IT Services

OUCS History

A History of Oxford University Computing Services in Words and Pictures

Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1957-58

The University's first computer, a Ferranti Mercury, was installed in the Computing Laboratory at 9 South Parks Road.

Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1958-59

Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1959-60
Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1960-61
Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1961-62
Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1962-63

The Computing Laboratory moved to 19 Parks Road.

Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1963-64


An English Electric KDF-9 computer was installed at 19 Parks Road and began to offer a service towards the end of the year.

Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1964-65


The Mercury computer was decommissioned in March.

Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1965-66


The KDF-9 was upgraded to a configuration of 32000 words of core, a 4 million word magnetic disc, nine magnetic tape decks, a line printer, and I/O facilities for punched cards and paper tape. This upgrade allowed the KDF-9 to use the "EGDON" operating system.

Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1966-67


During the year the Computing Laboratory started to think about what would be needed to replace the KDF-9, both in terms of equipment and buildings.

Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1967-68

The KDF-9 was further upgraded by the addition of a Digital PDP-8, an 11-inch Calcomp graph plotter, and several remote consoles controlled by the PDP-8. These allowed a remote time-sharing service to be offered on the KDF-9.

The KDF-9 was seriously overloaded, and usage restrictions had to be imposed. The machine was operated for 100 hours per week, and average job turn-round time was about a day.

The General Board made two applications for funding: one to the Computer Board for a new computer, and the second to the University Grants Board for a new building to house it in. It also gave a special grant of £7000 to the Laboratory for the appointment of four senior staff to improve the Service side.

Computing Laboratory Annual Report 1968-69


In the early summer of 1969 it became certain that the Computer Board would approve the £0.9m needed to purchase an ICL 1906A computer which would be delivered towards the end of 1970. A new building to house it would be built in the Banbury Road/Woodstock Road "Tongue" area, together with the adaption of Nos 17 and 19 Banbury Road.

The KDF-9 went onto three-shift operation in an attempt to improve throughput of work.

The Computing Laboratory was effectively split into two when Mr FA (Alan) Scott was appointed Computer Manager in June 1969, to take charge of the service side. In addition, a Computing Service Committee was set up to oversee the operation of the computing service.

Computing Service Annual Report 1969-70


Alan Scott took up his post of computer manager of the Computing Service on January 1st.

The prototype 1906A executed Oxford's benchmark (a sequence of jobs representing an 8-hour shift on the KDF-9) in 86 minutes, just within the 90 minutes specified in the contract.

In September, Computing Service staff, with the exception of those operating the KDF-9, began moving to Nos 17 and 19 Banbury Road.

Installation and commissioning of the ICL 1906A started in mid-November.

Computing Service Annual Report 1970-71


Since the 1906A system was not available for use by the contractual date of February 15th, ICL installed a 1904S which provided a service from February 15th until the 1906A service started on April 8th.

Conversion work on 15 Banbury Road was completed in mid-March.

The Undergraduate Reaching Officer, Mr FR Pettit, was appointed in November 1971 to undertake the teaching of computing to undergraduates.

The KDF-9 was finally closed down just before Christmas.

Computing Service Annual Report 1971-72


In June an additional 128K of core store was installed on the 1906A. A seven-spindle exchangeable disk store system was also installed.

Computing Service Annual Report 1972-73


A Humanities Computing Centre was established within the Computing Service.

The establishment of national supercomputing services at London and Manchester Universities enabling the shedding of much numerically-intensive computing from Oxford.

Discussions started in mid-1973 regarding the replacement of the 1906A in the 1975/76 timeframe.

Computing Service Annual Report 1974-75
Computing Service Annual Report 1975-76

Construction of a new computer room to house the 2980 began at the rear of numbers 7 to 11 Banbury Road.

Computing Service Annual Report 1976-77


An ICL 2980 mainframe was installed at 13 Banbury Road at the beginning of July.

Computing Service Annual Report 1977-78


A limited user service began on the 2980 in January.

On March 1st, the Computing Service was separated from the Computing Laboratory; Alan Scott was appointed Director.


A Gandalf asynchronous PACX service was installed at 13 Banbury Road.

In December, the first of three Digital VAX 11/780 minicomputers was installed to relieve the load on the ICL 2980.


In March the ICL 1906A was finally retired. The second and third VAX 11/780s were delivered, and were housed in the old 1906A computer room.

In June an initial user service started on the VAX 11/780s; a full service began in October. With the introduction of the VAX service, users were able to send and receive electronic mail over JANET for the first time.

In November a locally-developed high-speed link between the VAXes and the 2980 was made available. This allowed 2980 jobs to be submitted from the VAXes, and two-way file transfer.

The campus Cambridge Ring was extended to 1 km of fibre-optic cable.

Computing Service Annual Report 1981-82


In February VAX3 was upgraded with more memory, terminal ports and disk capacity to support CTC teaching requirements.

The Lasercomp national academic typesetting service started in March.

During July the ICL 2980 was replaced by the twin-processor ICL 2988, and extra disk drives were installed on the VAXes.

The 2980 service ended on September 17th. The service on the 2988 was fully operational on September 30th.

Computing Service Annual Report 1982-83


Alan Scott resigned as Computing Service Director. Christopher Phelps took over as Acting Director.

The Computing Teaching Centre was established as a separate entity from the Computing Service.

Enhancements to the 2988 included new tape and disk drives, and the Contents Addressable Filestore (CAFS) database search engine. All three VAX 11/780s were upgraded to 4MB of main memory.

A GEC 4160 packet-switching exchange was installed to allow X25 connections between Oxford and the JANET network.

Computing Service Annual Report 1983-84


Specialist microcomputer support was offered for the first time by the Computing Service.

In April, Alan Robiette was appointed Director of the Computing Service.

In September a Systems Industries 414 MB Winchester disk was added to each of VAX1 and VAX2.

In October a 2400 bps terminal service started on the 2988.

An EPS1200 laser printer with a 300dpi resolution was installed in the user area at 13 Banbury Road in December.

Computing Service Annual Report 1984-85


The Data Centre at 1 South Parks Road opened in January.

In March VAX1 and VAX2 were upgraded to 11/785 processors, giving about 40% more performance. A floating point accelerator was added to VAX3, and all three machines were upgraded to 8 MB of main memory.

In August the first Gandalf PACX2000 asynchronous switch was delivered. It was brought into service in September.

In September the X25 line to Rutherford was upgraded to 48 kbits/sec, and VMS version 4 was installed on the VAX systems.

The Modular 1 communications processor was withdrawn from service.

Computing Service Annual Report 1985-86


On June 20th the Operational Requirement for a 2988 replacement was issued to potential suppliers.

In June a second PACX2000 node was installed at the Museum Lodge. In the same month the ICL 7906 communications processor was decommissioned.

In October the PACX2000 configuration was completed, with three nodes at OUCS, Museum Lodge and the Bodleian Library. The PACX IV was taken out of service.

Computing Service Annual Report 1986-87


In January version 815 of VME was installed on the 2988. Also during the year VMS was upgraded on version 4.4, and subsequently version 4.5.

On March 17th 1987 approval was given to order a large DEC VAX Cluster and a Convex C1-XP2 vectorising mini-supercomputer to replace the 2988. The VAX system was to consist of two 8800 dual-processor systems, two 8700 single-processor systems, 36 Gbytes of filestore, six magnetic tape drives and three printers, making it one of the largest VAX systems in the UK at the time.

In May the Convex C1-XP2 was installed at 13 Banbury Road.

In July the VAX cluster system was installed at 13 Banbury Road. The system was handed over to the University on August 11th, and started running a user service on the 24th. Users of the 2988 were migrated to the new system during Michaelmas Term.

The ICL 2988 was finally switched off on December 18th.

During the year there was a major expansion of the Gandalf asynchronous switching network to coincide with the installation of the new telephone system.

Computing Service Annual Report 1987-88


An IBM 9370/90 was installed at 13 Banbury Road for the next phase of the University's library automation program.

A Sun 4/110 and three Sun 3/60 Unix systems were installed at 13 Banbury Road.

In the summer the Computing Service Shop was opened.

A new lecture room was completed at 13 Banbury Road in time for the start of the 1988/89 academic year.

On December 13th the VAXes were upgraded to VMS version 5.

Computing Service Annual Report 1988-89


In November a University-wide PC maintenance scheme, run from the Computing Service, started.

Also in November, a CTI Centre for Literature and Linguistic Studies was established within the Computing Services.

The two old VAX 11/785s and one 11/780, originally delivered in 1980, were decommissioned. A MicroVAX 3400 was attached to the cluster as a print server.

In October the VAXes were upgraded to VMS 5.2.

Computing Service Annual Report 1989-90


In February, the OUCS Information System, known as INFO, was started.

In April 1990 the VAXes were upgraded to VMS 5.3, and the Convex was upgraded to ConvexOS 7.1.

The Data Centre at 17 Banbury Road, giving 24-hour access to terminals and printers, was opened.

The GEC 4160 X25 switch was replaced by six Netcomm Switch2000 units. A new link to JANET, running at 256 kbits/second, was installed. Installation of the University ethernet infrastructure was completed.

In June a VAX 8650 was added to the cluster.

In July the Convex was upgraded to ConvexOS 8.0.


In May a Usenet News service was started on the VAX cluster.

In July the Convex C1 system was replaced by a Convex C220.

In August the Computing Teaching Centre was amalgamated with the Computing Service to form Oxford University Computing Services.

In September, a general-purpose Unix service was offered on the Digital DEC5500 system known as black. The Sun 3/4 service was withdrawn.

By September, use of the Internet for mail and FTP was becoming more common.


The Digital VAX cluster was replaced by a dual-processor VAX 6000/620 system.

Alan Robiette resigned as Director of the Computing Services in September to take up a post at Warwick University. Alan Gay took over as Acting Director until September 1993.

In September VAX users gained full access to Internet mail, following the installation of Message Exchange (MX).

In November the first University IT Strategy was adopted.


In January, the University FDDI backbone network went live.

In June the Open Learning Centre was opened at 59 George Street.

From Michaelmas 1993 all undergraduates were allowed to have an account on a central Unix computer (which was the Ultrix system called black at the time).

In October, Alex Reid was appointed as Director of the Computing Services.

Computing Service Annual Report 1993-94


In April, Gopher replaced Info as the University information service.

In April, VAX users gained access to the World Wide Web when the Lynx WWW client was installed on the VAX.

In July the Open Learning Centre was renamed as the Learning and Resources Centre (LaRC).

In September a Digital Alpha 2100 server with four processors and 1 gigabyte of memory (known as sable) was installed to replace black as the University's general-purpose Unix server.


In January the University's information system became fully Web-based when the University Networked Information Service (UNIS) replaced Gopher.

Also in January a SLIP/PPP dial-up service was offered by OUCS for the first time.

In February a Hierarchical File Server system was ordered from IBM. This was intended to provide a terabyte-range filestore for the University.

In March a dedicated Usenet news server (a Sun Microsystems Sparcserver 1000 running Solaris) was installed at OUCS. This went live in June. The VAX Usenet server was withdrawn.

In September an initial service was offered on the HFS system.

Also in September it became possible to register to use OUCS services over the Web.

OUCS Annual Report 1995-96


In May a revised IT Strategy was adopted.

In June a second Digital Alpha server was installed (known as ermine). This was bought because the load on sable was much greater than had been envisaged.

In June a dedicated Web server was installed at OUCS. This was a Pentium PC running the Linux operating system. The Web server which had been contributing to the overload on sable was withdrawn.

In July the OUCS annexe at 59 George Street was closed. Staff and services previously at George Street were relocated to 13 Banbury Road.

In July the Convex C220 system was retired.

In September a dedicated Web proxy caching server was installed. This was a Sun Ultra 1 system.

In October the process of moving VAX users onto Unix systems started.

OUCS Annual Report 1996-97


In January the Learning and Resources Centre opened at 13 Banbury Road.

In February major building works were completed at Banbury Road. The Humanities Computing Unit moved to the refurbished basements of Nos 17 to 19 Banbury Road.

Also in February the first issue of IT News was published. This replaced the old OUCS Newsletter.

In May the OUCS Review Committee submitted its report.

At the end of June Linda Hayes, the User Services Manager, retired after 32 years working with computers at Oxford.

At the end of July the VAX 6620 system was retired, bringing to an end nearly 17 years of VAX/VMS user service at OUCS.

In September, OUCS sent out an Invitation to Tender for a Help Desk system. This was sent to about 30 companies. The responses were evaluated and AHD from Computer Associates was selected. The contract was signed just before Christmas.

Statistics for the OUCS Annual Report 1997-98

In January the new position of Assistant Manager (Distributed Computing) was offered to Dr Sue Brooks. She took up her post after Easter.

In March a new, more capable, web cache server was brought into use. This acquired more importance later in the year, when the University started to be charged for incoming transatlantic traffic. However, web traffic coming via the JANET cache service was not charged for.

In July a new system for registering for national academic online resources, called ATHENS, went live.

In July a Silicon Graphics/Cray Origin 2000 supercomputer was installed at 13 Banbury Road.

On August 4th the University's JANET connection was upgraded to a 34 Mbps ATM link.

On August 11th the University's Computer Emergency Response Team (OxCERT) succeeded in its application to become a full member of FIRST, the Forum for Incident Response and Security Teams.

In August a new Usenet News server was brought into service. This offered much more filestore than the previous system.

At the end of September Joe Stoy stood down as Chairman of the IT Committee after five years in post. His replacement was named as Dr Nick Woodhouse, who was appointed for a two-year term from October 1st.

A new email service called Herald was brought into use. All new undergraduates who started in Michaelmas 1998 had accounts pre-created on this system. It offers POP and IMAP services, and also a web interface to mail called WING.

The Help Desk system was brought into use during Michaelmas term.

OUCS Annual Report 1998-99

In January the HFS system was substantially upgraded to keep pace with expected growth in usage.

On August 1st the changes to Advisory took effect. Henceforth members of opted-out departments and colleges were no longer allowed to contact Advisory directly, and instead had to go to their local IT support first.

At the start of Michaelmas term 1999-2000, the Herald system was opened up to all members of the University.

On December 1st use of the web proxy cache became compulsory. This was achieved by a transparent method such that end users didn't have to change their browser configuration. At this stage the cache "farm" consisted of seven servers, which were handling in excess of 5 million requests per day.

OUCS Annual Report 1999-2000


In May, Sue Brooks left OUCS to take up a post in Sussex, and was replaced by John Jenkins from the Said Business School.

In November, Alex Reid left OUCS to return to Australia, and an directorial inter-regnum ensued.

OUCS Annual Report 2000-01


In February, the POP service on Ermine and Sable started counting down to its complete demise at the end of the month.

OUCS Annual Report 2001-02

In April, a new director, Paul Jeffreys, started in post.

OUCS Annual Report 2002-03
OUCS Annual Report 2003-04
OUCS Annual Report 2004-05

On October 1st, Professor Paul Jeffreys became the Acting Director of the ICT, leaving the post of OUCS Director to be temporarily filled by Dr Stuart Lee.

OUCS Annual report 2005-06
OUCS Five Year Plan 2007-2011The Director's Cut, blog from OUCS Acting Director, Stuart Lee Annual Report 2006-2007

OUCS celebrate 50 Years of Computing at Oxford with an exhibition and an expanded History section on the OUCS web site.

ICT Strategy was accepted as a working document

Alan Gay, Deputy Director, Head of Infrastructure and twice acting Director, retired.


Professor Paul Jeffreys takes up a new post of Director of IT (who is also department head for OUCS). Office of the Director of IT (ODIT)

Dr Stuart Lee is appointed to the post of Director of Computing Systems and Services, OUCS with overall strategic and management responsibility for the computing services.

The ICT Strategic Plan recommended fundamental changes to the way IT is governed in the University, and a new PRAC ICT Sub-committee is created.