Early days of programming at Elliotts

Speakers: Sir Tony Hoare, Jeff Hillmore and others
Date: 15th May 2008
Time: 14.30
Preceeded by the CCS AGM at 14:00
Location: Fellows Library of the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD

An Elliott 803 Installation

About the seminar

The Elliott Automation company was a pioneer in the development, manufacture, and supply of early UK computers in the late 50s and 60s.

Elliott computers and software were very successful in the technical and universities markets in that period.

This seminar is about some of the events and achievements in developing Elliott Computers in 60s, with talks by people who took part in the original projects. They will describe their personal experiences of writing software and developing the associated hardware.

Lawrence Clarke will introduce and chair the seminar. Tony Hoare will talk on his recruitment to Elliotts in 1960 and his initial work there on sorting, then onto compiler projects and the decision to implement Algol. Jeff Hillmore will follow on, describing his experiences as a member of the team developing Algol 60 on the 803, and then on the 503 and 4120, and how this work led him to move into an academic career.

Others will add to the story.
Dan Simpson was a member of the Algol teams from 1963-66. Roger Dyke joined Elliotts in 1963 to lead the team designing the control logic and writing the test software for the magnetic tape, card readers etc of the 503. He later worked with Jeff Hillmore on the evolution of the 4100 series central processors before being "loaned" to manufacturing to resolve technical and organisational problems delaying the delivery of the 4120 series.
John Deutsch was recruited to work on "design automation" under Tony Hoare and began by writing the initial hardware test programs for the 4100. He moved to the manufacturing division and eventually became chief software specifier in a team implementing a dual computer message switching system.

The talks will be followed by discussion on the topics raised, and possibly comments and stories from other ex-Elliotts staff.

About the speakers

Tony Hoare. 1960-68 Elliotts, working on software development and design.
Developed an early Algol 60 compiler delivered in mid 63. 1968 - Professor of Computing Science at the Queens University of Belfast, and in 1977 moved back to Oxford as a Professor of Computing and to lead the Programming Research Group. He is now an Emeritus Professor, and is also a senior researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge. For more about Tony and his achievements click here for a Wikipedia entry.

Jeff Hillmore. 1961-67 Elliotts.
1967-86 Polytechnic of North London, lecturing and developing undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in computing. 1987-96 British Standards Institution, managing UK contribution to international and European standards for messaging, office document architecture and software documentation.

Dan Simpson. 1963-66 Elliotts.
A period in 1900 software development, then took up lecturing post at Brighton Polytechnic (now University of Brighton). Recently retired as Prof of Computing Science. Founder Chair of BCS Formal Aspects of Computing Science group. Assistant director for Software Engineering with the Alvey Directorate.

Roger Dyke. 1963-68 Elliotts.
After jobs at English Electric and America Metal Climax, set up his own business developing high-reliability process control systems.

John Deutsch. 1964-69 Elliotts.
Became freelance for the rest of his working life, designing and implementing software on a wide range of processors, ranging from the DEC-VAX at the top end to many different micro-processors and DSPs at the bottom end.


For more about Elliott computers click here to see the Wikipedia entry.

For more about hardware development at Elliotts see the recent article in Resurrection by Lawrence Clarke.