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 Home > LEO Computers > LEOPEDIA > Other Memoirs, Reminiscences > Barry Hooper, Programmer Shell Australia
 

Barry Hooper, Programmer Shell Australia

It would have been 1959 or perhaps 1960 that I saw an advertisement for "A Career in Computers" or something like that which was inserted by the Lyons Company. Minimum qualifications Pure and Applied Mathematics at GCE A level. I had these so I applied.

The next thing the happened was the all-day aptitude test. Lecture in the morning on some simple LEO II coding I enjoyed that and seemed pretty easy and I was asked to attend the afternoon session. Another lecture and some test questions that involved testing facilities. That was much harder and taxing. I was offered an Operating job which I turned down.

However, the aptitude test gave me an insight into programming and I loved it. I just had to be a programmer. I applied for every job request from all over England and, of course, was given the same aptitude test. I got quite good at it as you can imagine.

Finally, in 1960 CAV, the electrical auto accessory manufacturers, offered me a job as a programmer.  They had been using LEO I and LEO II for engineering calculations, but at that time they were using the LEO II Bureau for their payroll.

I started with the LEO II computer at Hartree House in 1960. My mentor there was a George McLeman. I watched him program with interest. We used special coding pads (which for LEO II was the documentation of the program) and he would put in annotation first explaining the actions the program was to take, draw a bracket around his text and then do the LEO II coding. I liked that approach.  He was a meticulous programmer and I learned a lot from him.

Also at Hartree House I remember Mr Bernard Pierce and I think Mary Blood (Coombs). She was quite noisy but knew her "stuff". Another name I remember was Robin Pyburn. He worked with me on the CAV Payroll.

On the LEO II we used to amend our programs, which were held on punched cards, by branching out from the main line and adding in the corrected code and then a sequence change back to the main line of the program. These were called blisters. Of course, the handwritten code had to be accord with the program and that was changed too. Amendments were often made, if minor, by filling in digits on the program cards themselves. Else the amendments were put onto paper tape and the program reproduced on cards. It would not take long for the program to get in a real mess so one did not really want many amendments (blisters) which later had to be incorporated in the program and great care was taken. Good lesson to learn so early.

The programs then were kept on punched cards in the sequence of the program to be executed. At one time Bernard Pierce came back from testing his program with his program on punched cards in his hand. The program was faulty and he was disgusted and threw the whole deck of cards onto the floor. I did not envy him getting them back in order again.

During 1960 or 1961 CAV ordered a LEO III so in 1961 went on a LEO III programming course and this is where I met Peter Byford.  I liked programming the LEO II in preference to the LEO III. One was very close to machine code on LEO II but more distant using Intercode, an assembly language with LEO III.  There were about 30 of us in a single room and often it was quite noisy. Initially at CAV we worked above the factory. It was noisy and cold. Then offices were provided up the road and with three others did some serious programming.

Initially at CAV we worked above the factory in Acton, west London. It was noisy and cold. Then offices were provided up the road and with three others did some serious programming.  I stayed with CAV until September 1962.

Just prior to this time I applied for a job at the Bureau of Census and Statistics in Canberra, Australia and was offered a position.  When I arrived in Australia I found that the Bureau of Census and Statistics were  evaluating computers so there was no programming work at all. I was not very happy with this situation at all.

However, Neil Lamming who had been my friend in England was in Australia at Shell Australia in Melbourne at this time working on their LEO III.  Oddly enough I do not remember working in the same area with him at all during my Hartree House time. Through him I started at Shell in late 1963 where I was the most experienced programmer. Neil was the systems designer and we worked from his very clear handwritten program specifications.
In 1965 I was asked to develop a debtors (known a Accounts Receivable) system from requirement Specifications. It had to be completed by February 1966 as this was the  time of the introduction of Decimal currency. It was a six program system some of the programs large and, I thought, difficult. I had never designed a system before. One programmer got bogged down and I arranged for another programmer to do the job. The suite of programs were ready and operating properly by the due date. Testing by the analysts was very rigorous I recall.

I stayed at Shell until 1976 and by then Shell had purchased an IBM 360. Apart from direct random access it was inferior to the LEO especially the operating system and general facilities. I needed a high level of pport "technicians" too (Systems programmers).
I moved to Management Information Systems where they pioneered the concept of users having direct access to and update to information on the computer.

What a great computer LEO was. That Master Routine was brilliant. And printing in the background too, IBM could not do that! Actually I always felt we went backwards when Shell moved to IBM. But then it did have direct access with its disks. The Operating System and file management  facilities were unnecessarily complicated and left a lot to be desired. 

There were so many facilities in PL/1 that programmers were essentially each writing in different languages. Bye Bye to decent maintenance and flexibility. What a great computer LEO was. That Master Routine was brilliant. And printing in the background too, IBM could not do that! Actually I always felt we went backwards when Shell moved to IBM. But then it did have direct access with its disks. The Operating System and file management  facilities were unnecessarily complicated and left a lot to be desired. Bye Bye to decent maintenance and flexibility. What a great computer LEO was. That Master Routine was brilliant. And printing in the background too, IBM could not do that! Actually I always felt we went backwards when Shell moved to IBM. But then it did have direct access with its disks. The Operating System and file management  facilities were unnecessarily complicated and left a lot to be desired. 

There were so many facilities in PL/1 that programmers were essentially each writing in different languages. Bye Bye to decent maintenance and flexibility.

I stayed working with computer systems until I retired in 2002. 

Date : Unknown

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH56581. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.
 

Barry Hooper, Programmer Shell Australia

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