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John Goodwin: Reminiscence

I worked on LEO II/4 for the Ford Motor company, & I'm the sole entry in your list of addressees that did genuinely work on that machine; one of the two others worked on II/11, & the other worked for LEO on II/8?, & joined Ford after II/4 had been scrapped.

I notice that you have an error regarding the attribution of II/6. The Government Pensions activity never had their own machine, having used one of other of the LEO-owned machines that operated as a service bureau. (Editors note: Goodwin’s assertion cannot be sustained as a number of LEO Computers Society members including commissioning engineers tell of visiting the LEO II/6 at the Ministry of Pensions offices in Newcastle.)

When I went on my programming course at Whiteley's, we were presented with a list that detailed the owners & locations of the LEO computers; that list omitted II/6, & in response to our enquiries about that, an evasive reply advised us that the presenter was not able to disclose that (so of course we all knew where the machine had been deployed). That machine was actually purchased by another Government activity - the Foreign Office, for one of their activities whose existence was never disclosed; that machine was actually located at Cheltenham, & certain of our engineers were required to work on that machine as required. I never heard of the fate of that machine, but I expect that it was simply scrapped - like all the others & no mention if it is included in any information published by Bletchley Park (it took over the work of the 11 Colossus machines). (Perhaps it's still there?)

It was quite amazing just how much work those machines could achieve, even using punched-card for input & output of master files (some using pure binary), supported by a room full of ancillary punched-card appliances (sorters, collators, punches & interpreters + an IBM 407 tabulating machine - that I programmed using huge rewirable plug-boards! Modern machines seem to be no more efficient, due to the increased bit usage plus masses of bloatware, & general incompetence of system designers & programmers. Our programmes were coded to run using pure-binary code, but the compiler would accept decimal input & convert to binary for execution, but I had to decode the binary & perform modifications by 'patching' in binary.

I worked on our LEO until it was replaced by an IBM 1410 in November 1963, & I supported & worked on a series of other machines until 2000 C.E. when I accepted early retirement, but continued working as a consultant - even to the present day. 

Our replacement machine was eventually replaced by a Honeywell 2200 + a 120, in a dishonest attempt to gain the company's business by a bunch of fraudsters, since the machines were rip-offs of the IBM 1410/7010, & the software merely stolen directly; compiling a programme in Cobol, resulted in a fatal error unless the computer used was declared to be an IBM 1410 or 7010; that machine got thrown-out prior to launch, when it was found that it was not up to the claimed performance, & would take 28 hours per day to run the existing workload then currently performed on the IBM 1410; we replaced the IBM 1410 with an IBM 360-50, running in IBM 7010 emulation mode; I wrote the Post Mortem programme for it!, & spent many week-ends running both new & old machines concurrently 24 hours per day, unassisted & unaccompanied, to develop new programmes for our entire Accounting systems; people would have a fit nowadays, if anyone attempted that!

Date : Unknown

Creator : LEO

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH53402. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

John Goodwin: Reminiscence

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