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Ian White: Interview, 6 December 2016 53386
|Home > LEO Computers > LEOPEDIA > Oral & Narrative Histories > Ian White: Interview, ... 6 December 2016 53386
Ian White and LEO Computers Society
Digital audio of a recorded interview with Ian White who worked as an engineer on LEO II/1.
Interviewer: Mike Hally
Transcript editor: not documented
Abstract: Studied Natural Sciences at St Andrews, specially interested in Electronics. Commissioned in REME and posted to teach at Shrivenham, On discharge interviewed by John Pinkerton and joined LEO engineering team in Olaf Street. Left LEO for a career in electronic control devices, but retained an interest in LEO. Joined LEO Computers Society and started collecting LEO memorabilia.
Physical Description : 1 digital file, audio
Ian White (IW) interview 6th December 2016 Interviewed by Mike Hally (MH) The Electronics Expert & Collector Early Days MH Let's go right back to the start, so can you just tell me briefly where you were born and what your parents did? IW I was born in Edinburgh, in Braid Road. I still live in Edinburgh. My father was a banker and he moved to Dundee in 1935 taking me along with him. I'm an only child and I went to Dundee High School. From the first class right on until the sixth year I was at Dundee High School. MH And your mother? Did she go out to work at all, or was she a housewife? IW Well, she was a housewife, but she was the first lady, or one of the first ladies in 1914 to work in the British Linen Bank in Edinburgh. MH She went into banking because the men had gone to war then? IW She did, and this went on across the board with all similar factories. MH So when were you born? Would that be round about 1930? IW I was born on 19th of November 1930. MH Ah, so you've just had your birthday? IW Yes. So I've made it to eighty-six, and without too much difficulty. Until now! MH And just briefly, before you even went to school were you interested in Meccano, making things. Was there any sign of engineering, at an early age? IW I can't remember much before going to school. MH What about primary school then? IW Well I don't really know to tell you the truth. But later I obviously found maths and physics the better subjects. I gave up Latin to do art in which I got a higher. The school days were very hard days. MH This is Dundee High School now? IW Yes. And I was in the cadets, and was the captain of the second team of the rugby. I generally took an interest in things. Talking about the primary school, I think we had to turn out our pockets once and I had the most items in my jacket pocket! MH And you're still a hoarder? IW It’s gone on from then, yes! MH So let's move forward a bit. Can you tell me about finishing high school and how you went into further education? IW Well it was difficult to get into university at that time because we’re talking 1949, and the priority was for the students from the war; the people returning from the war. But I did get into the University of St Andrews in Dundee college. The university had many colleges including a medical school that was also in Dundee. It was all St Andrews University. I've got my St Andrews tie on today! I was a member of the Students Representative Committee (SRC) , and this meant travelling to St Andrews and that included a train that went to Leuchars and then a train on to St Andrews. I think they'll have something equivalent of the SRC today I'm sure. MH So you were a pretty active student from the sound of it? IW Yes. MW And what were you studying there? What was the degree? IW Natural Philosophy. I got a second class honours degree in Natural Philosophy from St Andrews University. So I graduated in St Andrews and got capped. At that time it was a John Knox’s, cap that was actually used. I've just been to my third grand-daughter’s graduation, but they don't have a cap anymore! MW So what was Natural Philosophy? IW Well it was physics. The degree shows it as Natural Philosophy but it was physics. We did maths as well. An Interest In Electronics IW At that time there was war time scrap. Air force material that you could buy, or acquire, and I think that's where it started my electronics interest. I still have the old, I think it's called the R1155 radio from standard one in the aircraft which I converted to mains supply and, well, I haven't tested it for the last thirty years but it was working then! MW That's interesting. So there was a lot of this war surplus material that enthusiasts like you could work with? IW Oh yes. And, well there was a company called Clyde Supply Company, I think, and they became a retailer of proper electrical equipment subsequently, but they dealt in this scrap. There was a shop in Dundee run by Napper Thompson. He bought things to scrap you know. So the bits like radios and weren't too much of a concern to him as he was after the aluminium or whatever materials he could get his hands on. MW And were these shops in advertisements? IW No, it was just out of a scrapyard type of place. That, and well the Practical Wireless magazines had it all in it. MW So did you go straight into electronics in some way, or was there National Service? National Service IW I had to do the National Service. Again, I was lucky, and I joined The REME. I got the call up letter in Dundee. MW The REME is Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers? IW Yes. So I had to report to Honiton in Devon. Well, I don't know, I hadn't ever been to Devon and had to look it up! And so I arrived there and we all duly did our National Service. I managed to pass the WOSB test. MW WOSB test? IW It's the War Office Selection Board. The one for commissioned officers. Oh you had to climb over and through assault courses and also have interviews like this one, which I probably did better in those days! MW An interview, right? IW That is probably what it was. For some reason it was for the REME as opposed to the engineers. The REME used Eaton Hall for their officer training and it was an infantry course that you got landed with doing, but we’ll be here all day if we go through it all! MW Well just tell me about the electronics side of it. IW Well there was nothing in the training for that, so probably seven or eight months later a return to Arborfield near Reading. Then I had courses learning about the military radios. But, we didn't really do much of the mechanical stuff because we were officers. They had a tremendous number of different variations of these transmitters and things that they connected up. I had a friend who got a posting to the Royal Military College of Science in Shrivenham. And they needed somebody in the physics department there to do the setting up of experiments, and things like that. So I got a very nice posting to Shrivenham, and that was that was very good because we were on university days and there was plenty of time for tennis and sport and so on. MW And you were still in REME at the time, is that right? IW Yes I was, but on this posting. MW So what would be next after the National Service then? IW Well the, I kept contact with the University of St Andrews in what do they call themselves? They identified interviews for you to go to jobs. MW Oh like a careers service? IW Yes, A Careers Office. I think we actually got time off to go to these interviews; I went to various ones. I went to Decca and various other interviews. Mind you the Decca one might have been after this. No I think it must have been the same time. However, we got this information about computers and a chap there said that he thought it sounded like a good project. We’d done analogue computers at Shrivenham College. And, you know, that was obviously the thing to do. So, you know, that seemed something that had a future. We were looking ahead. MW So you knew then that was the future? IW I felt it was. And so I went to an interview at Lyons and saw John Pinkerton. I think, he would have been the main person I would have seen. Perhaps other people too because I think they probably had a bit of a selection process. And then I returned to base and I eventually got this offer for the posting in Lyons. I was trying to remember what the salary was, it might have been six hundred and fifty or eight hundred. I can't remember quite what the salary was. So, I more or less had this lined up for the summer we got de-mobbed. But first of all you were given a train ticket to wherever you wanted to go for your de-mob. I had a girlfriend in Aberdeen, but before that I went to Paris because we were down there anyway. I stayed in the Cité Universitaire there, I think, in Paris. I took in the highlights there. MW So was that the first time abroad? IW Yes, that was the first time abroad. But I made the most of being down in Devon and when we were at Shrivenham, I bought a Ford 8 car. I bought it as a 1935 car and you had to send in the registration book, but it came back to me with a big stamp on it saying ‘this car was registered first in 1933’! Which today would be super, but then it was a bit of a blow because, you know, there was quite a change in cars over that period. However, it got me around. I still had this car at the end of my time at Shrivenham so, and it was nice. I was able to run it off whatever pay they gave me in the army which was quite good. But I had to dispose of it before going to Paris. I left it on a bombsite in London with this chap that had a hut at the end of the bomb site. He took my name and address, I said “send a cheque”. Well my father was mad about that, being a banker, you know. Oh God! But it worked out alright. I got more for it than I had paid for it which was quite good. MW Well just before we leave the National Service, were any of your comrades from the REME, did any of them go into LEO, or to Lyons, or was it just you? IW No, and I claim to be the first person, certainly from St Andrews University, to be in business computers, and from my school, possibly in computers at all. Leo MW Well we’re getting right to the heart of the interview now, so can you tell me about your time at LEO? I don't know, did you start with any kind of training course, or were you thrown straight in? IW Where's my notes, I’ll see. I can tell you I had a communication from LEO. They sent me a map and told me I had to report to Olaf Street which was around the corner from Cadby Hall. Olaf Street was where the first computer was housed and it seemed to be separate from Cadby Hall. [The building in Olaf Street W11 was originally stables where Lyons kept horses used for their deliveries..] So having reported there I was told that they couldn't find me accommodation or anything like that and that it was up to me. I think I stayed in a YMCA for a week or two. I found digs in 59 Eyot Gardens, which was fairly near I think in Hammersmith. It was London W6. I shared an upstairs room with a, I think it was a Welshman, and not from LEO. Accommodation was six pounds, fifteen shillings, which is six pounds seventy five now. That included an evening meal. So that's, that's where I stayed in London, it was pretty basic accommodation. I was the first graduate at LEO, external to the Lyons people, the Cambridge people, and the Post Office. There was a chap with me, I can't remember his name now, he was a trainee from the Post Office, and he knew more about pulses than I did, or do. It was at the start of their pretty rigorous training courses. John Pinkerton was the boss, and he just sat in the corner in the kind of extension part of the building where they were starting to put LEO II together. I think LEO I was tucked around the back somehow. Mr Ernest Lenaerts (EL) was responsible for doing the training and started right back at first principles. Well I have here an actual contemporary note I've managed to rake up on on LEO I. So I mean we were right down drawing the damn thing. MW So that, these are original notes from your training course? IW Yes. We had to return anything that belonged to Lyons when we moved out, however, I did say in my covering letter, I've kept my own notes because, you know, they might help me. They never complained about that. I have a few but this is the only one I could lay my hands on. So these are notes on the LEO I. Then we did binary arithmetic. And that was one of my first pages on which we had homework to do. We had to take this back and do the homework and then you handed in your notes. I don't know what it's about now, but you can actually see his pencil remarks on that! So it's contemporary. Comments on somebody’s homework! They obviously were needing manpower to do things, and I got the job of laying out components on a newly thought up or designed individual chassis. These were going to make things simpler and were obviously getting towards plug-in circuits, but it wasn't quite at that stage. And this is the actual plan of the kind of drawings that you had for the chassis. It's not a copy. You can see it illustrated in Peter Bird’s book. The kind of thing that we had. So I had a wiring diagram and this sort of general layout chassis drawing, and others from which you had to work out the optimum way to lay out the components to make it simple with the shortest wiring. To generally tidy the whole thing up. After the first one or two weeks or so, Mr Pinkerton called me in. He was very pleased with my work and gave me encouragement. I then visited their grand sports facilities on the River Thames. I recently came across the information on this. I’ve got the original some place, but I sent a copy to I think Peter Bird. I entered the charity Christmas draw! [The Lyons Club sportsground was at Sudbury Hill. Harrods (among others) had grand sports facilities by tht Thames.] MW So when was it you started in 1955? Do you know the date? IW I think about July or August. Then my father died at the beginning of ’56, and so I was back and forward. I was away quite a bit but then I resigned, I had to. Lyons were very good. I mean they paid me for quite a while, and then they kept the job open. But of course Mr Lenaerts was wanting to get his various courses going and other people came following on. So I probably gave them a bit of a headache in the start-up of his new training programme. MW It sounds like they were a good employer then? IW Yes, you know, very good. I had to join a union, I think it was a Scientific Workers Union or something like that. It was pretty innocuous because no-one had any interest in politics at that time. They had a pension scheme and I signed up to it. I had just a photocopy, I still have somewhere the original. It's all pretty minimal what Lyons produced in the way of paperwork. It was the rates for their pension scheme. MW So did you do anything else for LEO II, or was that chassis the main thing you did? IW That was the only thing I contributed to. MW You mentioned John Pinkerton in the corner. What sort of size was this office and how many people would there be? Was it a tiny office or… IW It was a pretty tiny office off the main bigger place where they had the framework to hang the various circuit boards and things. But he was very approachable. MW So how many would, how many people would there be on LEO II when you were there? Was it a handful or a couple of dozen? IW I can't really remember. A lot of them were programming type of people, the commercial kind of people. You know, I didn't have any real contact with them. I don't think they moved to Minerva Road, I think that was later in 1956. I was probably there once carrying something for them at the time. The paperwork that I had from when I was appointed was all on Lyons headed paper as LEO Computers were only starting up at that time as a limited company. I think I had a letter, one of my last letters when I resigned, written by Lenaerts on Cadby Hall paper. That was the, pretty well covers the time I was at LEO. MW And John Pinkerton? He sounds like he was quite an approachable sort of person? IW Yes, as far as I was concerned he was. I was called in at one time and given some encouragement by him. MW And Lenaerts as well, do you remember much about him? IW Well he was stricter and he had the measure of me because, you know, I was struggling a bit with the binary arithmetic and that type of thing. And not having had any use with pulses, you know, this was all new to me. After Leo MW So moving on then, once you left LEO, what did you do, I presume it was still in the same field? IW Yes, well I had to sort out the family affairs. I brought my mother back to Edinburgh where her brother lived. I wasn't married at that time so I got a job at Ferranti’s in Edinburgh in the Trials and Installation division which was based between Crewe Toll, which was the headquarters of Ferranti’s in Edinburgh, and out at Turnhouse which was for putting the equipment into the aircraft to be tested. MW Ferranti, a pretty big, important company in those days? IW Ferranti was very big and of course they had their computer division in Manchester which in the end joined up, I think, with LEO. I think I've got some adverts showing LEO, English Electric and Ferranti in the same long title. I was keeping up on information on computers. I had a friend who was in time-and-motion work, in fact he was the man that got me the job at Shrivenham in the Military College. He happened to come from Chorleywood up to Edinburgh to work on a time-and-motion study in the coal board which was also a big organisation in those days. So he kept me up to date with the computer ‘type of things’ because I was still thinking of going back to computers, probably because this was a fairly hands on electronic job. So after three years there and having got married, I answered a small advert in The Scotsman, of all places, offering a salary up to two thousand a year in this company, well it didn't say who the company was! I had to go to Glasgow for an interview. It was this young company called West Instrument Limited. They were getting set up as a branch of an American company called West Instrument Corporation. West Instrument Corporation, well I think that's what they call themselves, from Chicago. It had been set up by two brothers after the war who had a knowledge of magnetic amplifiers and thought they were a good idea for doing a temperature control rather than having a valve circuit or the competitor’s circuit which was mechanical. MW So you got that job with them then? IW I got that job and became the manager for Scotland. I remained the manager there with them until such time as my colleagues in the south, two engineers and two sales people from Birmingham, and I joined forces to start a company called Anglican Instruments. I just couldn't lay my hands on the dates of that at the moment but it was probably about the beginning of the eighties, or seventies/eighties. MW Quite a big step to set up your own company? IW Yes, at my age it was, oh I don't know what my age was at that time! Yes, my friend who was a doctor down in Kings Lynn, I visited him one weekend because we were having a get together. This setting up of the company had to be done surreptitiously. We had a meeting in north London and I spent the weekend with this friend of mine who was a doctor and an anaesthetist consultant in Kings Lynn. He said it was a big step, however it worked out. MW So how long did you keep that company going? IW That's the bit I don't remember but it went on until about 1990. Must have been the nineties. MW So that would be 1990 wouldn't it when you turned sixty? IW Then I saw in one of the copies of the IEE magazine an article by John Pinkerton who had long since retired from LEO. I wrote to him telling him what I'd done and wondered about him. He kindly replied to me and introduced me to the LEO Computer Society that had just formed. In the meantime I came back to unearthing LEO parts. I had managed to unearth a piece of the original LEO II computer from a chap, I think his name was Bennet Levy. I don't know if you know him, he had a shop in Victoria Street and dealt in electronic artefacts. He had all sorts of old antique items, and had the parts of the LEO III computer. Well from a LEO II/II [LEO II/3, the first customer installation)] computer which was, I think, the first one that was actually working in Stewart and Lloyds down south. He also had the final printout from that computer along with a lot of these other parts for which he wanted a leg and an arm! I managed to persuade him to give me the odd spare part that he'd also collected from, I think the person that either wrote the thing off or took it to bits. MW Stewart and Lloyd, they were big steel manufacturers weren't they? IW Yes, and they were big in Scotland as well. This was a first, LEO selling the computer! They made the LEO II for themselves, II/I and then they had II/III [LEO II/2] which was for the Wills Tobacco people. There was a connection, I think, through the Lyons’ chief people to the tobacco people. I think that would be why they had that order. But that order was delayed because, I think, they were waiting for some kind of printout equipment from Ferranti, I don't know. [high speed drums from Ferranti and higher speed printers from Powers-Samas] Stewart and Lloyd’s got commissioned first of all. As a collector I obviously recognise, and value having, the original material rather than a copy. LEO original material is very sparse and scarce. The chap that's helped me with the bits and pieces of the ironmongery is John Morgan. No, Tony Morgan? Oh God. I've written it here somewhere, yes Tony Morgan. Tony Morgan’s name doesn't appear in your book, and Lenaerts’ name didn't appear either! I checked in the index up to see who is covered. Tony Morgan is the only one that really knows the hardware now as far as I can see. I'm interested in the other items that were part of the LEO II computer. But that was my first discovery. MW I didn't ever ask you what happened to, was it Anglican Instruments? Did you sell the company or just leave it, what happened? IW Well they sold the company and I carried on with them to some extent. I think I called myself Northern Controls Limited which were really just marketing their equipment. It was sold to CRL which produced digital temperature controls with digital displays. Our temperature controls were constant pointer analogue primarily. And obviously the new company didn't amalgamate too well with us, a bit like LEO perhaps. MW Well it’s so often the story isn't it? In any merger IW That’s right, although, these were also the changing times where moving parts and things like that weren't in favour. MW So you never really went back to computing in the sense as you did in LEO? IW Well yes, our company brought in computers. West Instruments went through various changes due to its parent company in America. There was a company called Galton Europe. Galton Industries made ceramics and various other things. There was a Doctor Galton in America and he was the person who took it over, but then he fell by the way for some reason. The original West Brothers had the idea of using magnetic amplifiers. But one of them got lost on a sales trip over Lake Michigan in his aeroplane! So that was when the company was taken over by Galton. It's now still trading as West Control Solutions, and it's still making instruments in Brighton . One of my old colleagues there knew I was a bit of a hoarder and managed to get them in touch with me. This was regarding unearthing one of the basic original temperature controls, which they wanted. They had a lot of the subsequent ones but they didn't have the original one. I happened to have one or two, so I managed to spare them one. In return they sent me a set of their current ones. And that's why they're sitting over there. I've brought this out for today it is obviously the original one. This is the original instrument that we, that West Instruments produced. It is a bit smaller than the great big ones that you would get in Colville Steel Works and places like that! MW It’s pretty big, it's not far off the size of say an electricity meter, a mains electricity meter. Whereas the present day ones, well they're really miniaturised. IW Well there they are. And the beautiful thing is that they're still making them in Britain. But, I mean these are standalone temperature controls and they'll do an awful lot more than that original one would do. They say ‘Made in UK’; In the EU. West Control Solutions they call themselves now. But you see I had much more time with this kind of thing than with the LEO, so that's why I'm a bit of a fraud as far as LEO is concerned! MW So you must have been retired about twenty years now and you've kept up the interest in instruments and electronics? IW Yes, and I've kept up the interest in LEO; in unearthing LEO parts. This is part of the, well Tony Morgan reckons that this assembly is part of the main storage unit of which there were sixty four. This particular one is called an LES4b [possibly LED4B] and it's an amplifier for the pulses returning from the mercury delay tube. There's another one called 4a, which was sending the pulses into the tube. Then after that I came across about nine very early bulletins produced by LEO, called the LEO Automatic Office. There's this whole series of pretty elementary literature on LEO, none of which has a date of course. I was anxious to try and tie down the date. They were with something else that was dated 1957 so I was wanting to see if it was then or earlier. I started with Peter Bird and he didn't know anything about it, then I got passed on to David Caminer. And again he replied to me in quite interesting detail to the effect that he reckoned he remembered the bulletins. There were about nine or ten that came in a blue envelope. That's the LEO blue that they've stuck with ever since. He said he didn't know the date of it! I have a set somewhere. He said that they were ’fairly slight in their content, this was our way of doing things we didn't go for the razzmatazz of the big sell’. In fact anyone that wanted that was really discouraged. He said, ‘to tell you the truth this constituted most of their sales literature at that time’! MW The famous film about the Lyons Electronic Office, I think, is a very good sell. The one that starts off with something about all the clerks that were needed, and then came LEO and the Lyons Electronic Office. It's a very good film, yeah. IW No, I don't know it. When would that have been produced? MW That would be 1957 or 1958 I think. IW Well that's interesting .. Anyway, I was in touch with Hilary Caminer about jute bags because of the connection with Dundee. So I told her about Dundee and its jute. She came back to me and asked me if I knew her dad. I had actually met him briefly at a London presentation of some kind that he made along with others in the Science Museum. Were you at that? MW I've certainly been at one at the Science Museum with David, yes. IW He was in a wheelchair, I think, at that time. MW He would be, yes. IW And, so I told her the story about the bulletin. She said she's looked into all of this stuff but she hadn't seen it. I think she passed it on to one of the archivists. But she suggested Frank Land would be the person so I had asked him, but he's never seen the bulletin. Then I come to LEO III which I managed to pick up this printed circuit board. Now this got me interested because that bulletin on the temperature controls says it's for the plastics and rubber industry. I'm a member of the Plastics Historical Society. The Plastics Historical Society founding date was 1988 I know because, well I was at a plastics exhibition in Birmingham. I must have still been with the Anglican then. They wanted a business card from anyone that was interested, so I joined. They produced papers, you know, and articles for all plastics going right back to gutta-percha. All sorts of plastics. So I was delighted, and I didn't know right at the beginning, but this handle has LEO stamped into it. Now I’ve brought together other bits and pieces of plastics that LEO had, but the beauty of this is that it can be dated. Now my only problem at the moment is and I'm going to ask your advice, what do you think that material is? MW It's quite a hard rubbery material isn't it? IW Peter Bird said that it must be quite good because this handle was on the second of the LEO III’s that was produced, right on to the end. They used to bang them with a ruler to see which was the faulty board. So well, I think it's nylon. So I was hoping to find out, but nobody can say. Again through Tony Morgan… he commissioned the first LEO III in South Africa and he said it didn't have a plastic handle. So that's an interesting development because he said it had a metal handle. [ only LEO III/1 mainframe and store had metal handles] Probably they hadn't got this developed by the time, because they've brought out the signals that matter on these pin hole sockets. So you don't need to take things out to find out what's wrong with the components. And this one obviously replaced the metal one. That shows you the step forward, and the thinking, from the bigger chassis. MW And just for the recording, this is a circuit board, which is pluggable with a handle, it's probably a bit smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, but not a lot smaller. IW Yes. And the terminals at the end are gold plated. MW Directly onto the board. There's not a separate connector. IW Yes. The gold bits have been scraped off of them. MW Yeah, they break off, don't they, with plugging and unplugging. [LEO gold connects were of very high scrap value. They were broken off for recycling by scrap dealers. System 4 reduced the gold quality. Repeated unplugging and re-plugging lead to poor contact. Site engineers used ink rubbers to try and restore contact!] IW So this is an on-going thing, because I want to, if I'm able to, find out what that material was. I don't want to show my ignorance about the material! I want to give them this plus the other items that are plastic on the LEO because that sign is off a LEO machine. MW Which is English Electric isn't it? IW And English Electric came after LEO III which had been going for a while. MW We've probably pretty well finished the interview haven't we, so... IW Well, except the basic tapes that have got plastic in them as well. I think, that's another item I've got, it's actually got the tape on it but that won't be any good to anybody. That's the back up to the sort of memory and it's housed in many of these. Here’s case you see, it’s moulded plastic. MW And would this be Mylar tape, or was it before Mylar do you think? IW Well, that's more your area than mine MW It's a classic, the ten-inch tape reel. I can't tell for sure but it certainly looks like Mylar. IW I was never involved with anything like this. My daughter, who went into Scottish Life was organising the processing of the tapes for the computer, so carried on the interest to some extent. So, I'm hoping to produce a paper on the LEO for the Plastic Historical Society. This handle is part of the history of plastics and this was about nineteen fifty something [1960ish]. We can date it. It was made in two parts, you know, it wasn't totally moulded. Tony Morgan told me that these two parts were assembled in the LEO factory. MW And of course the fact it’s plastic means you're insulated for these test points. So that works nicely as well. IW I don't think it's a kind of plastic, I think it's probably nylon. MW It's lasted well, it hasn't started deteriorating the way you see a lot of plastic or rubber does. IW So, you know, one could make something of this for the plastics people! So I think I've now more or less laid that to rest. Well if we wanted to jump back to Lenaerts, the thing that came to my mind, when we started being interested in Lyons again, was that we were taught the idea of marginal testing. You know, I've used that idea to some extent subsequently. MW So do you want to just explain that briefly? Marginal testing? IW Well marginal testing is when you reduce the power supply to the unit and you measure the variation in the output. And it was particularly invaluable for the LEO I and II, because the electronic valves had a life of their own which was very unpredictable. And I read in one of the texts about Mr Lenaerts that they produced a machine for testing these valves. Particularly for testing valves which included vibration. Any faulty ones were returned to the manufacturer, but they were getting too many returned. His machine was so effective it was killing the valves before it even started! So that was the one thing, and then the other thing that I remember is seeing the LEO I computer with a polished floor. You had to pick up the floorboards to access the mercury delay lines underneath. I think you can see in some of the photos the raised platform where the LEO machine was set up. [LEO I was on a stage with the mercury delay lines four-at-a-time on wheeled cast iron trolleys underneath] MW Yeah. I remember a woman who was doing the data entry and I remember her talking about that. If the LEO broke down they would be sitting in the next office and they could see the engineers with the floor panels up trying to fix it. They were desperate to go home, you know! IW Well you can imagine, that's the kind of thing that at my age, twenty odd, I hadn't seen that kind of activity. Picking up the, such a solid wooden floor! Quite incredible. MW I've got something to read at the end of the interview now, but if you then think of anything else you want to say we can just add it on the end. Footnotes: Page 1 British Linen Bank was a commercial bank based in Britain. It was acquired by the Bank of Scotland in 1969 and served as the establishment's merchant bank arm from 1977 until 1999 Page 3 John Knox Cap: Traditional 8-pointed academic cap, made of quality black velvet and fitted with tassel of choice. R1155: A British communications receiver, commonly used in aircraft along with its associated T1154 transmitter. It was used extensively by the Royal Air Force during World War II, mainly in larger aircraft such as the Avro Lancaster, Handley Page Halifax, Vickers Wellington and Short Sunderland. Some were also used in vehicles and air-sea rescue launches. Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (nicknamed The REME): Was created in 1942 to cater for the army’s increasingly complex and important electrical and mechanical requirements. Page 4 WOSB -War Office Selection Boards: Set up in 1942 for selecting potential officers. John Maurice McClean Pinkerton (2 August 1919 – 22 December 1997): was a pioneering British computer designer. Along with David Caminer, he designed England's first business computer, the LEO computer, produced by J. Lyons and Co in 1951. Page 5 John Maurice McClean Pinkerton (2 August 1919 – 22 December 1997) was a pioneering British computer designer. Along with David Caminer, he designed England's first business computer, the LEO computer, produced by J. Lyons and Co in 1951., Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris: is a private park and foundation located in Paris, France. Since 1925, it has provided general and public services, including the maintenance of several dozen residences for students and visiting academics in the Île-de-France region, and has been officially recognized as a foundation of public interest since then. Page 6 Ernest Lenarts: One of the principal figures in the development of the Leo computer Page 7 Peter Bird: Author of “The First Business Computer” that describes the story of L Lyons’ pioneering work in making computers.
Archive References : CMLEO/LS/AV/WHITE-20161206 , DCMLEO20220804004
This exhibit has a reference ID of CH53386. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.
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