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Graham Briscoe: Reminiscence

LEO III , IBM 360 and Phoenix Insurance

My first computer experience was with Tube Investments in the Midlands working in the early 1960s on an IBM 1401 for their Steel Tube Division, then supporting as a Company Systems Analyst a conversion onto an IBM 360 system - initially a /20 then a /40.

In mid 1970s I moved to Phoenix Assurance who had had a LEO III working out of Norbury - and when the company moved its HO to Bristol in 1974 I joined them and supported a conversion to an IBM 370 series.....it was reported at the time that this installation had the only ever paper tape input ( ex LEO ) into an IBM 370 series machine. (Frank Land, editor:  Mike Tyzack notes that Centrefiles 360/50 also had paper tape input). The LEO machine was number LEO III/33 - and the installation is currently with the National Computer Museum in Scotland - but without any of the connecting cables - all the various "boxes" are present. 

Between closing Norbury and the IBM 370 kicking in Phoenix used the NDPS LEO machines in their Centre in north Bristol - but that is another story..... 

In 1973 Phoenix Assurance (Bristol) (now integrated and " lost " in Royal Sun Alliance = RSA) was converting from a LEO III to an IBM 370 series (at the time the only IBM 370 series which had paper tape input - ie ex LEO) and as part of the conversion from LEO (and a Data Processing Department relocation from Norbury to Bristol), Phoenix were using the National Data Processing Service (NPDS) LEOs (ex Post Office) in Bristol for parallel running. 

The Phoenix LEO III/33 to IBM 360 systems conversion took place in 1973 and this computer files conversion work was above my pay grade then...I was supporting Phoenix Corporate Services Department design the process and procedures (as an Organisation & Methods Analyst) for the relocation of their Administrative Head Office in King William Street across from the Bank of England (the original Phoenix Clock and a giant stone phoenix is still above the entrance hall / door of a Japanese bank (Dawia?)) to Bristol.

During my own research on an Institute of Administrative Management 1960s computer training package I came across Peter Bird - who was, at that time, researching his own Lyons history book. I met him in Reading and we swapped a few stories - particularly the Phoenix Assurance conversion from a tape input LEO III to an IBM 360 (I understand that the Phoenix 360 was the only 360 with paper tape input!), and the impact of the Bristol National Data Processing Service (NDPS) on the GPO to whom Phoenix had outsourced one of its two LEO machines work load during the conversion and whose staff then went on strike, and on the second strike staff blacked all external work as well. Phoenix Data Processing management hired a furniture van - and with the help of a set of keys supplied by NDPS management - stole back our complete set of master tapes. Some were then sent to an eastern Europe organisation (?) with a LEO to print off our monthly renewals - otherwise Phoenix could have lost the insurance renewal business!! I also recall talk of sending some tapes to Australia (?). Finally - some parts of the last planned six months of the LEO tape conversion project were squashed into two weeks - in order to get the Phoenix General and Life / Pensions renewal production and printing facility up and running in Bristol.

Date : Unknown

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH56452. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

Graham Briscoe: Reminiscence

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