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Alan Wakefield: reminiscence

I was not an original LEO person, but, originally as an early 60’s ICT recruit, I had the good fortune, in the late 1960’s/70’s, to work in a group led by David [Caminer] in the newly -formed ICL New Range Planning Group in ICL House, Putney, shortly after the formation of the ICL merger of the former ICT and EELM ( and other subsids.) British computer companies.
David’s role and contribution to this phase of ICL’s development is well documented and applauded. I have an amusing (I hope) small episode during my time in that group, which I hope may be of interest to you, and some others. For reasons undisclosed to me at that time, part of our NR planning activities
required ICL to partake in some discussions with the French computer industry, in connection with their Plan Calcul, and their CII computer company, based near Versailles, west of Paris, as I recall. (There was a lot of political activity in Europe at that time with the proposals to form a "European” computer organisation involving the French, German and Italian computer companies ; but not initially the British!)
A small group of four(?) of us from ICL, led by David (I can’t recall the other two participants) were delegated to go to CII ( Paris ) and have some exploratory discussions; I’m not sure about what, but it was probably about whether ICL could participate in the joint European plans, and whether any of their products or technology had relevance for ICL’s New Range plans.
We set off from Putney, in David’s company car ( as I recall a Ford Zephyr 6 of the period; very angular and dark green? (actually yellow: Frank Land, editor) The vehicle was an adapted automatic to facilitate David’s driving), with David driving us " in spirited style” (we were late!) to Heathrow airport for a flight to Paris.
The next stages are a bit hazy, but we arrived and were accommodated near Versailles ( which was close to the Bull/ CII works complex.) The following day we were taken to the CII complex for a series of meetings and viewings of the facility, and tour of the site.
Whilst walking around the facilities, David was in full flow animated conversation with their senior executives (we were following in the rear!). Passing through one of the areas, he tripped slightly, and then keeled over gracefully, but immediately bounced back up on the rebound, rather like a rubber ball, and without any break in the flow of conversation! (We from ICL were, of course, not unfamiliar with David’s occasional "tumbles” with his prosthetic leg). The French were gobsmacked and bewildered at this; after that episode, the they could not do enough to accommodate whatever requirements our delegation had on CII and David was celebrated as the war hero he was.

I don’t think the talks finally led to anything for ICL, but the episode certainly gave us in ICL more fine anecdotal material about a fine gentlemen, on which to reminisce!

Date : 21st June 2019

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH56473. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

Alan Wakefield: reminiscence

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