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Brian Mills: Interview 27 February 2018 56450

 Home > LEO Computers > Lyons Electronic Office (LEO) Archive > CMLEO/LS - LEO Comput ... s Society Collection > Audiovisual > Brian Mills: Intervie ... 7 February 2018 56450
 

Copyright
Brian Mills and LEO Computers Society


Digital audio of a recorded interview with Brian Mills who worked as a programmer for LEO Computers Ltd, first in England then in South Africa.

Interviewer: David Phillips
Date of interview: 27 Feb 2018
Length of recording: 1h44m04s
Copyright in recording content: Brian Mills and the LEO Computers Society
 
Transcript editor: Frank Land, September 2018
Brian Mills DOB: 1933
Joined LEO: July 8th 1957

Abstract: After completing grammar school from a primarily languages stream, Brian completed his National Service of two years in the Royal Corps of Signals with the rank of 2nd lieutenant. A degree in Economics from Bristol University followed, completed in 1956. A number of jobs followed, some in marketing, one teaching Hungarians English for the Coal Board, but none of them wholly satisfactory. Tempted by advert to try for a job with LEO and following interviews by Alan Jacobs and Doug Comish, he accepted a job offer as trainee programmer and joined LEO in July 1957. 

His programming career started with a number of payroll systems, tutored by Leo Fantl. Later he joined Leo Fantl in South Africa as systems manager on the LEO III in November 1960. Returned to England after two years to join the consultants’ marketing LEO IIIs, and included Freeman’s Mail Order amongst his successes. Shortly after the return from South Africa LEO became EELM, a move Brian did not enjoy, deciding to join consultants Coopers and Lybrand. This was the beginning of a long and successful career outside LEO embracing a number of companies, culminating with head of management services for British Oxygen. After leaving British Oxygen Brian set up his own venture capital business.

Date : 27th February 2018

Physical Description : 2 digital files, audio

Transcript :

Brian Mills (BM)) interview   27th February 2018
Interviewed by David Phillips(DP)
Edited by Frank Land


Brian Mills - The LEO Programmerís Story
ďlargely  through  CaminerÖ  it was looking  at the  use  of  the  computers  all  the  time  from  a  business  needs  point  of  view " (Editor: David Caminer OBE: (1915 2008) had a long career with J. Lyons, LEO and English Electric from the 1930s through to the establishment of LEO and beyond to the formation of ICL. He became known as the worldís first Business Applications Programmer.) 
Background
DP

Letís start our interview in this very nice house looking towards the South Downs, itís a fine view, and thereís snow and ice on the grass outside but itís nice and warm in here, in this, what is essentially your retirement home I presume?
 
BM
Not really, weíve been here thirty years, over thirty years.
DP
Right.  Well letís start with a bit about you and your background.  Can you tell me when you were born, where you were born, a little bit about your parents?

BM
Yes.  I was born down there in Reigate in 1933.  My father was a labourer, he used to dig holes in the road and carry bricks on building sites and that sort of thing.  My mother was a supervisor in Sainsburyís and later became a kind of supervisor in a, what was regarded as an upmarket cafť, in Reigate.  I didnít see much of my father in my late childhood because he went off to the war of course.

DP
Did he come back from the war? 
BM
Yeah, he came back from the war.  He didnít do anything noble.  He was in the Royal Signals.   I was six when the war started, eleven or so when it ended.  And at that age I got what was then called The Scholarship, which was a year before the eleven plus was introduced.  So I went from my local school to Reigate Grammar, which is now a very posh independent school. In fact theyíre opening branches in China I read the other day.  But at the time it was a state subsidised grammar I suppose. Most of the pupils were private but there was a certain number of scholarship pupils like myself.  About a year after I went there the Government introduced an Education Act  (Editor: The Butler Education Act, 1944) which sort of nationalised the grammar schools and so the number of private pupils fell off and they had more state people.  
DP
Well itís interesting.  Did you show any particular academic abilities in those early days?

BM
Yeah, I was usually top in the class, or second top, until a bit later when rather cleverer people started coming in from other schools.  So I did what was then
General Schools, I got my Matriculation, (Editor: Matriculation is the formal process of entering a university, or of becoming eligible to enter by fulfilling certain academic requirements through an examination.) then two years later I did the Higher School  and Geography.  I mean I was quite good at maths and stuff as well but I was in the Arts stream, as in those days the clever people were put in the Arts stream.  Nowadays itís the other way around I think! 
So anyway I got to eighteen, and I got my Higher Schools rather like the later A Levels.  And I hadnít thought about university, I didnít know what a university was.  After school I was too young to go into National Service so I signed on at the Labour Exchange for a year and they gave me National Insurance stamps. But I stayed at school and I had a third year in what was then the seventh form.  They said ďoh my goodness, we all think you ought to go to university but if youíre going to do languages youíve got to have Latin.  Have you ever done Latin?Ē No, Iíd never done Latin, theyíd never suggested I should do Latin at my school.  So I theoretically did a three months crash course to get ĎOí Level, or General Schools Certificate in Latin.  Or rather I didnít! I wasnít motivated and didnít do anything and so didnít get it.   All that to try to do languages at Oxbridge. So instead, then I went into the army! 
DP
Can I just take you back for a bit?  Did you have any, or do you have any brothers 
and sisters?
BM
I had a sister. 
DP
And what was your sister doing during this time?
BM
She was five years older than I.  She was going to go to Purley Grammar School but because when the war came they decided children couldnít travel that far so they brought her back to Reigate.  But she was never particularly motivated, although she was quite bright I think.  She didnít get on with my mother and so she ran off and joined the WRNS for four years and then came back and worked in a bank. (Editor: Royal Naval Service WRNS; popularly and officially known as the Wrens) was the women's branch of the UK Royal Women's Navy. First formed in 1917 for First World War).  
   
National Service & University
DP
Tell me about your time in the army.
BM
My National Service was two years in the Royal Signals. 

DP
The same regiment that your father was in?

BM
Yes, and my aunt and my uncle and various other people. A sort of signals tradition, if you like.  Anyway, for some reason they thought I was officer material so they gave me a commission, and I was looking forward to going to Cyprus or Singapore or somewhere exotic, or even Korea which was happening at the time.  
DP
As what, a second lieutenant? 

BM
Yes.  
DP
What happened?  Where did you go? 
BM
Well that was the disappointing thing.  As I say, Iíd hoped they had postings in Cyprus and Vienna, Singapore and Korea and all sorts of lovely places, but there was a bit of a scandal on the front page of The Daily Mirror about squaddies being scrubbed on the parade ground in Catterick  in the snow and ice and so on (Editor: Catterick in Yorkshire is the base camp for Army training), so they decided more of us had to go to Catterick and keep an eye on things. So I got stuck in Catterick for the rest of my time! They had snow in June actually when we were there.  But we were in shirt sleeve order on the parade ground because it was June, they thought it was summer, and the snow was coming down, anyway, but thatís neither here nor there.  I did two years, 1951 to 53, the coronation and all that!
 
DP
Right.  And you remained second lieutenant?
BM
Yes, the only people who got promoted were people in the Education Corps and doctors. They were all made captains.  Everybody else was second lieutenant.  I rose to the giddy heights of full lieutenant when I was in the reserve.  I met Mike Josephs (Editor: also in Oral History archive), later of LEO, who was a lieutenant in the same reserve unit.

DP
You werenít tempted to stay on in the army?
BM
No.

DP
So what did you decide to do?
BM
Well, the regiment I was in, there were about eight or ten National Service second 
lieutenants, some of whom had been to university, some were waiting to go to university.  So I got the idea of going to university, and made a very good friend called Peter Blacklaws, who is now dead. He came from Aberdeen.  He got a BA and an MA from Oxford. He was a bit older than the rest of us.  And I said ďwell I donít know what to do, I donít really like languages.Ē  I didnít know why the school made me do languages, and ďanyway I canít get into most universities because I havenít got LatinĒ. So he said, ďwell I did, I think you should do economicsĒ. Well heíd got a friend, an economics lecturer in Bristol, and so I applied there to do economics. 

DP
Did you know what economics was?

BM
No, not really.  

DP
What did your parents think about this?  You were the first to go to university?

BM
My mother came from a family of ten, I think, and none of them had been to university or even grammar school.  My mother was thrilled to bits; she was always very proud of what she saw as my achievements.  So she was very thrilled by that.  And I was walking up and down Reigate High Street in my Sam Browne (Editor: the belt worn by a British Army Officer) for example.  So that was all good.

DP
So you went to Bristol?
BM
Yes. 
DP
You had an interview?
BM
Yes, I must have done.  I remember interviewing with the head warden of Wills Hall of residence that I went to.  He said, ďwell youíre a second lieutenant, thatís fine, youíre in.Ē  So I stayed at Wills Hall. 

I must have been interviewed for admittance to the economics course but I have no recollection of that.

DP
There was a policy, was there, to take forces people?
BM
Well no, the warden was a colonel in the Territorial Army so he was prejudiced in favour of people with military connections. He wanted the prestige from all the men 
admitted, and he thought thatís the way of doing it.(Editor:  For a time post war,
preference for admission to Universities was given to applicants who had seen war service. In 1967, for example 90% of the University entrance was ex service with only 10% direct entrance from schools) 

DP
So there, were there other conscripts.
BM
There were quite a lot, yeah
DP
So, you started an economics course?
BM
Yes.
DP
And how did that go?
BM
Well quite well really.  I didnít really believe in econometrics.  At Bristol, there wasnít much maths involved. It was mostly theory, Keynes and people like that.(Editor: John Maynard Keynes  CB FBA  (1883 Ė 1946), was a British economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments). 

  And yes I enjoyed it. I did quite a bit of essay writing.  It was good, and I got involved in the students union and became treasurer and then vice president, secretary and so on. So I didnít spend as much time on my studies as I perhaps should have done! 

DP
But you graduated? 
BM
I graduated and when I went in for my post result interview they said, 
ďyouíre bloody lucky, you ought to have got a first but we had to struggle with the external examiner to get you a 2:1Ē, so I said, well thank you very much.
DP
Was it because you hadnít done enough work? 

BM
Yes, I think so.  What work I did was in the middle of the night and that sort of thing, 
and I arrived at the exams all  sleepy.

DP
So had you heard of a computer?  Did you know what a computer was? 

BM
No, course not,
DP
Did anyone know what a computer was?
BM
No, not at all. My mother said, ďwhatís a computer?Ē this was 1956 when I graduated. And, of course, there was very little known at that point.  I didnít go straight into computers, 

DP
So you were now faced with getting a job? 
BM
Yes, and they had the Ďmilk trainí, as it was known, employers came round and interviewed people and I got offers from Thomas Hedley, which is now Procter & Gamble, Shell, Albright & Wilson, who have disappeared I think, they were a big chemical company.  Plus a couple of others.

DP
What were they recruiting for?  What did they want, economists?

Procter and Gamble

BM
Well I went  to Procter & Gamble as a marketing trainee. 

They were looking for marketing trainees, management as well.  They had a big management programme where youíd be sent around the world and things.  I suppose they still do.  Anyway, I went to Procter & Gamble and the first thing was to get knowledge in the field so there I was driving around selling soap to all the local little shops. 

DP
How did you feel about that?
BM
Terrible.  
DP
Were you a good salesman of soap?
BM
No, I donít know, I donít think so.  The worst example, I think, was a place down there towards Guildford where a widow ran the shop.  Her husband had died and left her the soap!  And, from my point of view and the companyís point of view, the big advantage was she had a huge barn in which she could pile up lots of stock.  And youíd go into this thing, it would have one end, Iím exaggerating slightly, but youíd get one end, youíd have all Procter & Gambleís soap all stacked up. Persil and Pride and all these things, and at the other end youíd have Unileverís.  They were gradually filling this place with their old stock, all the salesmen were over ordering for her because she had the space to put it and she didnít know what she was doing.  I thought that was pretty disgusting.

DP
Could she pay for it all?
BM
Yes.  
DP
Or was it all on credit?
BM
No, she paid for it.
And then we had things like giveaways, you know, you gave away things. The local Co-op, for example, ordered locally but paid for it centrally. So If you had a locum manager who had no long term interest in the shop his incentive was to buy as much as he could in order to get little giveaways.  So we used to give them, well I remember a left-handed tomato slicer which wasnít any good to most people because the grooves were on the wrong side.
DP
I didnít know there was such a thing as a left handed one.

BM
Well, no, it was probably an accident in production, I donít know.  Anyway, I remember one chap, I gave him two or three things which he gave away to his wife and son, and in return for that heíd order lots of boxes of soap, but I didnít think that was very ethical either! 

DP
So you didnít sell much by the sounds of it?

BM
Well, yes, I think I did.
DP
So what happened next? 
BM
Well Procter & Gamble and I, Hedleyís and I, decided we werenít getting on 
together.  I was supposed to have six months in the field and then I was go to Newcastle and into marketing.  And, you know, I didnít like this.  I decided I didnít like retailers. It was the time of Suez, so I was driving around Aldershot and everywhere and there are all these army trucks driving around, painted bright yellow and thereís Anthony Eden on the radio saying, ďno, weíre not going anywhere near Egypt.Ē blah, blah, blah.  Well why the hell are they painting the trucks yellow?  And I didnít like that either.  But of course the people running the shops did, they thought it was great, we were going to go and Ďbash these wogsí you know!  So I didnít like the company for that, I didnít like the customers, I didnít like what they were doing.  And they, I think, probably didnít like me, for similar reasons.  So we parted after six months. I never did get to Newcastle and I was thinking to myself, why do I want to go to Newcastle anyway? They had told me it was a wonderful artistic place and all the rest of it and I bought the idea at the time. 
 
The Coal Board

DP
What did you want to do? 
BM What did I want to do?  I didnít want to do anything in particular, I didnít know what I wanted to do.  So I looked around for a temporary job and I got a job teaching English to the Hungarian refugees who were being expelled from Hungary at the time, after the revolution.

DP
1956 I think.
BM
1956?  So there were all these coal miners coming here to work in the Coal Board and we had to teach them English in, Iíve forgotten what the method was called now, but it was a direct method, you just spoke to them in English the whole time and eventually the idea was theyíd pick it up.  This took six weeks or ten weeks or something

DP
Did they?
BM
Well the ones who had PhDs and things did, the ones who were labourers didnít.  And the PhDs would act as interpreters for the labourers, but that was not the idea at all. 
 
There was a Hungarian who made cakes, Egon Ronay, running a business here. He recruited a couple of those people

DP
Oh, right.  A very famous restaurant critic, wasnít he? A Restauranteur.  
BM
Yes, but we, what happened was the NUM (Editor: National Union of Mineworkers) decided they didnít want to have these foreigners, immigrants, coming in and taking their jobs and taking their women and all the rest of it, so they refused to let them down the mines.    
DP
Sounds familiar doesnít it?
BM
So we carried on and did the training course. We used to have police burst into the classroom chasing Hungarian thugs, theyíd been fighting the night before and this sort of thing. They werenít all angels by any means!  Anyway, after the six weeks course the Coal Board said, ďoh well, you better do it againĒ So we did another six week course with the same people, the same course, while they argued with the NUM.  The NUM never did let them in but quite a lot of them went off and did open-cast mining.   Others became motor mechanics and so on.
 
DP
What about you, what happened, what were you then doing? 
BM
I was teaching them. 
DP
You just, you stayed with this teaching? 
BM
No, no, I was only there for six months.   
DP
Oh, what happened then? 
BM 
I was a senior lecturer for some extraordinary reason at the Coal Board.  Recruitment at the Coal Board was pretty bizarre.  I mean I had a one-legged bloke who was supposed to be going underground, and the Coal Board hadnít noticed heíd only got one leg.  I mean it was like Peter Sellers or somebody! 

DP
Monty Python?

BM
Monty Python, yes.  Anyway, they made me a senior lecturer. I had an interview at Hobart House. (Editor: Coal Board headquarters) I had a range of people under me, a retired brigadier, a retired 
headmaster, all sorts of people far more qualified than me to be a senior lecturer. They were only lecturers, which was quite amusing.  It was just because the Coal Board recruitment was so chaotic. 
DP
How did you get into computers? 
BM
Well thatís the next thing.  So here am I teaching the Hungarians and looking in the newspapers for job ads.  I applied to the Civil Service for the admin grade (Editor: Administrative Grade, top grade in UK Civil Service) , whatever itís called, did very well on the written part of the exam. I was fifth in the country out of about four hundred people on intelligence stuff and one thing and another.  But then when we had to go and have interviews and see whether we could use our knives and forks, chat all that sort of thing, I didnít do so well.  So they didnít offer me a job in the admin grade, although they did offer me special grade job which was with Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise. Sort of all the mathematical and logical stuff.  And they were right of course which is what my school should have spotted in the first place, but they didnít.  So, anyway, I didnít want to do that, so I said ďnoĒ.
LEO Computers

Then I was lying in bed one Saturday morning, rather late, and I had a look at the job ads. And one, I donít know what it said, but the key thing was there was no need to fill in an application form, just drop in for an interview.
DP
Who was advertising?
BM
LEO Computers, and I thought, I donít know what a computer is, but you can go there without having to complete a form, thatís got to be good.

DP
Were you were living in London at this moment?
BM 
Yeah, I was definitely in London, that weekend at least. 

DP
So you dropped by? 
BM
So I dropped round to Elms House, met Alan Jacobs and Doug Comish  (Editor: Comish in LEO Oral History archive), who gave me the interview.  They were in a great hurry because they were all dressed up, they were going off on a motorbike to Twickenham.  And I thought, this all sounds quite interesting here. So I joined them  as a programmer. Everybody was a programmer in those days, all the LEO staff unless they were engineers.

DP
Did you take a programming test?   
BM
Yes, I must have done, because we certainly had programming tests, I remember giving them to other people. 
My wife failed it in fact in South Africa, but... 
DP
Well, weíll come on to her later.  So you became a programmer of LEO in about 1957? 
BM
I can tell you exactly when, because, this is a letter that I wrote to Wally Weaving, (Editor: another prominent LEO employee) who died in the last year or so.  He was at Bristol University too and was the vice president of the union before I was.  This was a letter I wrote thanking him for his wedding invitation, 1957, 10th of June.  He gave me this a couple of years ago when he came over here with his wife from Australia where heíd been living at one point.  He came over here and he said ďlook, I found thisÖĒ and gave me this, astonishingly he kept it for forty years. However, I decided to dedicate myself to electronic computers with LEO Computers Limited, a subsidiary of Joe Lyons, Hammersmith, and I started on July 8th, 1957 I joined LEO Computers.   
DP
Who was there with you at that time?  Can you remember the sort of intake?

BM
Yes.  My intake was Michael Jackson, Helen, who he eventually married and became 
Helen Jackson, I canít remember her second name (Editor: Helen Clarke).  Who was the rest of the intake?  Itís extraordinary, I canít remember, I can remember the supervisors that were sort of above us.  Alan Jacobs was a year or two before I think. There was Arthur Payman, Geoff Pye, John Lewis, Ian Crawford and McLeman, who was always called Mac, I canít remember his first name (Editor: it was George).  Who else?  I donít know! In the room at the same time was Sam Walters who became a professor at LSE (Editor: Sam Waters after a spell at the LSE as a lecturer became a Professor at the University of the Southwest) and had no education whatsoever (Editor: but subsequently took a maths degree and finished with a PhD in Thermodynamics), he was a protťgť of Leo Fantl, who liked to bring on people. 
We sat in this gold fish bowl type room next to LEO II/1 in Elms House.There were three lines of desks, the bosses sat with their backs to the window and then we had all the rest of us in two rows facing them.  Youíd start in the back row and youíd get promoted to the next row.  We were all in the Lyons Grading System, have you heard all this before?
DP
No.
BM
No?  Well we were counted as management in Lyons because they were puzzled how they were going to pay all these graduates all this extra money when all their troops were getting paid practically nothing!  So they had to call us managers, and I think the top grade was F1. I think I ended up as an F1, I started as an F4 or something like that.   And, anyway on the front row were people like Leo Fantl.  He was a terrific guy and, you know, a great educator.  There were Jim Smith, Frank Land and Doug Comish, some others I canít remember.  Mary Blood was on almost that level.  And then there were the rest of us, as I say, like Jackson and so on.
Early Payroll Systems Development At LEO

DP
So what were you first tasked to do?
BM
I was on the tail end of the, of a payroll project, Kodak I think it was, Kodak payroll, in Leo Fantlís team.  These people had named all their teams and Leo specialised in payroll and so I did the reconciliation programs and things and.. (Editor: a feature of LEO practice at that date was not specialisation by the senior people but the wide variety of tasks they took on.  Thus LEO Fantl, certainly head of the payroll group was engaged in a variety of other tasks Ė in particular ones which had a mathematical context such as calculating the error generated  by mathematical procedures.
DP
And can you just take me through that process? What were you physically handed to do?
BM
Yes.  Iím trying to think where it started.
DP
Thereíd be the systems analysts who would be looking at Ö
..
BM
No, we didnít have systems analysts, everybody was called a programmer.  (Editor: LEO Computers Limited introduced the term Ďconsultantsí for those of its senior programmers involved with potential and actual customers) 

And somebody would write a book... (Editor: A Job Specification)
DP
Youíre looking at a fairly large tome now.
BM
Yes, somebody would write a book like this, this was March 1960, British Transport
Hotels and Catering Services Payroll.  So somebody, who I suppose was called senior programmer, would go out and visit the client and find how their payroll system worked and end up writing all this stuff. 
DP
Now, youíre opening up what looks like a fairly substantial document. There it is, a Ďschematicí, what would you call this? 

BM
What  did  we  call  it?  Just  a  flow  chart  I  think. (Editor:   The normal procedure was for the senior programmer acting as systems analyst to prepare a requirements specification which had to be signed off by the client followed by a job plan including flowcharts.  The procedures and documentation were developed by David Caminer who insisted on the preparation of detailed specifications. An important source for the specifications was the clientís own documentation and job descriptions especially for applications involving little innovation such as payrolls)

DP
And  then  elements  of  it  would  be  given  to  the  programmers to code? 

BM
Yes, there are probably ten programs  in  here  somewhereÖ pay calculation,  tax,  annual  tax  return,  reconciliation  to  prove  it  was  accurate  and  so  on.   (Editor: the very restricted size of computer memory made segmentation of programs necessary) 
ďDP
Which  bit  were  you  allocated?  
BM
Well  I  started  on  the  reconciliation  program  which  was at the end taking  the  results  of  various  programs  and  arranging  them  into  a  control  account,  left  hand  and  right  hand  and  then  checked  that  they  all  balanced  and that  they  were  consistent.     
DP
So were you familiar  with  that  accounting  process? 

BM
No, I had no business  training.  It was all done by logic and analysis.
DP
What  about  the  actual  programming?    This  was  coding  at  this  stage  wasnít  it? 

BM
Yes.

DP
How were you taught to code?
BM
Iím  not  sure  but  I  must  have  been  taught  but  I  donít  remember  being  taught.    We  would  have  a  short  course  which  would  go  through  all the  different  instructions each instruction represented by a different number. (Editor: The instruction codes can be found in Peter Birdís book, LEO: The Worldís First Business Computer.  Learning programming apart from formal training relied on a system of mentorship in BMís case probably from Leo Fantl).
DP
And  how  did  the,  those  numbers  get  transformed  into  something  the  computer  would  understand? 

BM
Well,  they  got  punched  into  paper  tape  or  cards  by a data prep operator and  I  think  they  were  more  or  less  a  representation  in  the  binary  pattern.    So  the  7s  and  3s from the instruction code etc. were all converted  to  binary. 

DP
But this was  done  by  the  computer  itself?  
BM
Yeah, the  computer had  a  card  reader  or  a  paper  tape  reader.  It  read and the computer interpreted  the  holes  that  had  been  punched.

DP
So  you  write  your  program,  it  would  then  need  to  be  tested  wouldnít  it? 

BM
We werenít  allowed  to  use  the  computer  ourselves  until everything had been checked because  the  computer is  a  valuable  thing.  Our  time  was  the  cheap  thing!    So we tested programs on the desk.    You went  through  it as  though  you  were  the  computer.  

DP
Did that work?
BM
When  you  already  thought  youíd  dug  out  all the bugs, everything  had  to  be  rechecked.  I  mean  thatís  one  of  the  big  principles  of  LEO,  everything  had  to  be  checked,  you  never  relied on anybody.    If  somebody  did  something  then  theyíd  have  it  checked  by  somebody  else.  The  flow  charts  were  all  checked,  the  coding  was  all  checked.    So  when  it  had  been  thoroughly checked  and  rechecked  and  all  the  bugs  identified,  and  it  had  gone  up  to  the  next  row  of  desks  and they  said,  ďyes,  thatís  alrightĒ. There,  at  that  point,  you  were  allowed  to  get  this  all  punched  onto  cards  and  actually  put  it  into  the  computer.     

DP
Were  you  there  when  the  cards  went  into  the  computer? 

BM
Yes.
DP
Youíd  see  then  if  it  worked?
BM
You  were  there  all  night  quite  often,  because  the  computer  would  break  down  or  it  was full  up  with  something  else,  you  might have  to  stay  all  night  when  your programme  was  run.      
DP
Was being tested?
BM
Tested yes.

DP
Would  you  sometimes  find  faults  at  that  point?

BM
Always.  Sometimes  it would  get  as  far  as  about  the  first  instruction  and  stop,  completely!    Sometimes  it  would  get  through  and  produce  results  which  looked  alright  but  when  you  looked  at  them  they  actually  werenít.    The  machines were  tiny in terms of their  memory,  oh  I  canít  remember  what  it  was.

DP
But  the  machines  physically  were  enormous.    
BM
They were  physically  enormous,  the  memory  was  six  foot long  tubes  of mercury  in  the  floor,  youíll  remember  those  from  LEO  I. These  expanded  when  the  sun  came  through  the  window  and  mucked  up  all  the  data.    They were absolutely  enormous,  but  with tiny,  tiny  memory.  
I  have  to  tell  you  that  our  problem  at  LEO I  was  when the  tea  lady  used  to  come  through with a heavy urn  of  tea  and  buns  and  all  the  rest  of  it. This could  set  off  vibrations  that  used  to  affect  the  oscilloscope  that  we  would  be  looking  at. It could make everything disappear!   So we  had  to  be  careful  when  the  tea  lady was  in  the  vicinity. 
Well,  as  you  say,  youíre  looking  at  an  oscilloscope.  On  LEO  II  the  screen  was like  a  small  television  screen  and  all  you  had  on  it  was  binary  patterns  and  you  could  tell,  for  example,  when  a  magnetic  tape  reader  was  playing  up, as  they  did  sometimes,  and  all  the  data  went  in  upside  down!   
You  could  see  from  the  pattern  that  it  was  upside  down  because  you  always  had  a  long  identifier.  If that  was  at  the  bottom  of  the  screen  instead  of  the  top  youíd  know  that  the  machine,  this  particular  tape  deckÖÖ. The  tape  deck  recorded  in  fixed  lengths  of  tape  and  in  order  to  economise  or  speed  it  up, it  would write  on  a  block  of  tape  and  then  skip  the  next  one  and  then  write  on  another  one.    And  then  when  it  got  to  the  end  of  the  reel  it  would  reverse  and  come  back  and  write  in  all  the  blank  ones.    So you  had  two  sets  of  data  on  the  same  tape  intermingled  if  you  see  what  I  mean?    And,  of  course,  if  the  timing  went  wrong  in  some  way,  you  found  you  were  reading  the  wrong  one  and  it  was  upside  down,  of  course,  because  the  tape  was  going  in  the  wrong  direction.  
DP
Is  this  an  operator  problem  then?  
BM
Well,  no,  itís  a  fault  on  the  reader,  but  it  could be  solved  by  operators.  Iím  ahead  of  myself  here,  Iím  in  1960  probably.  The  operators  were  very  good  at  detecting,  from  the  sound,  what  the  tapes  and  things  were  doing  and  youíd  hear  a  cry  going  out,  ďsheís  going  round  the  end weíre  going  round  the  bend!Ē. And the operators  would  rush  over  to  stop  it  going  round  and  coming  back  again,  so  they  only  used  one  half  of  the  tape,  in  other  words,  and  they  stopped  it  doing  the  other  half  because  that  was  not  reliable.   But  they  did  that by  the sound the machine made. 
DP
But,  in  spite  of  all  that,  you  managed  to  achieve  completing the  payroll system? 
BM
Yes.
DP
Where  was  that  payroll run? Was  it  on  the LEO  II  at Hartree  House? 
BM
Yeah.  That  was  it,  LEOII/5  I  think.  (Editor: the payroll BN worked on was that of Greenwich Borough Council as a service job on LEO II/5)
DP
So  did  you  stay  at  Hartree  House?  
BM
Elms  House, (Editor:  Part of the Lyons Cadby Hall complex)   that  was until  we  all  moved  up  to  Hartree  House,  after  two  or  three  years.      
Anyway,  so  after  the  first  payroll  I  then  went  on  to  more  interesting  bits  of  payroll.  Then  I  became  a  supervisor  in  charge  of  doing  complete  payroll  jobs.  Then  later I  did  the  Lyons  tea  shops payroll,  which  was  quite  interesting.  I think  I  was  entirely  in  charge  of  that.   
DP
Ah.    Did  you  have  much  contact  with  the  Lyons  management  itself?  
BM
No,  not  very  much.    Although  we  did  some  because  the  manager  of  the  tea  shops payroll  department,  I  suppose,  once  reported  back  to  my  mother  who  he  lived  near, that  I  was  a  terrible  chap!   So  we  must  have  had  some  sort  of  contact.  
DP
Now  tell  me  about  that?    What  was  that  about?  
BM      
I  donít  know,  I  chose  not  to  find  out,  but  I imagine  itís  just  because  I  was  asking  lots  of  questions.    
DP
Anyway,  he  actually  contacted  your  mother? 
BM
Well  he  lived  next  door  or  quite  close  or  something.
But  anyway,  that job  was  a  great  success.     
Then  I  did  the  Kodak  payrollÖ  no, that  was  an  earlier  one  I  did,  well I  did  some  other  payroll, and then,  surprise,  surprise,  I  was  actually  put  on  a  different  system.  I  did  the  sales  invoice  accounting  system  for  Ilford,  who  were  the  sort  of  British  Kodak. (Editor: Ilford purchased LEO II/9 in 1960)  
DP
Still  on  a  LEO  II?  
BM      
Yes,  still  on  LEO  II. 
DP
What  was  the  machine  like  to  work  with,  was  it  reliable? 
BM
Not  really.    Some  of  them maybe were on later  machines.  

These  first  jobs,  that I  was  talking  about, they were  run  as  a  service  bureau. Later  on  we  were  doing  programs  to  be  delivered  with  the  hardware  to  the  customers  own  machine.    I  did  the  Greenwich  payroll  for  Greenwich  Borough,  well  it  was  a  consortium  actually,  Greenwich  and  Lewisham  and  various  others. (Editor: Metropolitan Boroughs consortium, LEOIII/4, 1963).  The  machine  was  set  up  in  an  old  alms  house,  which  was  a  sort  of  chapel,  somewhere  in  south  east  London.   We  used  to  go  around  testing  there  which  was  quite  interesting.  They  didnít  have  proper  air  conditioning  and would  open  a  window  and  try  to  cool  it  down.    But,  anyway,  so  that  was  done  on  later  LEO  IIIs.

By  then  theyíd  got  better  memory, and  were  more  reliable  because  they  had  core  memory  instead  of  mercury delay tubes.  

DP
Were  you  involved  in  any  way  with  the  actual  development  of  the  machines?  
BM
No.
DP
They  didnít  involve  programmers?  
BM
Programmers  never  at my level never  spoke  to  design engineers.  I  suppose  it  was  Caminer  who  organised  all  that.  
DP
This  is  David  Caminer?  He  was,  what,  the  commercial  director?  
BM
Well,  yes,  I  suppose  so,  or  systems  director, originally  he  was  everything!

DP
When  did  you  first  come  across  Mr. Caminer?   
BM      
Well  he  was  my  boss  when  I  joined,  or  my  bossís  boss.
DP      
Because you  havenít  mentioned  him  previously.
BM      
No, well he was  a  bit  remote,  and  the  others  were  even  more  remote.  I  mean   one  of  the  weaknesses  of  the  whole  enterprise  was  that the  commercial  objectives  and  the  Ďorganisationí  and  so  on,  were  never  revealed  to  people  like  me.  We didnít  need  to  know  what  anything  cost and  we  were  not  given  any  budgets  for  producing  these  things,  just  do  it!  And  we  didnít  know  whether  we  were  making  a profit  or  loss.  You  know,  there  was  no  information.    

Anthony  Salmon  must  have  been  the  chairman  of  LEO  Computers,  as  the  Lyons familiesí  man.    Then  there  was  T.R.  Thompson, Iím  not  quite  sure  what  his  role  was,  but he  used  to  buzz  around  and  be  important!    I  stood  with  him  in  a  computer  exhibition  once  at  Olympia  and  he  said ďitís  amazing  all  this,
all  these  huge  cupboards,  on  all  the  different  stands as  far  as  you  can seeĒ he  said  ďand itís  all  resulted  from  meĒ. (Editor:  T.R. Thompson was in effect Chief Executive of LEO Computers Limited).
DP
Perhaps  Mr Thompson  was  right?  Did  it  all  result  from  him?  
BM
Well  in  the  sense  that  LEO  was  the  first  business  computer  and  these  were  all  business  computers.   (Editor: TRTís claim was based on the report he and Oliver Standingford wrote in 1947 suggesting the Lyons management should explore the possibility of using computers for the Lyons business)  
Then  we  had  Caminer.    And under  him  we  had  Leo  Fantl,  Jim  Smith,  Doug  Comish,  Frank  Land,  etc.   Under  these  we  had  team  leaders  like  Alan  Jacobs,  Geoff  Pye,  and  me  eventually.  Then  the  project programmer  was  down  here,  so  we  were  all  a  bit  remote  from what  was  happening  up  there.  Nobody  told  us  anything as I  say.    
I  mean  a  prime  example  of  that  is  this  thing  here,  which  I  was  given  as  a  job  to  do.  I  was  in  charge  of dealing with  British   Transport  Hotels  and  Catering  which  was hellishly  complicated.  
DP      
Itís  a specification about  two  inches  thick.  Payroll?
BM      
Yes. It  covered  everybody  from  golf  professionals  at  Gleneagles  to  the  people  in  the  restaurant  cars  serving  tea  and  all  the  rest  of  it.  It was huge and  had very,  very  complicated  scheduling  systems  where  if  somebody  didnít  turn  up  on  the  restaurant  cars  then  somebody  would  get  promoted  into  his  job   and somebody  else  would  be  brought  in  from  somewhere  else.  These  all  changed  their  jobs  and  their  pay  and  all  the  rest  of  it.  It  was  very,  very  complicated,  a  difficult  job. 
DP      
How  long  did  it  take  you  from  getting  the  flow  charts  to  actually  producing Ö?
BM      
I  canít  remember,  about  a  year  I  should  think.  But  this  was  very,  very  complicated.  I  produced  this  complicated  specification  but the  chap  I  was  dealing  with,  the  client, was  not  quite  Ďup  to  ití,  so  it  was  quite  difficult. 
It  had  a  lot  of  bugs  but  we  eventually  made  it  work.   Then,  to  my  amazement they  said,  ďoh  well,  weíve  thought  about  it  and  we  donít  want  itĒ!
DP 
Why  not?  
BM      
Well,  it  then  turned  out,  I  hadnít  known,  that  the  whole  thing  had  been  sold  to  them  as  an  experiment.  Leo  Fantl  or  somebody  had  said,  ďlook  weíll  show  you  how  it  could  work  and  you  can  then make  your  mind  up  then  whether  you  want  itĒ  which  is  what  they  did.    They  didnít  tell  me  that.    So  in  here  Iíve  got  things  like  a  seven  year  PAYE  routine (Editor: the pay as you earn tax system which deducted income tax from an individualís pay),  you  know,  PAYE  changes  every  seven  years  for  some  reason  I  canít  remember,  and  Iíd  built  all  that  in.  The  whole  thing  would  run  another  fourteen  years  or  something.  So the whole venture was a total  waste of  money!
DP     
And  never  used?  

BM      
Never  used.

DP      
What  did  they  use? 

BM      
Well  they  did  it  all  manually. 
DP      
Well,  okay,  so  that  was  your  first  three years. So,  just  tell  me  a  bit  about  the  people  in  the  companies  for which  you  were  working  on  their  behalf.  How  did  they  find  working  with  software  people? 
BM      
Well,  they  probably  thought  we were  all  a  bit  nuts!    The  way  it  really  worked  would  be  some  chap  from  the  client  who  was  an enthusiast  and  who probably  thought  the  idea  up.    I  think, for example  there  was  the  treasurer at Greenwich,  a  chap  called  Kaner,  I  think.    Anyway  there would  probably  be one  person  sort  of  driving  it all from the client.   You  really  didnít  see  much  of  anybody  else.  Youíd  go  to  see  them,  writing  everything  down  and  then  youíd  go  away  and  build  it.  
DP      
You  would  then  do  the  work  as  a  bureau  for  them.  You  were  employed  by  LEO? 
BM
Yes.     
DP
And  how  long  were  you  with  LEO? 
BM
With  LEO?    Well,  including  the  South  African  bit,  I  was  there  from  1957  until  the  end  of  1963,  so  thatís,  six  years  or  something.     

Itís  a  surprisingly  short  time  really,  I  mean  that  period  has  had  more  of  an  impression  on  me  and  my  life  than  any  other  job  Iíve  had.    I  havenít  kept  up
with  any  friends  or  anything  from  any  other  job  Iíve  had apart  from  LEO.  But  I  mean  Iíve  got  half  a  dozen  people  I  can  be  in  contact  with, and  my  best  friend  is  a  LEO  man.    But  the  atmosphere  was fantastic,  the  team  
working,  working to  three  oíclock  in  the  morning and  lots  of  trips  round  to  the  pub.  Particularly  when  youíre  threatening  to  leave,  Caminer  would  take  you around  to  the  pub  and  pour  beer  into  you  and  try  and  persuade  you  not  to leave  and  so  on.  It really  was  a  fantastic  atmosphere. 
DP
Why  were  people  thinking  of  leaving?    The  pressure  of  the  work? 
BM
I  was  always  thinking  of  leaving  because  it  was  a  way  to  get more  money.  

DP
Can  you  remember  what  you  were  paid  back  then? 
BM
Yes.    When  I  joined  I  was  highly  paid ,  by  their  standards,  because  Iíd  been  paid  quite  well  by  the  coal  board.  I  canít  remember  exactly  what  it  was  but  it  was  something  like  six  hundred  pounds  a  year,  I  think.    And  then  I  got  a  rapid  increase.  Well  I  got  two  increases  in  the  same  month,  thatís  because  of  one  of  their  typical  LEO  cock  ups.  I  was  given  an  extra  fifty  pounds,  I  think,  in December,  and  then I  was  called  in  to  see  Caminer  about  a  month  later  and  he  said,  ďoh,  weíre  giving  you  an  increaseĒ.  I  said,  jolly  good and  he  gave  me  another  fifty  pounds!    They  obviously  hadnít  remembered that  theyíd  just  done  it.  So that was good.

DP
Was  there  not  a  payroll  system  in  place? 
BM
No,  I  donít  think  there was,  I  think  it  was  manual.    

DP
So  you  were  up  to  about  seven  hundred  pounds or  more, which  was  a  decent  wage then?   
BM
Yes,  thatís  right.   My  target  was  a  thousand  pounds by  thirty  I  think,  or  was  it  two  thousand  by  thirty  I  was  aiming  at.
DP
1963  that  would  be. What  were  you  doing  with  this  money? 
BM
Ah,  thatís  a  good  question,  nothing  very  much, I  mean  I  was  living  a  bachelorís  life  in  Earls  Court,  I  wasnít  doing  very  much  with  it. 

DP
Were  you  renting  a  flat  somewhere? 
BM
With  other  people,  yes.  Well  Iíd  like  to  think  we  were  one  of  the  first  with  a  mixed  gender community  in  a  flat.  We  had  two  girls  and  two  boys.    Two  
women  and  two  men,  which  was  revolutionary  in  those  days,  this  was about  nineteen fifty  eight  I  suppose,  something  like  that.    There was  my  old  friend  who  put  me  into  economics,  and  a  couple  of  women,  I  donít  know  where  they  came  from,  oh  they  were  all  from  Bristol,  yes.    

DP
So  did  you  stay  with  LEO  IIs  or  did  you  move  on  to  LEO  III? 
South Africa and LEO III

BM
Well  I  moved  to  LEO  III  when  we  were  in  South  Africa,  because we  took  a  LEO III there. 

DP
Ah,  well  just  tell  me  about  that?    What  was  the  background  to  that? Who  bought  the  LEO? 

BM
The  LEO  was  purchased  by  a  joint  venture  between  LEO  Computers  and  Rand  Mines I  think  their  official  name  was  The  Corner  House  Group. They  formed  what  I  understood to  be  a  joint  company.  Again  we werenít  told  all  the  financial  stuff. The joint  venture  had to  install  the  LEO.    I  had  to  do  the  work  for  the  Rand  Mines  Group,  which  was  probably  one  of  the  biggest  gold  mining  groups,  and  then  to  run it  as  a  service  bureau,  and  as  a  base  for  selling  more  LEOs.

DP
How  did  you  get  selected?  
BM
Leo  Fantl  was  sent  out  to  manage  it.  Heíd  just  lost  his  wife  so  he  was  quite  prepared  to  start  something  completely  new  so  he  went  out  to  manage  it,  and 
I  think  Joe  Crouch  was  probably  the  first  chap  who  went  out  with him.    And  Arthur  Payman  then  went  for  a  short  period  and  then  Leo  asked  me  to  go.    
DP
What  was  the  role  that  you  were  to  fill? 
BM
Probably  a  programmer,  I  mean  everything  was  still  ďprogrammingĒ.    Or perhaps I was a systems  manager.    I had only  recently  met my wife  Bronwen.  I  think  I  met  her  in  April  and  LEO  wanted  me  to  go  to  South  Africa  in  November.  So  that  drove  the  decision  to  marry  Bronwen  really,  because  I  had  the  choice  of  either  marrying  her  or,  you  know,  leaving  her.    So  I  decided  to  marry  her,  and  she  decided  to  marry  me.  Well  and  we are still together   fifty  seven  years  later  or  something. 
DP
You  told  me  she  took  the  programming  test  there?  

BM
When  we  got  out  there,  yes thatís  right.    Bronwen  wanted to  find  a  job,  she  just  didnít want  to  sit  around  doing  nothing,  so  she  came  along  and  took  the  programming  test  and  failed  it!  There  was  a  habit  of  this doing because  Joe  Crouch,  who  was  out  there and  eventually  took  over  the  management  of  the  whole  company,  interviewed  a  nice  Afrikaans  girl  who  also failed  the  programming  test.  Joe  then  married  her  a  bit  later. Sheís  very  nice  actually.    Theyíre  in  Johannesburg  now.  (Editor: Joe Crouch died in 2018)    
DP
So,  the  office  is  established  in  Johannesburg, but there was no  computer  at  that  point?  
BM
When  we  went  out  there,  of  course,  we  just  had  an  empty  office,  there  was  no  computer.    We  started  doing  the  specification  for  the,  what  they  call  the  native  payroll.
DP 
So  youíre  just  doing  sort  of  analysis  systems  work,  etc.?    Getting  ready? 
BM
Yes.  I  went  out  in  November  1960  and   LEO  III/2  arrived  in  Johannesburg  in  1962.  So  that  was  the  whole  of  1961  with  no  computer.
DP
So in  London  you  were  moved from  LEO  II  to  LEO  III  programming and before you left for South Africa? 
BM
Yes.
DP
You  knew  how  to  programme  a  LEO  III? 

BM
Yes,  I  did but  I  cannot  remember  being  trained  on  it  or  anything.  

DP
Could  you  remember  anything  about  the  difference  of  working  on  a  LEO  III  versus  a  LEO  II? 

BM
Oh,  yeah.    Well  there  were  a  lot of differences.  But itís  difficult  to  remember  but, one  of  the  striking  things  was  it  had  a  screen that  could  display numbers,  and letters,  whereas  LEO  II  only  had  these  binary  numbers Anyway, the  screen  displayed alpha,  which  is  very  different  when  youíre  operating  it. The  programming system of, course,  had an  alpha instruction code. 

DP
What  programming  language  were  you  using  then?  
BM
Well  we  used  INTERCODE.  (Editor: the LEO III Assembly language)  But  I  donít  honestly  remember  a  lot  about  it. 

DP
And  CLEO? (Editor: Clear Language for Expressing Orders, the LEO III high level language, somewhat like COBOL)
BM
And  CLEO.    I  didnít  like  CLEO.  Well  it  was  too  remote,  I  liked  to  get  in  the  machine.    I  did  once  translate  CLEO  into  Afrikaans  for  a  sales  purpose,  a sales  thing.  This  was  actually  a  surprisingly  easy thing  to  do.    When  all  you  do  is  take  the  LEO  glossary  and  find  the  Afrikaans  word  for  each  one  of  these  and then  have  another  little  program for which you  punch  the  Afrikaans  on  to  tape  and then  have  another  program  which  reads  the  tape  and  looks  up  the  glossary  and  translates  it  all  into  English,  and  puts  that  into  the  computer.    I  mean  that  was  fine  for  a  sales  presentation  but  I  donít  think  it  would  have  been  very  practical. 

DP
It  never  was  used?  
BM
No, and  I  didnít  get  the  sale  either.  
DP
And  so  you  became  a  salesman? 
BM
Well, yes. And then I did all the systems work.

DP
In  Johannesburg?  
BM
Yes.  And  we  built  up  a  team  of local  recruits  for  programming,  systems  and  so  on.     

DP
Was  it  difficult  to  find  people? 

BM
No,  not  really.    
DP
Afrikaans?  
BM
Afrikaans  and  British,  you  werenít  able  to  employ  blacks.   
DP
You  werenít  allowed  to? 
BM
No,  not  in  that  job, we  werenít  even  allowed  to employ  them  as  computer  operators  and  so  we  had  to  classify  them  as  cleaners,  which  was  alright.  They  were  very  good,  they  were  the  smartest  computer  operators  Iíve  ever  seen  in  my  life.    They  would  stand  in  military  fashion  at  the  end  of  the  row  of  tape  decks  waiting  for  a  tape  to  end  and  theyíd  dash  off  and  change  it  and  so  on,  very,  very  good.    But  we  werenít  allowed  to  pay  them  properly  and  we  werenít  allow  to  classify  them  properly.    And  certainly  you  could  never  let  them  anywhere  near  programming  or  systems  work  or  anything  like  that.   

DP
Even  though  they  might  have  been  capable? 
BM
Well  they  were  certainly  capable  
DP
So  just  tell  me  about  the  LEO  arrival  then?    You  have  the  office  all  set  up but  no  computer? 
BM
Well,  not  office  set  up,  just  empty  floor  and,  Leo put  in  advertisements  for  staff  or  for  selling,  in  newspapers.  We  used  a  photograph  of  a  real  lionís  head  in  this advertisement  for  some  reason.  

DP
Leo  the  Lion?

BM
LEO  the  lion,  but  I  mean  whether  that  was  appropriate  in  an  African  context  I  donít  know.    But  I  remember  we  had  a  letter  in  from  someone,  way  up  country  somewhere,  he  said,  ďIíd  like  to  buy  your  dogĒ! He  thought  this  lion  was  a  dog.    We  didnít  recruit  him  or  anything!    

Anyway  so we  had  these  empty  offices and  Leo  Fantl  had  been  there  a  little  while  and  somebody  else,  possibly  Arthur  Payman.    And we  built  up  a  team  of,  I  donít  know  what,  ten  or  fifteen,  analysts  and  programmers.  Joe  Crouch  came  in  at  some  time and probably took  over  systems.  I  was  put  on  to  marketing and  selling.  So I  sold  a  few  bureau  jobs.... 

DP
But  had  the  computer  arrived  at  this  point?  
BM
I canít  remember.  (Editor: a good account of LEO in South Africa can be found in chapter 25 ďInto South AfricaĒ by Leo Fantl in Leo: The Incredible Story of the World;s First Business Computer)
DP
You  did  show  me  a  photograph  earlier  of  a  large  plane which you  told  me, I  think,  was hired,  in  its  entirety to  ship  the...

BM
A KLM  jet,  I  donít  know  what  kind  of  plane  it  was,  but the  entire  plane  was  filled  with  LEO  III/2.    Itís  not  a  very  big  plane  is  it?    It  doesnít  look  much  bigger  than  a  DC3  does  it?     
DP
Itís  a  four  propeller,  four  propí  plane.    I  canít  see  what  it  is,  but  itís  a  substantial  KLM  plane. And  I  can  see  in  this  photograph  itís  on  the  tarmac. It  was  chartered  specifically  to  bring  the  LEO  III  to  Johannesburg,  the  first  computer  in  Africa  probably? 

BM
 Well  my  wife  keeps  saying  that  but  I  donít  think  it was.    I  think  there  may  have  been  some  very  small  ICL  HEC  4  or  something  that may  have  been  there  before LEO.  But  itís  the  first  substantial  thing in  fairness. In  fact I  think  our  claim  was  that it was the  first  multi  programming  computer  in  the  southern  hemisphere. (Editor: Leo Fantl reports that when he arrived in South Africa there was a service bureau  on a Standard Telephone and Cables Stantec-Zebra, and an insurance company in Cape Town was using a Ferranti  Perseus.  A little later a Ferranti ORION served another insurance company)
 
DP
Yes.  Well,  youíve  hit  on  a  good  term  there  because  LEO  III  was  capable  of  running  more  than  one  programme concurrently,  as  opposed  to LEO  Iís  and  IIís. I  think  thatís  right  isnít  it? 

BM
Thatís  right.  
DP
So  it  became  a  much  more  efficient  machine? 

BM
Yes.
DP
As a programmer were  there  any  other  aspects  of  it  that  were  notable, compared  to,  say the  LEO  II that you found helpful,  useful or exciting? 
BM
I  canít  remember  really.    It  had  much bigger  memory  and,  as  you  say,  was much  faster.  And, by using INTERCODE,  we programmed  in  alpha  not  in  numbers  which  was  good. I  canít  remember  much.  It was more reliable I presume.

DP
So there  was  a  big compiler  program  I  presume   to  take  what  youíd  written and translate it intoÖ?  (Editor: Note the distinction between CLEO which required a compiler to translate the written code into  INTERCODE and INTERCODE which was translated into machine code as it was loaded into the computer by a piece of systems software called an Ďassemblerí)

BM
Into  machine  code,  yeah.  But  I  think  LEO  II  also did  that  didnít  it?
Iím  not  sure.    Well  LEO  II  had  a compiler but  they  only  worked  from  numbers. (Editor:  LEO II had an Ďassemblerí   which converted the LEO II assembly code into machine code as it was loaded) You wrote  in  numbers  and  then  it  got  compiled  into  other  numbers, whereas  with LEO  III,  of  course,  you  could  write  in  alpha. 

I  remember  Joe  Crouch  and  I,  we  were  doing  some  absurd  job  which  I  over- sold,  or  under-priced.    To  work  out  the  prices  for  second  hand  cars  in  South  Africa which  then  got  printed  in  a  magazine.    This  was  a  tiny  job  which  they  
didnít  pay  very  much  for  because  it  wasnít  worth  very  much.  But  it  was  quite  a  complicated  program, and  the  programmer  we  put  on  to it  made  a  complete  mess  and  so  Joe  and  I  sat  down  and  wrote  it  ourselves using  a  manual.  Remember we had  never  done  any  programming  for  LEO  III  at  that  point.  I  think  it  was  a  CLEO  manual  or  something.    So  we  got  the  manual  out  and  
wrote  this  program  complete  in  twenty  four  hours  which  we  thought  was  amazing.  But  I  mean  in  business  terms  itís  a  completely  uneconomic  and  pretty  senseless  thing  to  be  doing,  but  it  was  quite  an  achievement!
DP
Oh,  I  donít  know,  if  you  can  write  a  program in  twenty  four  hoursÖ

BM
Well,  yeah.    He  was  very  good,  Joe  Crouch
DP
So,  what  was  life  like  in  South  Africa?  
BM
There was  the  chairman  of  LEO  South  Africa,  a  man  called  F.E.  Hay. He  was  a  Rand  Mines  person  and  he  didnít  know  anything  about  computers  and  didnít  want  to  know  about  computers 
  
DP
Youíre  showing  me  a  photograph  of  this  man,  in  the  background  is  the  plane  
which,  presumably,  has  just  had  LEO  III  unloaded  from  it  and  moved  into an  enormous  articulated  truck,  called  Frasers  Trans-Africa  Road  Lines,  and  that,  presumably  is  transporting  the LEO to  your  offices. Anyway tell me  about  life  in  South  Africa?  Quite  a  difference  from  Earls  Court? 
BM
Well,  when  we  first  got  there  LEO  put  us  into  a  hotel  which  was,  I  donít  know  what  you  would  call  it,  a  sort  of  safari  hotel. The  rooms  were  
Lodges  with  straw  roofs  and  stuff.    We  spent  our  first  Christmas  there,  And  then  we  found  ourselves  a  flat  in  a  suburb  called  Rosebank  where we  set  ourselves  up;  we  were  just  married.  Bronwen  got  herself  a  job  after  she  failed  the  programming  test,  in  an  insurance  brokers.   
DP
What  was  life  like?  
BM
I  was,  as  always,  with  LEO,  too  busy,  spending  too  many  hours  on the job.    We  could  have  had  a  marvellous  life,  as  Bronwen  keeps  telling  me,  with  tennis  and  swimming  and  parties  and  stuff.    But  we  didnít  do  any  much  of  that! 
DP
Because you were working? 
BM
Partly  because  I  was  working,  partly  because  I  donít  like  tennis  and  swimming  and we  didnít  really  get  to  know  local  people  very  much.    More  LEO  people  came  out  and  we  got  to  know  them,  we  used  to drive  out  to  a  thing  called  a  Ďdamí which  is  South  African  for  a  lake,  at  the  weekend  and  the  swimmers  would  swim,  and  weíd  sit  around  amongst  the  bougainvillea  and  stuff  and  relax.    

DP
Would  people  come  up  from  head  office  in  London?  

BM
Visiting  you  mean?   Well  one  person did,  Anthony  Salmon.  I  showed  you that  photo  didnít  I?  
DP
The Chairman?

BM
Yes.  You  saw  him  with  his  hat  on,  fishing,  didnít  you?  Well  he  would  come  out  with  his  wife,  who  I  think  was  called  Valerie,  and  they  did  the  full  sort  of  looking  after  the  troops  act.    Valerie,  of  course Ďdarlingí, sent  us  Christmas  cards,  with  love and  that  sort  of  thing.    She  got  bitten  by  a  monkey  which  rather  spoilt  the  atmosphere  at  one  point.    But  that  was  nothing  to  do  with  LEO.   They  were  visiting  Lyons  tea  estates  in  Natal  or  something.  

DP
Oh,  I  see,  there  were  African  interests  for Lyons?
BM
Yes.   Anyway,  they were  very  nice  people  but,  again,  knew  nothing  about  computers. Anthonyís  line  was  just to go  and   encourage  these  young  chaps,  and  he  was  very  good  at  it.   He  would  come  out,  I  donít  know,  every  six  months  or  something  or  perhaps  a  bit  more  than  that. 

Nobody  else  came.    I  donít  remember  Caminer  coming. (Editor: Caminer was in Johannesburg for the signing of the agreement with Rand Mines(
  
DP
How  long  were  you  in  South  Africa?  
BM
Two  years. 
DP
And  then  what? 
BM
I  want  to  talk  about  this  at  some  pointÖ
DP
Ah,  what  is  that  youíre  pointing  at?  
BM
Thatís  the  payroll  specification for  the ďNative  payrollĒ for  the  Rand  Mines  Group.  This is volume  1,  I  havenít  got  the  other  volume  so  I  havenít  got  any  flow  charts.

DP
Itís  a  substantial  document.

BM 
It says  an  interesting  thing.    ďLEO  is  at  present  calculating  pay for Natives  on  six  mines Ö City Deep, Crown Mines,  Durban  Roodepoort Deep etc ÖThe  six  mines  which  are  being  processed  by  LEO  have  an  average  strength  of  64,000  Natives,  paid  on  a  full  ticket  basis varying  from  8,000 to 16,000 per  mine.    This  number  fluctuates  with  the  time  of  year,  being  at  its  peak  around  March  to June.Ē   Thatís  probably  something  to  do  with  the  harvest.  
  
Now  these  natives  would  come  in  from  all  over  Southern  Africa,  they  came  from  what  is  now  Zimbabwe,  Zambia,  Mozambique and  Angola.  Theyíd  all  come  into  Johannesburg  and  live  in  compounds,  men  only. It  was  rather  like  the  industrial  revolution  in  this  country  when  people  came  in  to  the  factories.  They  werenít  used  to  factory  type  discipline  or  timing  or  controls  or  anything.    So  they  would  sort  of  work  when  they  wanted  to  work  and  the  payment  was  through a ticket  book,  and  theyíd  get  a  stamp  for  each  day  they  turned  up  for  work  and  when  they  got  thirty  they  got  to  a  full  moon.    When  they  got  to  a  full  moon  they  knew  they  could be  paid,  because  they couldnít  read.    We  would  run  the  payroll  every  day,  and  anybody  who  had  reached  the  thirty  days  on  that  day  would  get  paid.    So  it  was  quite  complicated  logic,  or  was  to  us  then  anyway.  Sixty  four  thousand  of  them!    
DP
So  you  couldnít  really  bring  any  payroll  techniques  from  England? 

BM
No,  not  a  lot.
DP
Did  you  enjoy  your  time  in  South  Africa?  
BM
Yes,   apart  from  the  political  situation. 
DP
You  were  conscious  of  that  all  the  time
BM
Oh,  yes,  absolutely.   I  mean  itís a  lovely  country spoilt  by  the  people  we  always  used  to  say.    Well  it  still  is,  but,  I  mean  the  countryside  and  the  animals  and  everything  were  fantastic.    We  used  to  go up  to  the  reserves,  what  were  they  called?    Safaris  game  parks.  They  were called  National  Parks.  A  National  Park  down  in  the  Cape.  The Cape  Mountain  and  all  
these  things,  absolutely  marvellous.  The  weather  was also marvellous.    The  standard  of  life  was  good for  whites, but  the  situation  was  terrible.    I  mean  they  were  shooting,  you know!  You  knew  all  about  it,  they  were  shooting  people  in  the  townships  and  all  that  sort  of  stuff. 

DP
Was  the  atmosphere  bad?    Or  did  the  whites  seem  oblivious  to  what  was  going  on?    

BM
No,  the  atmosphere  wasnít  bad,  even  the  blacks  we met seemed  to be alright  but  they  would be,  of  course,  because  they  had to  keep  us  happy  in  order  for us to  keep  them  happy.    
But  anyway  we  didnít  want  to  have  any  children  born  there,  which  is  one  reason  we  came  back.
Back to the UK and Sales with LEO

DP
So,  when  you  came  back,  did  you  come  back  with  LEO,  or  did  you  leave  LEO? 

BM
No,  I  came  back  with  LEO.   Hartree  House.  
DP
So  what  did  you  come  back  to? 
BM
In  sales for a year. 

DP
Who  were  you  reporting  to?  

BM
Well  Caminer  was  very  much  involved,  whether  I  was  reporting  to  him  or  through  somebody  else  I  canít  remember,  I  think  I  reported  to  him, yes.    But  you asked  earlier,  was  he the  technical  manager  or  something?  
DP
Commercial  manager.  (Editor: Caminer was in charge of marketing, systems and programming.  At that time senior systems staff were responsible for sales but were called Consultants)
BM
Commercial  manager, well  he  was,  but  he  was  also  the  systems  technical  manager.    We  also  got  a  sales  manager  called  Barnes,  Ken  Barnes (Editor: Ken Barnes had been a senior IBM marketing manager and was recruited by LEO to bring professional marketing know-how to LEO).    He  must have  been  alongside  Caminer  I  should  think.    And  we  also had one  or  two  salesmen  from Joe  Lyons,  people  who  were  used  to  selling  ice  creams  and steak  pies  and  stuff (Editor: for example Hank Levy, who had been in charge of Chocolate Sales in Lyons).  We  sent  them  off  to  sell  LEO  IIIs!

DP
How  did  they  get  on?  
BM
Not  very  well.     

DP
How did you get on as a salesman?
BM
Not  very  well!   Well,  I  suppose  I  did,  you  know,  I  sold.  But  selling  was  a  very  long  process,  so  when  I  was  involved  in  the  selling,  the  guy  who  eventually signed  the  order  wasnít  necessarily  the  chap  whoíd  done all  the  initial  work  because  it  would  take  a  year  or  more  to  persuade  somebody  to  buy.

What  I  claim  as  one of my  sales  was  for one  of  the  biggest  installations,  which  was  for  a  LEO  III  at  Freemans,  the  mail  order  people.    I  think  I  sold  two  to  the  Royal Navy  dockyards.    I  donít  know,  it  doesnít  register  very  much  in  my  mind,  but  anyway,  yes,  I  sold  a  few  things.
 
DP
Can  you  remember  the  process?    How  would you   or LEO make  the  first  contact  with  the  organisation? 

BM
I  donít  know  how  LEO  would  do  it.    I  mean  I  was  on  the  bottom  rank  of  the  
SalesmenÖ
DP
Right.    So  contact  was already  made  before  you  got involved?

BM
The  contact  was  already  made.    We  didnít  go  round  with  cold  calls  or  anything  very  much.   Leo  Fantl,  before  he  went  to  South  Africa,  used  
to  visit  quite  a  lot  of  people.  I  went  with  him  sometimes,  trying  to  persuade  people  of the  benefits  of  computers  and  so  on.  I  remember  doing  that.    And  I remember trying  to  explain  to  people that  in the results, characters  were  six  bits  or  whatever  it  was.  But  they  didnít  have  to  worry  about  that  because  we  would  handle  all  that  but,  I  mean,  why  did  we  even  bother  to  tell  them  it  was  six  bits?  

I  mean  we  had  a  sort  of  technical  approach  to  the  sales.  We  thought  the  customers  ought  to  know  a  bit. 
DP
Would  that  put  them  off?  
BM
Put  them  off?    IBM  didnít  worry  about  things  like  that,  they  just  told  them  what  wonderful  results  they  were  going to  get  which  was  sensible. 
DP
And  they  would  always  ask  what  is  it  going to  cost,  presumably? 

BM
Yes.
DP
Were  you  able  to  answer  that?
BM
I  wasnít,  no.    It  says  in  here  that  one  of  the  problems  was  that a  lot  of  the  jobs  were  under-priced  and  we made  losses  on  them.  

DP
It  probably  took  longer  to  produce than  was expected. 

BM
I  have  no  idea  why.  Perhaps  they  thought  that  was  the  only  price  they  could  get.    I  donít  know  what  the  marketing  policy  was,  whether  it  was  to  try  to  flood  the  country  with  LEOís,  regardless  of  cost.  It  couldnít  have  been  really  because  the  Lyons  families  didnít  have  all  that  much  money,  well  they  did  but  not  enough  for  that.

DP
So,  tell  me,  how  did  you  progress  then  when  youíd  come  back?    You  were  a  
salesman In  the  commercial  parts,  as  it  were? 
BM
Probably  called  a  sales  manager  I  should  think.  (Editor: Probably called a Senior Consultant, the preferred LEO title).
DP
A  sales  manager?     
BM
Higher  sales  manager,  yes.

DP
Did  you  enjoy  doing  that?  

BM
No, not really.
DP
So  what  happened  next? 
BM
Well  I  began  to  think  about  what  to  do  next  and  had lots  of  talks  in  the  pub with  friends  and  so  on.  I  got  the  idea  that  I  wanted  to  do,  you  know.  I thought  consulting  would  be  a  good  idea,  so  I  went  and  joined....

DP
Excuse  me,  but  you  couldnít  see  a  path  within  LEO? 

BM
No,  because  we  merged  with  English  Electric.   

Just  about  one  month  or  two  after  I  got  back  I  think,  LEO  became  English  Electric  LEO.    English  Electric  LEO  Marconi,  EELM.    I  used  to  say,  well  why  donít  we  merge  with  London  Office  Machines  then  we  could  call  ourselves  EELMLOM,  so  a  really  snappy  sales  gambit.    But  anyway,  Anthony  Salmon  called  us  all  in  and  said ďoh,  well  the  name  of  LEO  will  never  die,  we  have  ensured  thatĒ and  so  on,  and  this  was  all  baloney  because  all  those  English  Electric  people  descended  on  us  and we  thought  they  were  all  hopeless,  of  course,  tribal  spirit!    

We went  through  a  terrible  period  where  for customers we  were  tendering and  English  Electric  were  tendering, we  had  to  decide  which  to  withdraw. That  was  an  awful  period  because  we  thought  their  machines  were  total  rubbish  and  so  on.  So  we  didnít  want  to  withdraw  any  of  ours.    They  were  selling  KDF9s  and  a  KDP10  which  was  in  fact  an  RCA  machine  from  America  with  a  different  label  on.    So  the  atmosphere  wasnít  very  good  really,  that  was  one  of  the  reasons.  And  there  wasnít  any promotion  path  that  one  could  see.    

I  had  a  man  put  over  me  called  Lord  Ironside,  Eddie  Ironside,  who  was  an  English  Electric  salesman.   
DP
Thatís  surprising.  I  would  have  thought  that  there  would  be  more  opportunities  in  such  a  large  organisation. 

BM
Well, the  fact  of  the  merger  meant  that  the  company  wasnít  doing  very  well,  presumably  neither  company  was  doing  very  well.     

It  says  in  this  book,  we  had  nineteen  British  computer  companies  or  something.    Or  nineteen  models  from  twelve  companies.    The  government  was  trying  to push  them  all  together,  which  it  did  because  it  eventually  pushed  us  into  ICL.  Anyway,  I  wasnít  very  happy  there,  so  I  thought  consulting  might  be  a  good  idea  and  so  I  joined  Coopers  &  Lybrand,  as  it  was,  Cooper  Brothers  I  think  it  was  then,  itís  now  PwC.     
Coopers and Lybrand

DP
In  what  capacity  did  you  join  them?
BM
Consultant,  senior  consultant. 
DP
But  in  a  particular  unit  that  was  concerned  with  computers? 

BM
Yes.    I  was  in  the Management  Services  Unit  or  something,  I  mean  essentially  I  was  doing  the  same  thing.  Well  installing  computers  for  people.   I  did  the  systems  for  a  computer  at  the  AA,  that  was  the  biggest  job  I  did.    They  bought  a  thing called  an  FP-6000  which  was  made  by  Ferranti-Packard  in  Canada  and  it  eventually became  the  ICL  1901.    But  it  was still  called  an  FP-6000 then.    So  I  did  an  amazing  job  there!

DP
Excuse  me,  wouldnít  the  supplier  provide the software?  (Editor: We need to distinguish between application software and systems software.  No manufacturer provided naked hardware.  Each machine had its own systems software comprising operating systems, compilers plus often data base systems.  LEO helped clients with application software often prepared in advance of delivery of the computer. Although LEO were not unique in that they, unlike most competitors, provided bespoke application software rather than fit all packages)

BM
As  LEO  did,  you  mean?
DP
Yes.

BM
No  is  the  answer. 
DP
Ah. They  would  supply  the  hardware?  
BM
They  supplied  the  hardware,  well  Ferranti-Packard  from  Canada  wouldnít  have  done  the software,  you  see,  so  Iím  trying  to  think  whether  ICT at  the  time,  provided  systems  the  way  we  did.  I  donít  think  they  did. So  the  client  would  either  do  it  themselves  or  theyíd  get  in  somebody  like  Coopers  or KPMG  or  someone  to  do  it  for  them.

DP
So you joined a good sized team?
BM
The  AA  they  had  their  own  staff. I  was  a Coopers person and I was  managing  it.  I think  I  was  the  only  Coopers  chap  on  that  team,  as  far  as  I  remember 
DP
What  was  the  project  for  the  AA?  
BM
Well  the  biggest  job  was  their  tourism and ferry  booking system.  They  used  to  do that, do  you  remember?    If  you  wanted  to  go  on  a  ferry  anywhere,  to  Europe,  you  booked  through  the  AA. 

It  was  a  very,  very  complicated  system.    People were  booking  on  ferries  from  Greece  to  Italy  and  that  sort  of  thing  and  as  well as  out  of  the  UK.  We  
computerised  all  that.  There  was  a  certain  amount  of  shambles involved but  it  benefited  them in  the  end.  They  did  what  they  should  have  done  in  the  first  place  and  pulled  out  of  some  of  the  more  complicated  routes.    They  should  never  have  bothered  with these.  They then ran  a  cut-down  system,  which  I  think  worked.    

Anyway,  I  did  that  and  some  other  smaller  jobs  for  bits  of  General  Electric  and  others.   There were  also  some  non-computer  jobs.  I  did  a  job  for  the  Prices and Incomes  Board  on  trying  to  establish  whether  large  building  societies  were  more  efficient  than  small  building  societies,  and  a  couple  of  things  like  that  which  were  interesting. 
DP
How  long  were  you  there?  
BM
Three years, and  I  got  rather  fed  up  with  that.
DP
Youíre a restless chap!

BM
Restless,  yes.   I  didnít  like  their  attitude,  they  would  work  us  ten  hours  a  day  and  charge  the  client  for  ten  hours  a  day  but  only  pay  us  for seven,  which  I  didnít  think  was  quite  fair.    Also they  were  chartered  accountants  basically, and  if  youíre  a  chartered  accountant  you  went  up  and  if  you  werenít  you  didnít.    I  took   certified  accountancy  at  the  time  because  I  had  so  much  spare  time  at  Coopers  really,  so  I  got  myself  made  a  certified  accountant.  And  they  were  going  to merge  the  Certified  and  the  Chartered  accountants.    So  then  I  would  have  become  a  chartered  accountant  and  as  my  boss  said  in  my  exit  interview,  or  Ďpersuading  me  to  stayí  interview, ďwell,  youíre  a  certified  accountant,  before  long  youíll  be  a  real  accountantĒ.  That  didnít  encourage  me  to  stay!   
I  got  headhunted  to  go  to  P&O. (Editor: the famous shipping line)
P&O

DP
To  do  what? 
BM
To  head  up  their  management  services,  which  was  computers, market  research  and  O&M  and  this,  that  and  the  other.    

DP
Did  you  enjoy  that? 

BM
Yes.  I  did,  quite.     
DP
You  built  a  team  there  or  was  it  already  there? 
BM
There  was  a  small  team  there.  Robson & Morrow  were  the  consultants  who  had  started  it  up,  they had  a  small  team  there.    I  built  it  up  and  got  it running  to  a  full  sort  of  bureau  operation  doing  jobs  for  various  shipping  companies.  The  biggest  job  was  booking  on  the  ocean  liners  and  the  cruising  work.  It  was  quite  interesting  because  we  had  IBM computers  in  London,  San  Francisco  and  Sydney.    And  the  programme  would  shift  around,  as  the  sun  
went  round  the  globe,  the  programme  went  round  with  it  and  the  control  shifted  to  these  different  places,  which  was  quite  nice.   
One  thing  I  remember  was  trying  to  communicate  between  these  computers  when  we  didnít  have  the  internet  or  even  telephones  that  worked sensibly.  We  would  transmit  the  data  and  the  programs  on  a  magnetic  tape via a  magnetic  tape  transmitter.    Before  you  sent  a  tape  to  San  Francisco,  or  wherever  it  was,  you  had  to  ring  up  the  GPO as  I  think  it  was then,  and  find  out  whether  they  were  sending  the  signal  at  that  particular  time  via  satellite  or  via  landline  because  that  made  a  difference  to  the  response  
time.  The  computer  had  to  know  what  the  response  time  was.    So  you  had  to  phone  them up  and  say,  ďare  you  on  satellite  tonight?Ē. Amazing. 

DP
It  is,  absolutely  amazing.    When  would  that  be,  in  the  seventies?  

BM
It  would  have  been from  1967  to  1970. 

DP
Where  did  you  go  in  1970? 
BM
Well  I  got  fed  up  with  P&O,  same  sort  of  reasons  really,  I  resented  it  being  run  by  a  lot  of  shipping  people  who  didnít  know  anything  about  anything  and  werenít  really  prepared  to  listen!  I  lectured the  chairman,  when  I  left  as  to  why  the  hell  was  he  staying  in  shipping  anyway.  I  said  his  real  skill  was  taking  big  investment  decisions  and  he  should  go  into  the  property  business!Ď    In  fact  after  I  left  they  did  merge  with  Bovis, (Editor: a major construction company) or  Bovis  took  them  over.    But anyway I got  a  bit  impatient  with  that  and  I  saw  an  ad  from  a  head-hunter for British  Oxygen  as  it  then  was, BOC,  and  I  was  a  good  fit  for  them  because  they  had  two  LEO  IIIs  and  a  LEO  II and they were in a mess.  So  they  thought  my  LEO  background was  good   Their auditors  were  Coopers,  so  they  gave  me  a  reference,  so  it  all  clicked  together.

So  I  went...  
British Oxygen

DP
What  did  you  have  to  do  there?  What  were  the  problems?  
BM
Well  they  had  a  massive  sales  ledger  that  was  all  centralised.  Theyíd  got  umpteen  branches you  know, British Oxygen,  welding  outlets  and  so  on  all  over  the  country.    And a  huge  number  of customers.  I  canít  remember  any  of  the  actual  figures  but they had  a  huge number  of  invoices.   Everything  was  sent  on  bits  of  paper  up  to  Manchester  where  they  were  punched  and  put  into  these  two  LEO  IIIís,  that  then  produced  the  invoices  and  the  sales  ledgers  for  all  the  customers.    And  there  were  something  like  five  hundred  clerks  sitting  round  these  LEO  IIIís,  writing  out  bits  of  paper  and  so  on!  It  was  just  a  huge  unwieldy  job.    And  it  didnít  do  what  all  the  branch  managers  wanted,  nor was  there   any  mechanism  really  for  the  branch  managersí ideas  to  get  through  to  the  people  who  were  running  this  system.  It  was  just  too  rigid really.    The computers  were  getting  old  anyway,  that  was  1970.  I  threw  them  out  in  1975  I  think  it  was, yes,  1975.  (Editor: LEO III/13 was installed in BOC Manchester in 1964).

DP
So  what  did  you  do?    You assembled  a  team? 

BM
Well  I  was  director  of  management  services  globally,  which  meant  computing,  
accounting,  HR,  law and  almost  any  sort  of  central  service  you  can  imagine.
I  was  in  charge  of  the  whole  lot.    The  overseas  ones  were  hard  to  control,  and  I  wasnít  actually  in  charge  of  them,  but  I  tried  to  be.    But  I  got  fed  up  with  that  too,  and  so  I  pushed  them  towards  being  a  Ďcommercialí  computer  company,  or  at  least  in  my  division  because  they  had ordered  an  IBM 370/65  or  something  which  was  to  replace  these  LEOs.  In  fact  this,  I  think  this  was  the  trigger  for  getting  me  in  really!  
Anyway  they  didnít  have  anywhere  to  put  this IBM  so  the  first  thing  I  was  asked  before  I  actually  joined  them   was to  come  along  and  look  at  this  computer room which  was  in Oxford  Circus. So did I  think  it  would  be  a  good  place  to  put  the  IBM  to  service  Manchester  and  everywhere  else?  I  said,  yes. I  thought  that  was  fine  and  so we  set  them  all up  with terminal  systems.  So  we  had  this  huge  computer  in  Oxford  Circus,  and  had  a  lot  of  spare  capacity,  so  we  started  selling  time  to  people  who  wanted  tests  and  so  on. We  got  more  and  more  commercial  and  I  said  ďlook,  part  of  the  solution  with  the  internal  problem  is  to  run  the  computing  and  a  lot  of  these  other  services  on  a  commercial  basis  and  let  the  operating  divisions  buy  what  they  want,  rather  than  imposing  on  them  what  we  thought  they  ought  to  haveĒ.  
So  I  was  turning  the  whole  thing  more  commercial.  In  the  course  of  that  I  thought,  well  we  need  more  commercial  management,  so  in  fact  I  bought  a  company  called  DataSolve  which  was  a city  based bureau  com pany.  I  merged  it  with  our  own  internal  thing.    And  then  I  went  on  and  bought  three  or  four  more  bureau  companies  and  a  couple  of  software  companies  and  we  became  the  largest  computer services  company  in  the  country  with  twelve  hundred  employees,  or  something  like  that.  We were the first company in the UK to buy an Amdahl computer for business processing, and that turned out a very successful purchase. Less successful was out acquisition of an ICL 2970.  The purchase of the Amdahl in rather than an IBM computer caused great upset at IBM headquarters but I was backed by my Board. (Editor: Amdahl a prominent computer consultant sought to challenge IBM by building IBM compatible mainframes but with improved performance and at better price.  For a time Amdahl was very successful but with the coming of mini and personal computers the venture faded.  At which  point  BOC  said,  ďlook,  we  donít  think  you  should  be  doing  this  and  also  running  all  those  internal  services,  youíve  got  to  concentrate  on  one  or  the  otherĒ.  I  chose  to  do  the  external  one  and  so the  internal  one  went  to  somebody  else.   
DP
And  how  long  did  that  last?  
BM
The commercial  side,  lasted  about  five  years.  And  then  BOC  said  ďwell,  perhaps,  we  think  this  isnít  the  right  thing  really,  we  donít really  want to  be  in  the  computer  businessĒ which was  actually  tiny  against  a  two  billion  turnover  or  something.  I  was  doing  thirty  million  or  something.    It  was  ridiculous,  they  were  quite  right  really.    

DP
So  what  happened  then? 
BM
When  I  left they said  ďwe  think your  division  is  the  only  division  which  was  actually  created  by  one  manĒ. I  think  that  was  probably  true! 
DP
But  they,  they  kept  it,  or  they  sold  it  off?

BM
I  left  and  set  up  on  my  own.  But after  two  years  they  sold  it off  to  Thorn  
EMI who  then  sold  it  off  again  three  years  later in  a  management buy-out.

It  could  have  been  good, but part  of  the  problem  was  that  BOC  were used  to  being  run  by  Lord  Reith,  in  fact  I  had  Lord  Reithís  desk  at  one  point.  So  it  was  very  bureaucratic  having  jobs  like  regional  controller  and  so  on, a title he  brought  in  from  the  BBC. (Editor: Lord Reith could be described as the founding father  of the BBC and for many years its chief executive, with pronounced view of the BBCís role in educating the public)
DP
What  were  you  doing  then when  you  left British  Oxygen? 
Independent Consultant

BM
I  started  doing  things  on  my  own.  

Lazards, the Merchant Bank,  whom  Iíd  known  through  BOC,  put  me  in  to  look  after  their  investment - they  had  a  computer  services set-up in  Aberdeen.  Then  Thatcher  had just  abolished  foreign  exchange control so  people  in  London  were  looking  at  ways  of  spending  money  overseas.  So  I  went  round  California  and  Massachusetts  and found  high  techí  companies  who  wanted  money  and  brought  them  over  to  London  and  tried  to  charm  the  investment  companies.    And  as  I  said  to  everybody  at  the  time ďas  long  as  you  donít  mark,  scratch  the  boardroom  table  with  your  gadget,  youíll  get  half  a  millionĒ, and  thatís  what  used  to  happen.  Iíd  go  round say four  companies  a  day,  that sort  of  thing,  with  these  various  Americans. I  went  to  Edinburgh  as  well. It was about investing  in  software  development  and  hardware  and  stuff. 

DP
Venture  capital?  
BM
Yes, but  I  was  a  middle  man,  I  got  a  commission,  I  didnít have  any  capital.     

DP
Were  there  any  big  successes? 
BM
No.
DP
And  you  continued  like  that  until  you  retired? 

BM
There were one or  two  small  successes,  but  most  of  them  went  bust,  but  then  thatís  normal  in  venture  capital.    
More Personal Details

DP
May  I  ask  you  just  a  little  bit  about  your  personal  life  during  this  time.   When you  came  back, you  set  up  home with your wife,  where,   in  London? 
BM
Where  did  we  start?    In  Dulwich,  in  a  new  build,  the  house  in  Dulwich  was  quite  nice.    We lived  there  for  three  or  four  years  I  suppose.    Bronwen decided  she  didnít  like  the  smell  of  the  air  in  London although  we  werenít  very  far  from  where  sheíd  been  brought  up.  Anyway  she  said,  it  was  a  mucky  sort  of  place,  so  we  came  back.  Iíd  been  brought  up  in  Reigate so  we  bought  a  new  house  in  Tadworth by  the  station.  We  were  there  about  three  years.    Then  we  bought  a  rather  grand  house,  also  in  Tadworth,  which  the  children  regarded  as  their  ancestral  home!  We  were  there  sixteen  years. 

DP
How  many  children  did  you have?
BM
Two.    They  were  very  upset  when  we  sold  it,  one  was  in  Australia  ď I  come  back  and my  home  has  goneĒ.  We  sold  that  after  sixteen  years  and  moved  here  where  weíve  been for  thirty  odd  years. 
DP
Did  your  children  go  into  computing? 
BM
Ah,  yes  actually,  but  the  older  one,  Deryn,  started  off  in  Marks  &  Spencer.  
Deryn,  itís  a  girl,  D  E  R  Y  N.    She  went,  well  they  both  went  to  Sutton  High.    Deryn  went  to  Durham University  to  do  whatever  the  posh  word  is  for  physics and  didnít  like  it.  When  she  came  down  she  went  to  Marks  &  Spencer  as  a  management  trainee  for  a  while  and  didnít  like  that!    She  had  the  same  sort  of  problems  that  I  have  really, she  didnít  like  bossing  around  old  ladies.      

DP
Can  I  just  ask  you  how  you  got  to  the  name Deryn?  

BM
Well  Bronwen  chose  it,  itís  a  Welsh  name.   It  means dove or  something  like  that. Thereís  a  song  called  Deryn  Pur  which  is  all  about  a  bird.    

Anyway,  she  didnít  like  Marks  &  Spencer so  she  then,  although  she  didnít  want  to  do  what  Dad  did - children  never  do -   went to  work  for  one  of  the  software  companies whose  name  I  canít  remember.  From  there  to  Deutsche  Bank  where  she  was  in  charge  of  systems  of  various  kinds.    By  which  time  she  had  two  children,  both  slightly  dyslexic.  She  decided  she  had  to  leave  work  and  spend her  time  trying  to  deal  with  that.   

Her  husband  was  also in IT where  she  worked  for  him  in  the  software company  she  went  to  originally.  Then  he  went  on  to  be  IT  manager in  a  whole series  of  hedge  fund  companies.  Both  of  them  were  paid  an  obscene  amount  of  money. But  neither  of  them  work  now.    He  wants  to  but  he  canít  find  a  job  that  he  likes. Anyway,  as  I  say theyíre  computer  people.    

The  other  daughter  went  to  Cambridge  and  then  went  into  museum management.  She did  a  course  on  IT  in  museums at  Leicester  I  think  it  was. 
Sheís  now  the  curator  of  the  museum  in  Barnstaple.    Itís  a  very  small  museum  but  sheís  a  very  big  fish  in it and  enjoys  it  enormously,  so  that  was  through  computing  but  she  didnít  actually  do  computing 

Concluding reflections on LEO

DP
Well  weíve  really  drawn  to  the  end  of  our  very  interesting  and  entertaining  
conversation,  but  Iíd  just  like  you,  perhaps  for  a  moment,  to  reflect on  LEO  and  its  role  in  computing.  Looking  back, do  you  think  it  was  a  significant  .... 

BM
It  was  very  important,  yes  it  was  significant  because  it  was  the  first,  it  really  was  the  first  use  of  a  computer  for  business  purposes.    And  the  way  we  approached  the  business,  largely  through  Caminer  I  think  and  through  his  previous  experience  with  Lyons,  and  some of  the  other  people  in  Lyons.    It was looking  at the  use  of  the  computer  all  the  time  from  a  business  needs  point  of  view.  And installing  disciplines, because  computers  were  expensive,  such as doing  all  your  checking  by  hand  before  you  put  it  on  the  computer.    Everything  had  to  be  checked  by  somebody  else.    Everything  had  to  be  written  down.  I  mean  you  still  see  signs  of  that  in  some  of the  computer  standards  that  apply  now,  although  a  whole  lot  more do not have that discipline.   I suppose  itís  because  hardware  is  now cheap. 

I  really  donít  understand  why  people  write  such  huge  programmes  these  days,  Microsoft  and  all  these  people,  massive,  massive  programmes,  theyíre  bound  to  have  bugs  in  them. Microsoft  doesnít  appear  to  de-bug  its  software  before  it  puts  it  out which  is  quite  extraordinary  and  not  at  all like LEO,  but  anyway  other  parts  of  the  business  do  follow  LEOís  standards.  I  think  they  did  have  an impact.

DP
Well  LEO  had  an  impact,  and  you  had  an  impact  on  LEO  and  the  computing  world.

BM
I? 

DP
Yes.    I  think  you  did!  

BM
I  donít  think  so!  (Editor: for more information on the esteem BM was held in see Leo Fantlís chapter in Caminer et al, LEO: The Incredible Story of the Worldís First Business Computer).
DP
Well  itís  been  absolutely  fascinating  talking  to  you,  thank  you  very  much. 

This  interview  with  Brian  Mills has  been  recorded  by  LEO  Computer  Society  and  the  Society  would  like  to thank  you  very  much  indeed  for  your  time  and  your  reminiscences. Any  opinions  expressed  are  those  of  you,  Brian,  the  interviewee,  not  the  Society,  and  the  copyright  of  this  interview  in  its  recorded  form  remains  the  property  of  LEO  Computer  Society  2011.    The copyright of the transcript is the property of you, Brian. 

Thank  you  very  much  indeed  for  your  time

BM
Well  thank  you  for  your  time, David, and  for  taking  an  interest.



Provenance :
Recording made by the LEO Computers Society as part of their ongoing oral history project.



Archive References : CMLEO/LS/AV/MILLS-20180227 , DCMLEO20220803002

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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH56450. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

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