Annual Report for the year 1974-5

1. Introduction

This report covers the year ending July 1975. Financial stringencies have been increasingly evident during the period and have affected both the facilities locally available and the time-scales in which major enhancements of equipment could be expected. The configuration of the ICL 1906A computer is now such that the balance between processing power, short- and long-term memory and input/output capacity is right and no major enhancements gave been made to this equipment. The main work of the Service staff has been in looking forward to the availability of large computers elsewhere as well as the ICL 2980 machine which it is hoped to install locally.

2. Replacement Computer

Three sided negotiations between the University, the Computer Board and ICL continued throughout the year. The Computer Board felt unable to fund the replacement computer on the time-scales envisaged in the last report and it is now hoped that installation of an ICL 2980 can be made in the first half of 1977.

Both an initial and final configuration have been agreed with ICL, although the former will need adjustment as the consequence of the regional responsibility the University is being asked to undertake (see below). Detailed planning of a new computer room to be built on the existing car park is under way. It is likely that a proportion of the cost of the building will be borne by the income earned by sale of computer time during the last two years.

3. Regional Responsibility

In the course of negotiations with the Computer Board it has asked whether the University will accept responsibility for providing some computer power from the ICL 2980 for some of the other Universities in the S E region. This would involve regional representatives on the Committee for the Computing Service and the User Group. Representation has been agreed and it is likely that 30% of the power of the ICL 2980 will be available to the region.

4. Serviceability of ICL 1906A

The serviceability of the existing ICL 1906A has been a matter of concern to the Service for a long time. Despite various procedures carried through by ICL with a view to increasing the serviceability this has remained at a low level and certainly not that which had been anticipated when the equipment was originally ordered. In November the Computer Manager wrote to the Managing Director of ICL and an agreement was reached whereby maintenance was carried out at week-ends free of charge until the overall serviceability reached 95%. This arrangement has implied that four extra hours computing are now available to users at times convenient to them and has deferred the time at which it will be necessary to run the computer at week-ends.

5. Computing in the Arts

In February 1975 a joint panel with the Sub-faculty of Computation appointed Mrs S Hockey to a post within the Undergraduate Teaching section to prepare courses in "Computing in the Arts". This post was funded by a special IBM grant. Lectures will start in October 1975 and it is hoped that they will be of interest to a wide range of Graduates. Subsequently it may be that senior members of the University will recommend short computer courses to Arts Undergraduates.

6. Numerical Algorithms Group

Negotiations between this group, the University and the Computer Board, originating from the requirement for NAG to sign a contract will ICL, have led to the conclusion that it is desirable for NAG to set up as a Company limited by Guarantee. Memorandum and Articles of Association have now been agreed by the University and the company will be created early in 1976.

7. Secondment of Staff

In order to help with the lack of information about ICL New Range equipment, at the request of ICL Dr C J Cheetham, Software Manager, was seconded to ICL, half time. This secondment ended in March 1975 and has been extended for a further six months. The arrangement has proved very useful to both parties, enabling the University to obtain a more detailed understanding of the new computer.

8. Standing Orders

The Committee reviewed its standing orders in the course of the year in the light of difficulties which had occurred with regard to its Standing Committee. A revised set of Standing Orders has been drafted and agreed by General Board. It is hoped that these will enable a greater degree of flexibility to be catered for since decisions often have to be taken quite quickly a long way ahead of the time at which they become effective.