John V Panter, Emeritus ICL Fellow, Member of LEO Computers Society
Date : 2020
Joined LEO Computers Ltd – July 1961
Retired from ICL Computers Ltd – Feb 1998
My Experiences at LEO
1961 Recruited by John Pinkerton to join new “Research” team in Minerva Road.
Inherited the “pilot LEO III” - but had to move it to the new lab. Major learning exercise – and getting it to work again was major challenge. Designed and built new control desk and I/O module for lab experiments. Gave many tutorial sessions for new technical recruits using the machine. Work was mainly on peripherals, which were not always reliable. Optical reading of paper tape and documents. Control of high-speed paper tape output collection. Proposal for fan-folded paper tape reader – Prototype built. Eventually specialised in magnetic tape systems – Ampex drives. Resolution of tape reel winding defects – cinching. Quality control of magnetic tape – design and build of machine for tape testing. Tape compatibility issues.
My Memories of LEO
Incredible atmosphere in which to work – the comradery; a “can-do” environment. The time when I converted to become an engineer and programmer. Understanding how a computer worked – Hardware, Software, Operations. Designing and building mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment. Doing experiments under computer control. Understanding what could be achieved with minimal memory, and equipment. The mid-morning trolley! – we had J Lyons deliveries. The sounds of the machines in commissioning. The smell of the Guinness factory on the way to work.
Summer 1965 – Transferred to Kidsgrove to project manage new high speed Magnetic Tape machine – System 4, 4453 Tape Drive – 150 in/sec “World Firsts”.
User Driven Innovation - Business driven needs focussed by a giant – Simmons. Ability to turn ground-breaking innovation into working systems. Vision pushed the boundaries of what could be achieved. Concepts integrated in novel ways – to serve the business, not egos. First business applications – ambitious, overall processes re-engineered.
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