was behind him in the queue. I'm very interested in hearing any more stories about Godfrey Hounsfield. Can anyone help me by sending stories about Godfrey or by putting me in touch with anyone else who knew him? Please email me at email@example.com.
28jan2011  Memories from Chris Morris
Good to find this site as I joined ICT in the summer of 1965 (I think) on my discharge from the RAF. My RAF service had been as an Air Radar Fitter (Fighter), having joined up as a Boy Entrant (32nd Entry) in 1957, served as an instructor at Cosford for two years as well as spending time at RAF Duxford, Watisham, and Henlow. My EMIDEC training took place at Stevenage and on completion of the course was assigned to the Ministry of Labour site in Watford as the junior site technician. The electronics was the easy part of working on the system for as far as I can recall. We had plenty of modules to repair and time to do them. What took me time was handling the printer, a SAMAS something or another. 130 character dot matrix printer that could do "page throws" right across the room. The name of the support technician who could do anything mechanical escapes me. But I recall that he raced motor bikes in an earlier life. My favorite pieces of the system were the 1 inch tape decks. 120 inches per second. Great fun getting these to perform at their best. Was sent up to Boots in Nottingham as a replacement technician for a few days and found their tape decks were in a very poor state. The worst problem that we had on the Watford system in my time there was a dropped EOP. But it happened only from time to time, creating a real crisis. Traced eventually to a bouncing contact in the main power switch box... My personal crisis was one late night shift when testing repaired modules after the live runs stopped at about midnight. Can't remember any detail of the problem, but just got the system running again about 30 minutes before we were scheduled to hand it back to the customer the next morning... Nick Meyer was one of the support engineers that I remember. I still know him and he lives in France near Geneva. Another of the "good guys" that I met again during my 25 years working for Digital Equipment Corp (DEC), in Reading and Geneva after leaving Watford. The only computer that I had seen prior to joining ICT was at the Royal Air Force Radar Research Establishment at Malvern in either late 1958 or early 1959. Lots of valves and CRTs. Many thanks for your interesting site about this early system.
21may2010  Memories from Malcolm Fidge
I had the privilege as an EMI apprentice to work on the EMIDEC 1100 machine. I was based at the Dawley works and served on the Test engineering side of things under a Mr Graves. My particular area of the machine was the Peripheral equipment in particular the Elliot Card reader and the Ferranti Paper tape reader. I remember in 1959 working with Mr Hounsfield on a mock up of the 1100 machine that was used at the first Computer exhibition at Olympia in 1959. We had a card reader feeding a Buffer store and then a Power Samas Printer reading from the buffer. The rest of the computer frame was filled with empty panels. Once we got the machine instated on the stand, Mr Hounsfield insisted on running some tests and the two of us worked together into the early hours before Mr H drove me to my home in North Kensington in his Standard Vanguard car.
26oct2009  Memories from Peter Dunsterville
What a great invention the Internet is. For some unexplained reason I searched on EMIDEC and found this site. Scrolling through the photos made the back of my hair stand on end! I joined EMI in December 1963 as a raw graduate, having been pointed in the direction of the computer block by a personnel chap, who thought I would be wasted in accounts, and who will therefore forever be in my debt. Having retired from the IT business in 2008 I can look back on nearly 45 years of unbroken service to the computer business. But it all started in Hayes, down by the canal, where I began my career as a junior operator working shifts at Hayes and Manchester Square, where occasional celebrity sightings were possible. I am hopeless at names but recall being shown round by a Laurence somebody, and thinking I had died and gone to heaven - all those flashing lights and earnest young people attending to the great grey monster's every need. I knew at once that this was for me. I recall John Becker as the boss, but my fellow shift operators have faded from view. We ran all the major EMI systems and also processed Morphy Richards payroll, and mysterious work for the MoD on missile tracking simulations, when we were told to stand away from the printers in case we saw something secret. I got married at that time and discovered a new use for punch card chad when my colleagues stuffed handfuls of it inside my jacket knowing that the lining had holes in it, before taking me for a few celebration pints at the Blue Anchor. I cannot recall the Anchor staff other than to remember they were rather on the large side, which one day helped a small boat to squeeze under the road bridge when they were invited on board and nearly sank it! As an operator I recall the usual gripes with programmers and engineers, one of whom, against our express wishes, decided to carry out some board maintenance during a payroll run. This resulted in the tax and pay figures being reversed on all the printed payslips. Not good when the payroll office was next door. The tape decks were a constant worry, and needed all our attention, one once catching fire. During long night time EMIRSA bubble sorts, some of us would sneak out to the nearby Brunswick bowling alley at Heathrow, leaving some junior operator to babysit the decks. What was a bubble sort anyway? Nights up the west end in Manchester Square were never dull, especially if we knew that the head of EMI was in his penthouse, and might drop in for a chat at any time. Having progressed up through the operator ranks I became a programmer and joined the 14..15..R brigade, working on some of the standard EMI programs. I recall trips to the record pressing plant to see the much-feared factory manager carrying the latest stock control printouts and trying to explain that stock levels of 9999999 were not real, just a strange way that computers had of showing negative amounts! I was then invited to join a small R&D team under Pete Chandler, working on record sales forecasting with some simulation programs from Heriot-Watt university, and then a much grander scheme to automate the whole record business, from order to despatch, which was probably a bit too ahead of its time for the available software. However it did put me into contact with a Univac salesman who eventually persuaded me to join BEA's realtime group working out of the WLAT in Cromwell Road. So I left EMI in 1967, but I shall always remember where it all started for me at Hayes with the EMIDEC 1100. Many thanks for the excellent website which has revived so many happy memories.
06jun2009  Memories from Tony Swainson
I worked on the commissioning of the 1100 in Hayes from Jan 1961 until about 1964 or 65. We were situated on the ground floor of the Cabinet factory. A few names I remember well: Les Graves, Dave Margetts, Alan Snowsill, Dave Busk, Tony Vaucrosson, John Fletcher, Gary Fine, Ron Snowball, Brian Monk and many more names come to mind. I do remember when our payslips were printed on a Samastronic "Catastrophic" printer and the vast improvement when the Anelex printer appeared. I also remember when the Samastronic was converted to the Russian alphabet.
28may2009  Memories from Chris Thomas
I started work at EMI CSD in No.1 Building, Printing-House Lane, in 1968. Not being a graduate (one of the last non-graduates ever employed there), I had to start as an Operator (I still have the Operator's Manual somewhere, showing all the equipment, as in many of your photos). My shift-leader was Wil Brown (from Yell, Shetlands), Sen Op was Derek Green, and the Installation Supervisor was Mike Carden (ex-military, very wry sense of humour), who later moved to the same job on the new ICL System-4s, and was replaced by John Lewis (ex-shift-leader, from Schenectady, NY). I well remember often having to phone or cross the bridge to the Blue Anchor, to fetch on-call programmers (usually drunk!) to sort out crashed systems. I do wish somebody had saved the 'Night-Book', where the Supervisor & Operators used to exchange messages with shifts outside office-hours - some very witty repartee...! (if John Lewis delivered a reprimand in the book to the night-shift, for something they'd done wrong yesterday, we would 'mark' his spelling and punctuation errors in red ink, which was guaranteed to send him ballistic!). Does anyone else remember that, in a hot summer, the junior operators had to open the cabinet-doors behind the core-store, and fan it with printer-paper - you could see the bits dropping in-and-out on the scopes when it over-heated. While operating, I taught myself programming, and joined the Royalties team in 1971(?) - then led by Mervyn Fulljames (excellent, under-rated), though Peter Chandler was still around. We ran the Artist (EMIART), Copyright (EMICOP) & Foreign Copyright (FORCOP) Royalties systems - very complex. The Senior Programmers were John Frater & Nigel Chidley (both brilliant, especially when paralytic!), but I was assistant to Joe Tully ("Neasden Joe" - reminded me of David Essex - snappy dresser). Programming in machine-code. First major task was to amend every program, because the Beatles were regularly exceeding allocated field-sizes! Soon after, we had to do it all again, twice, to cater for decimalisation. I went through every job-position in programming and systems, up to Chief Programmer, and Senior Consultant, being in the department for 26 years. Over the years, some dozens must have passed through just the Royalties team, of whom I mention a few, of the Emidec era: Dudley Underwood, Frances Askew ('Fran' - excellent, unflappable - I succeeded her as IGCP), Pat Gargini, Jackie Cousins. Others, Emidec, but non-Royalties: Adrian Crockett (brilliant - Records, later Chief Prog, after Alan Pitches), Mike Pacey (was my junior Operator, later IGCP of Records), Norman Dallow, Sue Warren, Jack Bye, Andy Torrance, Jean O'Toole (IBM-room, punched-cards processing), John Wallis ('sunshine'), Doug Logan (his girlfriend was Pam Winnett), Alun Thomas, Johnny Johnson, Brian Owens, Roy Gray (I must beware the laws of libel), the real power behind the department - Mary & Elsie, and many others named on your site. I was there when the 2 Emidecs at Hayes (F4A & H6?) were de-commissioned, by contractors using axes and sledge-hammers, only interested in salvaging the gold-plated contacts from the circuit-boards, copper cabling, and the under-floor car-batteries - those old beasts, which we had lovingly tended for many years, were chucked into skips, in pieces! I'd love to hear from any ex-Emidec people, especially from EMI - has anyone has ever tried to organise an Emidec reunion - or are we all too elderly? (and I often wonder how many of the VERY heavy drinkers and smokers are still around!).
12apr2009  Memories from Michael Knight
I joined EMI in October 1961. After training, I was involved in long, unsocial hours of 1100 commissioning tests at BMC Longbridge and at BEA Ruislip. At the former, a merry Irish mentor ('frarm Cark', name alas forgotten) initiated me in the art of expense claims - soon corrected by Bert Pitts, beginning with the observation: 'this is not actually a philanthropic institution'. I taught at least one programming course, manned an exhibition stand at Olympia - and that's about all the useful contribution I can recall making before leaving in Summer 1962. Other names: Guruprasad, known simply as 'Guru', who moved onto 2400 and did challenging curries occasionally; 'Thruster' Jim ??, who arrived with an RN commission and left for a job with Mckinsey; Peter Cooper, who followed me after about a year into Univac, and is apparently long deceased. We four shared for a few months a flat in a house in Pinner, commuting to Hayes in Jim's small van, or with difficulty, by bus.
10mar2009  Memories from John Prouse
I started at Barclays Bank Jan 1963 as an electronic engineer. This site had 2 Emidec 1100s. Our back-up machine was BEA near the Airport. I was there from 1963 to September 1970 when these were replaced by IBM 360 in Tottenham Court Road. I used to work on the maintenance of the printers as well as the mainframe. I also found a bent for programming and modified some of the engineering. I also wrote a 3 instruction routine to find a block on the Potter tape drives. I still remember it...
- Load register 7 with the block number.
- Instruction 19 (block read) into register 7 (The rest of this area of memory contained read only constant registers.
- Instruction (forgotten number - 11?) on register 7 to skip if zero. (i.e. if right block number would be zero)
- Jump back to reload block number.
When you only have 1024 36 bit word memory and a 32k drum any honing is good. I also re-wrote the engineering test programs when London Transport's Baker Street Emidecs had I/O altered for decimal currency (as a matter of interest when London Transport changed to a 1900 it turned out to be slower!). I also had input on the Christmas carols that were played on the Jack de Manio radio programme (the forerunner of the Today programme) also in the 60s.
05feb2009  Memories from John Coleman
I joined EMI in feb1961 to program the 1100, having been interviewd by Bert Pitts and Derek Hemy to work on the 2400! I reported to Tony Hetherington and had a small team writing basic software and other applications for customers eg a warhead evaluating program for EMI Feltham written by Jennifer Keggin. Other names I recall are David Beames, Roger Mines, David Jupe and of course Mike Knight. Sales manager was John Grover. Salesmen were Roy Britton, Len ?, David Bogey, Douglas de Lavison, Brian Burdett, Jeff England. The person in charge of 2400 was John Hopley. Other programmers were Len Gibbons, John Lea and Sandra ? (Scottish lady). I wrote software to help debug customer applications and provide automatic links to the Trace program. I gave programming courses on 1100 (held in the research building near the canal) and which included very sumptuous and boozy lunches in the canteen somewhere near Hayes station.
26nov2008  Memories from Peter Harbour
I used to work on the Emidecs back in the sixties. The sites that I worked at, mainly as a site engineer, included Ministry of Labour at Watford, Kodaks and BEA at Ruislip. I worked at many others on a relief basis including an RAF site at Cheadle Hume, Naval Pay and records at Coperacre, Bath, Barclays Bank at Tottenham Court Road (out of which I managed to lock myself whilst doing a night shift!), one at Welwyn Garden City - I think I must have visited all the various sites in my time. The Engineer's panel that you mention on your excellent web page and which you can't remember much about stirred my brain into action and I remember using it during machine testing. The programs we ran, during Machine Maintenance which we performed every day for about half an hour or so, were CTP1 and CTP2 (Comprehensive Test Program) and whilst these were running we would use toggle switches, normally protected from the operators by the cover, to vary the supply voltages supplying the pcbs by a percentage up and down. Hopefully this would pick up any failing component before it failed at its normal working voltage. As well as the logic set I also have the Engineers' Manual which, when I read it now, could almost be written in a foreign language! It does though give the Instruction Code that we used to put onto the Register 16 switches on the Console to perform various functions and reading these starts to refresh my memory quite a lot. I even instructed on the last Emidec course for engineers, at Alan Gilman's behest, at Stevenage but after such a passage of time I can't remember the name of a single engineer who was on it. I am now 84 and I suppose the memory is beginning to go.
11jun2008  Memories from Frank Coombes
I am not sure what prompted me but this morning I did a search on Emidec 1100 and read your site with tremendous interest. You list BEA as a customer. I was the Chief Pay Officer of BEA at the time when we bought our first computer for our payroll. My boss the Chief Accountant decided that he was not going into the project without someone in BEA knowing just a little bit of what would be involved. I was told to take a weeks programming course at Hayes. I will not pretend now that I remember very much but it was not anything like the languages that came later. Would it have been machine code? Working with the EMI team was a great experience but I am afraid that I cannot now remember any names. As a Certified Accountant I was used to a disciplined approach to problems that the analysis of the current procedures required. I was certain of one thing - the new payrolls had to be right from the very first one. There would be no learning curve. So we started using the same punched cards for the old and the new so that they could be run in parallel and checked for agreement. I also told my staff that I would deal severely with anyone who blamed the computer for their errors. It was such a move forward to be able to have questions answered as the payrolls were being prepared or monitored after the print out. For example we could programme a refusal to make a payment of a refund of income tax of more than a certain amount without having it specifically approved. As we neared completion I wondered if I could slip a condition in that would pay me a large sum later on. I have been retired 30 years. I am 90 this week. I have not received any lump sums. They changed the computer!!!
11jun2008  Memories from Trevor King
I was Chief Programmer at the DER site at Apex House, Feltham. I rewrote 'Synthesis' for 160 column punched cards, an operator prompting program writing to track 0 of the drum, and various tape controlling programs (standardised read and write and sorts using the Fibonacci Series). Dick Harrison was one of my staff and later became Chief Programmer when I left DER. I was, I think, on the 13th (?) programming course in about 1959 and used to test at Manchester Square and by the Grand Union Canal at Hayes.
14feb2008  Memories from Mike Stranks
Well, I think I'll be the third person to contact you who worked for "The Admiralty" and used the EMIDEC 1100 . The "Ray" who is referred to on the 'who used them?' page is almost certainly Ray Weston. He and I worked in the same team with David (Dave) Burt who's also contributed some memories. We were part of a team of 8 who did all the analysis, programming and operating of the system and sorted and collated all of the outputs from the system ready to be distributed to the army of admin staff who managed the front office. I was basically an assistant computer operator who looked after tapes, cards and outputs. Oh how I agree with the other comment on this site about the tape decks! One of my principal duties was to make sure 50,000 punched cards every month were always in the right place at the right time - from receipt of the blanks from store, to despatch to the keying bureau and return, to making sure they were ready for the various computer runs at the appropriate time. And then there were the printers... The Analex was plain sailing compared to the mighty Samastronic. As I recall, 120-char print width with dot-matrix technology and each character being a matrix of seven by five dots. Solenoids were used to push the dots forward to form a character. Do the maths of 7 x 5 x 120 individual solenoids and you can see why they had reliability issues. I was just 19 when I started work in "The Computer Team" as we were called. Entering the Computer Room for the first time was something I'll never forget - the noise was incredible. We forget how much mechanical technology was still needed in those days. I left the EMIDEC happy band at the age of 21 to become a programmer - using that new-fangled COBOL (programming for wimps as the old EMIDEC sweats called it!) running on ICL 1900 machines. 38 years after starting my career in Automatic Data Processing, as it was then called, I'm still working in the IT industry. But as I sometimes say to my team - the majority of whom weren't born in my EMIDEC days - "I was alright with computers until they got rid of those punched-cards!"
03feb2008  Contact request from François Mémeteau
J’ai été un des techniciens de maintenance de L’EMIDEC 1100 de Pathé Marconi a Chatou de septembre 1967 a Décembre 1968. J’aimerais retrouver mes collègues Anglais qui m’avaient formé à Hayes et en particulier John Bayllé. Le responsable français de la maintenance de Pathé a Chatou (prés de Paris) était Monsieur Queraud. Les 4 techniciens étaient : Coêfic, Perillon, xxxx, et moi-même François Mémeteau. Au cours de notre formation à Hayes nous avons tous été logés au Blue Anchor et nourrit par la sympathique Iris.
[attempted translation!] I was one of the maintenance technicians for Pathé Marconi at Chatou from September 1967 to December 1968. I would like to make contact with my English colleagues who trained me in Hayes, in particular John Bailey(?). The head of maintenance at Pathé at Chatou (near Paris) was Monsieur Queraud. The 4 technicians were: Coêfic, Perillon, xxxx, and myself François Mémeteau. During our training at Hayes we stayed at the Blue Anchor and were looked after by the lovely Iris.
CLICK HERE TO EMAIL FRANÇOIS / CLIQUER ICI POUR ENVOYER EMAIL A FRANÇOIS
28jan2008  Memories from David Burt
I worked as a programmer on the EMIDEC 1100 from early 1964 until the end of 1971. It was a most interesting and enjoyable part of my MOD career. So ingrained is the programming language, that I think that I could still program an EMIDEC 1100 even though it is just over 36 years since I moved on to other work. My mind boggles at how far computers have moved on over the years. I remember the fastest EMIDEC instruction '29' SET LINK AND JUMP using 110 microseconds; ie just under 2 minutes for a million instructions. Now we talk in terms of millions per second.
28aug2007  Memories from Harold Tokins
I helped build the first 6 EMIDECs at Hayes in 1959-60. I joined the EMIDEC department as their Fitter after I left the Royal Navy, where I had been a Petty Officer Aircraft Fitter. The department manager then was George Francis (he being at that time my father-in-law). We did much overtime at weekends carrying out modifications such as fitting heaters in the lower trays to speed the warm up time in the mornings. This then led to having to fit extractor fans in the top and thermostats to control the heating. Another mod was to fit washers to the edge connects as the circuit boards were not fitting well. I had a timesaving idea to get some horseshoe washers made up and with these I could then Just slacken the bolt and with a pair of tweezers slide this type of washer onto the bolt and retighten. I caused a right panic when I dropped one of these washers into the memory! The memory at that time consisted of a crisscross of fine wires passing through small ferrite rings - an engineer had taken the perspex cover off of this fragile assembly and my little horseshoe washer dropped in and broke the wiring. Apparently it took several weeks for some poor Welsh lady to make these things and then of course the testing. Great days. I am now 75, retired, happily married to wife number two, and living in Lincoln.
15jul2007  Message from John Bradbury
I went to the BCS@50 meetings last week and got the feeling that the EMIDEC computers do not get the recognition they deserve. I trained at the EMI College of Electronics and after graduating in 1960 I worked as a commissioning engineer on the EMIDEC 2400 building the machines that went to MPNI, RAOC and Russia. I would be very interested to know if there are any other EMIDEC 2400 people from that vintage still around. Names I remember are John Humphries, Brian Sandifer. The big bosses were John Kason (I also worked for him at UCC)and Bill Talbot (deceased). I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
26feb2007  Information provided by Alan Eldret
I notice on your page listing other users, Smiths Industries is not mentioned. I worked for Smiths Industries and at the start of 1963, was recruited into the newly developing Computer Dept to be trained up as a Programmer. I remember that before our first machine was delivered, we regularly booked time for testing, on a machine sited at EMI in Hayes, on the shop floor I think, and we often got the short straw and had to put up with time in the early hours of the morning. I remember The Blue Anchor pub as we occasionally visited before or after using the machine. We eventually had two Emidec 1101 machines, sited with all the associated offices, in a purpose built two storey building added on to the company's main HQ building in Cricklewood. We did use other companies machines, as well as the one at EMI, for early testing or if ours broke down just before a critical job such as payroll, but we became reasonably self-sufficient as I remember. I still have many happy memories of the challenges and achievements in programming the Emidec machine.
03oct2006  Information provided by Wilf Robinson
I joined EMI in 1959. I helped to factory floor commission the Austin’s computer, followed by Boots, Glaxo and ICI. I was a resident on-site representative at ICI for 12-months, then likewise for British European Airways (BEA). I held various supervisory roles, and was installation consultant prior to leaving in March 1964. I had some kind of participation with over 15 EMIDEC computers, including: Austin, then Boots, Glaxo, ICI, Ministry of Labour, BEA, EMI, Sainsbury, Kodak, Colgate Palmolive, RAF, London Underground Transport, Barclays Bank (all fancy colours shown off through plate glass walls), Electronic Rentals, Royal Navy Stores, National Coal Board. Over 20 x EMIDEC 1100 were sold, and at least 5 x EMIDEC 2400, including, Army Stores, National Pensions, Russian exports, in which I only had a passive interest on the same factory floor.
21apr2006  Information provided by Brian Monk (no relation to Ray!)
"I was not involved in the research side of Emidec but construction and commissioning. After an apprenticeship with EMI I did National Service (Radar) with the RAF and then returned to EMI only to find that the radar interests had been sold to Decca. Personnel had to re-employ me and eventually I was told "There are a few boffins in the research factory who are making this Electronic Brain thing, they need someone to wire and test circuits prior to production, what do you think?". This started my involvement with the Emidec. I started in the test section and later on moved to commissioning; after about 12 months I got lumbered with acceptance tests for the Samastronic printer, travelling to West Croydon three days a week to ICT (ICL) to accept these beasts. When an acceptable print-out was obtained the machine was stopped and all gears, pulleys and bushes were drilled and pinned. Needless to say, by the time the printers arrived at Hayes the print quality had deteriorated considerably. Fortunately, the Anelex made its appearance and trips to ICT ended. I worked on the 1100 series for Barclays, Sainsburys, Air Ministry (Cheadle) and then the 2400 for MPNI (Newcastle), RAOC (Telford) and the two Russian machines. Incidentally, I did the training for the Russian visitors on the test equipment they had purchased and went to St Petersburg for part of the commissioning. During the construction of the 1100s we had to burn the midnight oil on most evenings, EMI had an arrangement with an Italian Restaurant in Hayes called The Panda to allow us to have an evening meal free of charge (I can still taste the minestrone soup).
"During the testing of the 2400s for Russia it was discovered that the newly developed OC139 transistor from Mullard was temperature sensitive and would not reach the Russian specification, The Chief Engineer (JK) decided that the machines would be shipped out and the OC139s would be replaced by the OC140 and 140d once Mullard had produced them. A scary time.
"Until about 10 years ago I did have some 1100 PCBs, drawings and manuals but I passed these on to the computer museum at Bletchley Park together with my AEI ,Elliott and GEC bits."
25nov2005  Information provided by Ray Monk, sourced from the internet
"In 1961, Barclays was the first British bank to operate its own computer, an EMIDEC 1100. It was used initially to process the 40,000 accounts of its Pall Mall district."
"To enable its West End branches to deal with a larger number of accounts, Barclays Bank has ordered a £125,000 Emidec 1100 electronic data processing system. It is scheduled for delivery by the manufacturers in mid-1961. The bank's staff organisations have been assured that the computer's installation will not entail any foreseeable redundancy. It will enable more accounts to be kept at each branch."
"London Transport is to install an Emidec 1101 in its computer centre at 55 Baker Street, London."
02aug2005  Information provided by Dick Harrison
"We had two such machines on the first floor of Apex House, Twickenham Road, Feltham, Middlesex (now demolished, but featured briefly in The Italian Job!). They were used for ledger accounts, processing about one million accounts on a monthly cycle."
10mar2005  Information provided by Ray ?...
"The Emidec I worked on belonged to the Ministy of Defence (then called the Admiralty). It was situated at the Royal Naval Stores Depot in Copenacre, Wilts. There it was used successfully for processing the RN stores, munitions supply and the payroll of the non-industrial civilian staff. I was never sure how many of these Emidec 1100s were made. I heard of one being used by London Transport but that's all."