Elliott Automation became GEC Computers Limited after the data processing computer products had been passed over to ICT (which later became ICL). Elliott Automation retained the real-time computing systems, renaming itself Marconi Elliott Computer Systems Limited for a short time, and then renaming again to GEC Computers Ltd. GEC Computers retained the original but now aging Elliott 900 series, and needed to develop a new range of systems. Three ranges were identified, known internally as Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. Alpha appeared first and became the GEC 2050 8-bit minicomputer. Beta followed and became the GEC 4080. Gamma was never developed, so a few of its enhanced features were consequently pulled back into the GEC 4080. The principal designer of the GEC 4080 was Dr. Michael Melliar-Smith.
The GEC 4080 hardware and microcode included pioneering process management features. These allowed the efficient implementation of semaphores, asynchronous message passing, and context switching.