Annual Report 1966-7

  1. The Computing Service

    During the year the KDF9 machine was ‘upgraded’ to a configuration of 32,000 words of core store, a 4 million word disc, nine magnetic tape decks, a line printer, and input and output mechanisms for both paper tape and punched cards. Four electric card punches were added to the data-preparation equipment.

    The new hardware has made available the EGDON operating system which provides facilities for the efficient use of the FORTRAN programming language. Work on further improvements to the system, including the incorporation of a better ALGOL compiler and faster processing of short programmes, was begun by a software working party, backed by the manufacturer, the Computer Board, the universities, and other institutions with KDF9 machines. In these studies J. S. Rollett and C. E. Phelps are playing a major part. This party is also investigating the COTAN system, produced by the Culham Laboratory, which permits some multi-access remote-console use of the KDF9, via a PDP8 satellite computer. Ten consoles have been ordered and should be working sometime in 1968. A graph plotter, the last part of the current ‘up-grading’ exercise, has also been ordered.

    The magnetic disc has facilitated some other changes in the operating systems, and in this respect work by C. E. Phelps and some users from other departments has materially improved the general efficiency of the KDF9. The number of clients, however, continues to grow substantially. Even with full three-shift operation the facilities are saturated, and Oxford’s rations of the Chilton ATLAS and of the Imperial College IBM 7090 machines are fully taken up.

  2. Teaching and research

    In addition to the general advisory services to the users of KDF9, lectures were given to undergraduates in the Honour School of Mathematics, and to graduates with numerical analysis as main subject in the Diploma in Advanced Mathematics. Four students were successful in the diploma examination, and R. Sankar achieved the Degree of D.Phil. The Faculty Board of Mathematics accepted ‘Theory of programming languages and computing’ as a diploma topic, and some preliminary lectures on this subject were given by the Programming Research group. At the end of the year nine diploma students and eleven D.Phil. students were listed, in residence or accepted provisionally for the 1967-8 session.

    The three standard ALGOL programming courses, given by C. E. Phelps, attracted an attendance of over 300, and nearly 150 actual or potential users of KDF9 took part in two new FORTRAN courses given by D. F Mayers.

    Professor J. Barkley Rosser, of the United States Army Mathematical Research Center at Madison, Wisconsin, spent a six-month sabbatical period in the Computing Laboratory.

    The Director was invited to give the 1967 Rouse Ball Lecture at Cambridge University.

  3. Future prospects

    During the year a beginning was made in the necessarily slow process of attempting to replace the KDF9 by much more powerful equipment. This took the form of a document submitted by the General Board to the Computer Board outlining. as a result of the answers to a questionnaire submitted to university departments and other bodies, the magnitude of Oxford’s computing needs and the inadequacy of the present facilities, in space, staff, and equipment. for the satisfaction of these needs. At the same time some senior members of the laboratory held preliminary discussions with computer manufacturers about the nature, extent, and cost of possible future machines.

    A new machine will need a new building, and it is therefore gratifying to report that the Computing Laboratory Committee was asked, in July 1967, to give its estimates of the size and nature of a building for the future adequate housing of the Computing Laboratory.

    4. Publications

    FOX, L. ‘Romberg integration for a class of singular integrands.’ Computer J., 10, 87-93 (1967).

    --, HENRICI, P., and MOLER, C. ‘Approximations and bounds for eigenvalues of elliptic operators.’ Siam J. Numer. Anal., 4, 89-102 (1967).

    ROLLETT, J. S., and RICHARDSON, A. ‘The Oxford Cartographic Data Bank, a feasibility study of accuracies, store sizes, and operation times.’ Third International Conference on Cartography, Amsterdam (1967).

    --, KENNARD, O., and RIVA DI SANSEVERINO, L. ‘The molecular and crystal structure of 2x Bromoarborinone.’ Tetrahedron, 23, p. 131 (1967).

    --, ‘The crystal structure of Tomatidine Hydrobromide and its relation to the steroidal Bromosapogenins.’ J. Chem. Soc. (C), p. 956 (1967).

    STRACHEY, C. ‘Programming and systems analysis.’ Sc. Amer. 112-24 (1966).

    -- (Ed.) CPL working papers (private circulation).

  4. Computing Laboratory Committee

    Professor C. A. Coulson (Chairman), Professor G. E. Blackman, Dr. M. Bulmer, Dr. D. ter Haar, Mr. E. F. Jackson, Professor H. M. Powell, Dr. R. Shackleton, Dr. J. de Wet, Professor L. Fox (Secretary).