COMPUTING SERVICE

Report 1969-70

  1. Introduction
  2. Last year's report noted certain reorganisation in the administration of the Computing Laboratory, and in particular the formation of a Computing Service Committee to oversee the work of the Computing Service.

    In practice the Computing Service report is now the responsibility of that Committee, but since the Committee existed only for part of the year the writing of the present report has been delegated to the Director of the Laboratory and the Computer Manager.

    Last time we announced the appointment of the Computer Manager, the probability of acquiring a new machine at a capital cost of some £900,000, and the provision of a new building to house this machine and the Computing Service staff. The year 1969-70 was essentially spent in developing these projects, and this report gives the main results of the progress achieved.

  3. The new ICL 1906A machine

    In July 1969 the configuration details of the 1906A had been settled, and Oxford had proposed performance standards which the computer should satisfy at various stages. Starting in November, 1969, and rising to a peak of activity in March, 1970, meetings were held with the Computer Board, H.M.S.O., I.C.L. and representatives of the other 1906A Universities to settle the details of the contract. One of the contractual conditions was that the 1906A should execute in less than 90 minutes a specified sequence of jobs representing an 8-hour shift on KDF9. This "benchmark" test was successfully performed on the prototype 1906A in April 1970, the time being about 86 minutes, and it is gratifying to report that the time has been subsequently appreciably reduced to 46 minutes on Oxford’s own 1906A.

    There is therefore considerable optimism that this machine will prove to be a good "buy", at least for the next few years, and this is particularly important since the saturated state of KDF9 shows no sign of easing. Indeed the demand for computing facilities has grown so large that the turn-round time has increased to a quite unsatisfactory amount.

  4. Staff and running costs

    An application by the General Board to the Computer Board for the support of additional staff for the Computing Service (and for various other recurrent costs) had a reasonably favourable response. The full application would bring the total service staff to 49, an increase of about 30, and the Computer Board found itself unable at that time to support three of the seniors and four of the juniors in this list. They did, however, promise to keep these requests sympathetically in mind, and would be prepared to reconsider them after a short period of 1906A operation. They approved grants to meet all expenses of £24,000 for the costs prior to scheduled acceptance, £135,000 for the first year's operation, and a non-recurrent £16,000 for ancillary equipment.

  5. Building

    At the end of the year under consideration the new computer building in the Tongue area was scheduled for completion by September 1970, in time to house the new machine. Together with houses 17 and 19 Banbury Road (and with some possibilities relating to 15 Banbury Road) this provided enough space for the 1906A and its ancillary equipment, for all the staff of the Computing Service and for some thinking and library space for users. All this represents a considerable advance on any previous such arrangements, and completes the record of a rather satisfactory year's start to the future of the expanded Computing Service.

    L. Fox & F.A. Scott,
    for Computing Service Committee
    21 May 1971