The Story of Elliott-Automation, 1946 - 1986

Speakers: Simon Lavington
Date: 21st April 2011
Time: 14.30 Room open in advance (from 14.00) – meet up with society members.

Fellows Library of the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD

An Elliott 405 at Norwich City Council in February 1957. Norwich is believed to have been the first UK local authority to install a digital computer".

About the seminar

The Elliott-Automation company was an active participant in the birth of the information age in Britain. By 1961, the company was supplying 50% of the digital computers delivered to UK customers. By the end of that decade Elliott-Automation had apparently disappeared in a flurry of takeovers, though the technical excellence that characterised the name Elliott lived on for many years under the GEC/Marconi banner and can still be seen within BAE Systems.

The talk will chart the establishment of Elliott´s Borehamwood Research Laboratories in 1946, and the roles played by John Coales and Leon Bagrit in reviving an ailing company. Early Elliott digital computers designed for classified military applications and for GCHQ are described, along with the better-known Elliott 400, 800, 900 and 4100 series machines. The transition from analogue to digital took place at different times in different applications area, so Elliott´s analogue computing activities will also be covered. Then the mergers, takeovers and eventual closure of the Borehamwood laboratories will be summarized against the background of relevant ICL and GEC activity. Finally, a few questions for further research will be posed.  

About the speaker

Simon Lavington is Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the University of Essex. Among his many publications is the book Early British Computers. 


Simon´s book `Moving Targets - Elliott-Automation and the Dawn of the Computer Age in Britain, 1947 - 67' has recently been published by Springer. A limited number of introductory offer vouchers for the book (20% off) will be available at the talk.

For technical information on many of the Elliott computers and their contemporary rivals in the market place, see the Elliott pages on the Our Computer Heritage website


Click to see a podcast of the event