OXFORD UNIVERSITY COMPUTING LABORATORY

ANNUAL REPORT 1961 - 62

  1. The Computing Machine

    The demand for time on Mercury has grown steadily. From 1 August 1961 to 31 July 1962 the machine was run for 6879 hours, an average of over 19.5 hours per day for 50 seven day weeks. It has been usual for the machine to be booked continuously day and night and over the weekend. The difference between 19.5 and 24 hours per day is essentially due to the normal rate of failure of equipment of the complexity of Mercury, and the absence of maintenance engineers except for 16 hours per day on 5 days of the week. The table gives a brief analysis of the time used, with the previous year's figures in brackets.

    Clarendon Laboratory1372(430)
    Chemical Crystallography 983(650)
    Other University Departments946(530)
    Computing Laboratory1000(710)
    Programme testing (not itemised)583(460)
    Other universities279 (90)
    Firms492(670)
    Miscellaneous 33 (60)
    Routine engineering894(760)
    Faults (machine or human)297(190)

    The time for industrial firms has fallen from 14.6 per cent in the previous year to 7.2 per cent. The machine is being operated to full capacity and it is clear that growing university needs cannot for long be met by a further reduction in time allowed to external users. Some time has already been made available on the Mercury computer at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, and in 1964 time on the ATLAS computer at the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science should also be obtained.

    The computing capacity available will be reinforced in the middle of 1964 by the delivery of a KDF9 computer to replace Mercury. The new computer will be at least twenty times more powerful than Mercury, and it is hoped that it will give relief from the undesirable conditions in which university research workers now operate the computer all night. A grant of 150,000 for the purchase of KDF9 was made by the University Grants Committee in August 1961, after prolonged discussions. This grant will be augmented by income from the sale of Mercury time, and the total income from this source between 16 March 1959 and 31 July 1962 is ,93,234.

  2. Staff

    Mrs A Fluendy, senior computer, left at the end of September 1962.

    Dr C E Phelps was appointed to the new permanent position of Department Research Assistant from 1 October 1962. His duties are to organise bookings, time-keeping and arrangements with the maintenance engineers for the use of Mercury, to maintain the programme library, to advise users on programming and coding and organise courses in Mercury Autocode. He will in due course also prepare coding and programming courses for KDF9 and study monitoring systems.

    Mr S E Hedin was appointed as the first Ferranti research fellow on 1 November 1961. He has carried out research on the theory of compilers.

  3. Research students, visitors, lectures

    Dr C E Phelps successfully submitted a thesis for the degree of D. Phil. The subject was "Application of high speed computers to the solution of differential equations". Mr M J Ecclestone also successfully submitted a thesis on "Monte Carlo methods applied to atomic reactor problems" for the degree of B.Sc. Mr K Wright has completed a thesis on "The numerical solution of ordinary non-linear differential equations", and Mr L I Hodgson a thesis on "Numerical methods in crystal structure analysis", both for the degree of D.Phil. Mr Wright has joined the Computing Laboratory of the University of Durham as a Research Assistant and Mr Hodgson has become a Research Assistant in the Chemistry Department of the University of Manchester. Mr D B Taylor has completed a thesis on "The solution of partial differential equations on a digital computer" for the degree of D.Phil, and is a Research Assistant in the Engineering Department. Mr R S Walters, Mr J K Reid and Mr C T H Baker have continued research for Oxford degrees and Miss T J Darwent for a London degree.

    The Director gave 16 lectures in Numerical Analysis for Honour Moderations in Hilary Term 1962, and 8 lectures in Trinity Term 1962. He also gave 4 lectures for undergraduate engineers in the Michaelmas Term 1961. Mr D F Mayers gave 2 Mercury Autocode courses of three days each in October 1961 and March 1962, and 8 lectures on differential equations for undergraduate engineers in Hilary Term 1962. Mr S E Hedin gave 8 lectures on "Introduction to digital computers" in Trinity Term 1962.

  4. Summer School

    A Summer School in Numerical Analysis was held in August 1961. It was rather more ambitious than its predecessor and was devoted to a single subject, the numerical solution of differential equations. About 70 attended, from government departments, industrial firms, universities and technical colleges, together with a sprinkling of lecturers and research students from this university. The Director of Studies was Dr L Fox, and other lectures were given by Mr D F Mayers, Dr H Motz and 14 lecturers from other university and government departments. The lectures were published in July 1962, in a book called "The Numerical Solution of Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations" edited by L Fox.

  5. Other Activities

    The Director gave colloquia or lectures at Bristol, Salford Royal College of Advanced Technology, Liverpool, Imperial College, and the National Physical Laboratory. He was invited to lecture at a summer school in France organised jointly by le Commissariat à L'Energie Atomique and l'Electricité de France, gave ten lectures at a Summer Institute on Advanced Topics in the Computer Sciences at the University of North Carolina, attended the International Congress of Mathematicians in Stockholm and the British Computer Society conference at Cardiff, where he gave a paper on partial differential equations. He became a member of the standing committee of Directors of Computing Laboratories, and a consultant to the Theoretical Physics Division at Harwell. He was granted sabbatical leave for the Michaelmas Term 1962.

    Mr J S Rollett gave colloquia or lectures for Oxford University Alembic Club, the London University Computer Unit, Professor Coulson's Summer School in Theoretical Chemistry, Oxford University Institute of Education and the Royal Military College of Science. He read a paper at the meeting in Munich commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of X-ray diffraction, and attended a programming course on KDF9 at the English Electric Co. Ltd., Kidsgrove. He also spent three weeks at the National Physical Laboratory as a vacation consultant and was appointed as a consultant to the Metallurgy Division at Harwell.

    Mr D F Mayers gave lectures at Salford Royal College of Advanced Technology, Brunel College, Oxford University Department of Education, and the Summer School in Theoretical Chemistry. He also lectured, and demonstrated the computer, to two parties from a Summer School organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants. He is preparing a book on atomic wave functions.

    Mr D C Handscomb attended a symposium on programming systems at the London School of Economics, and the conference on information processing at Munich.

    Dr C E Phelps attended a symposium on programming systems at the London School of Economics, and a programming course on KDF9 at the English Electric Co Ltd., Kidsgrove.

    Mr S E Hedin attended a course at University College, London, the British Computer Society conference at Cardiff and the conference on information processing at Munich.

  6. Publications

    L Fox, M. Cohen and C A Coulson. Appendix to "Single Centre Expansions for the Hydrogen Molecular Ion". Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc. 57, 96 - 106 (1961).

    L Fox, "Computing Machines for Teaching and Research". Computer J 4, 212 - 216 (1962), and letter in reply to S Gill and C Strachey, Computer J, 4, 350 - 351 (1962).

    - "Chebyshev Methods for Ordinary Differential Equations". Computer J, 4, 1 - 14 (1962).

    - (Editor) "Numerical Solution of Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations" (Book). Based on a Summer School held in Oxford, August - September 1961. Pergamon Press (1962).

    J S Rollett and L A Higgs. "Correction of spectroscopic line profiles for instrumental broadening by a Fourier analysis method". Proc. Phys. Soc. 79, 87 (1962).

    D F Mayers "Calculations of Chandrasekhar's X and Y functions for isotropic scatterings". Month. Not. Roy. Astr. Soc. 123, 5, 471 - 484 (1962).

    D C Handscomb "Computation of the latent roots of a Hessenberg Matrix by Bairstow's Method". Computer J, 5, 139 - 141 (1962).

    - "The Monte Carlo Method in Quantum Statistical Mechanics". Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc. 58, 594 - 598 (1962).

Dr J W Linnett (Chairman), Professor G E Blackman, Professor C A Coulson, Dr D ter Haar, Dr N T J Bailey, Mr E F Jackson, Mr J S Rollett (Acting Secretary).