A Glint on the Horizon

Chapter
Part of the History of Computing book series (HC)

Abstract

John Coales was 40 years old when he arrived for his first day as Director of Elliott’s Borehamwood Research Laboratory in October 1946.

References

  1. 1.
    MacFarlane SA (2003) John Flavell Coales, CBE. Biogr Mem Fell Roy Soc Lond 49:119–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Young P (1999, Oct) Professor John Flavell Coales, CBE, FRS, MA, Hon D Sc., C Eng, FIEE, FIEEE, FInstP, FICE. IEE Comput Control Eng J: 231–233Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Howse D (1993) Radar at sea – the Royal Navy in World War 2. MacMillan, London. See also: Coales JF, Calpine HC, Watson DS (1946) Naval fire-control radar. J IEE 93, part IIIA (Radiolocation) (2):349–379Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    In 1928 John Coales was a co-founder of the group of English Country Dancers called the Cambridge Round. After the War, Coales hosted groups of ex-Cambridge dancers at Oakwood, his large house at Radlett, beginning in August in 1947 and subsequently at various times through to 1952. See http://www.srcf.ucam.org/round/history/coales for a history of the Cambridge University Morris Dancing group
  5. 5.
    RE (Bob) Ford (1995) Eight-page letter of Borehamwood anecdotes sent to Laurence Clarke and dated 18 Dec 1995Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Alison Steer (née Coales) (2003) Conversations with Simon Lavington on 10 Dec 2003 and inspection of certain of John Coales’ personal papersGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    John Bunt (1995) Un-titled and un-dated four-page typed notes of his time at Borehamwood. Almost certainly sent to Lawrence Clarke with an accompanying letter dated 16 Oct 1995Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    PD (Peter) Atkinson (1995) Letter to Laurence Clarke dated 16 Oct 1995Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    WH (Bill) Pearse (1995) Letter to Laurence Clarke dated 9 Oct 1995Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Commander Henry Pasley-Tyler CBE (1995) Un-dated audio-recording of an interview with Laurence Clarke. It may be inferred from letters to Laurence that this interview took place some time between 1 Feb 1995 and 24 May 1995, at which time he was 84 years old. Pasley-Tyler died in Dec 1995Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    JF Coales (1946) Elliott Research Laboratory – Borehamwood 1946. Seven types pages and eight hand-written pages, covering the period mid-July 1945 to autumn 1946. Sent with an accompanying letter to S L H Clarke on 29 Apr 1998. A copy of the document exists in the Archive of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, London, catalogue number SC168/1/6/2/3. In the accompanying letter, John Coales says that he hopes to continue writing about Borehamwood “because there is a lot during the next two years including the security problems and relationships with BTM etc. that now only I know about”. He explains in the letter that he has not been in good health. John Coales died on 6 June 1999, aged 92, having been unable to continue his accountGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    John Bunt (1994) Four-page typed manuscript of Borehamwood anecdotes, enclosed with a letter to Laurence Clarke dated 9 Nov 1994Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Alan Essex (1995) Letter to Laurence Clarke dated 16 May 1995 enclosing 13 hand-written pages of Borehamwood anecdotesGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Arthor Hemingway (1995) Letter dated 2 Nov 1995 to Laurence Clarke, enclosing five hand-written pages of Borehamwood anecdotesGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    CA (Alec) Cochrane (1994/1995) Letters to Laurence Clarke dated 14 Nov 1994 and 9 Oct 1995. The latter contains most of the historically important informationGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    JE (Jack) Pateman (1994/1995) Letters dated 4 Nov 1994 and 7 Dec 1995, the latter with enclosed pages of Borehamwood anecdotesGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    No comprehensive biography of W S Elliott has come to light. In order of relevance to Borehamwood, the following references are of some use: (a) Ian Merry, July 2000, A memorabilia of W S Elliott, physicist, Engineer and Professor Emeritus. 2.5 page typed manuscript, dated July 2000 and copied to Simon Lavington. (b) “Professor W S Elliott and the Elliott-NRDC 401 computer”. St Catherine’s College Magazine, Cambridge. (Date and author unknown). (c) H McGregor Ross, obituary of W S Elliott, IEE News, Nov 2000, page 11. (d) Hannah Gay, History of Imperial College, 1907–2007. Published in 2007 by Imperial College PressGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Audio tape of John Coales in conversation with Laurence Clarke, date unknown (but probably February 1995 or a little later). Duration: about 60 minutes, not all of which is relevant. This audio recording was made at a time when Laurence Clarke, with the approval of John Coales, was assembling material for a book about the history of the Borehamwood Laboratories. In the event, Laurence Clarke abandoned his project at the end of 1996 and passed his historical material to Simon Lavington on 10 July 2001Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    WE (Ben) Bennett (1994/1995) Letters to Laurence Clarke dated 5 Oct 1994 and 5 Jan 1995, the latter including two typed pages of historical notesGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Foolscap hard-bound ledger entitled Official Secrets Acts, containing the names, dates and signatures of employees at Borehamwood. This book was recovered from the Strong Room at Borehamwood in 2003, at the time when the few remaining documents were being consigned to the rubbish skipGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Copies of notes and papers resulting from discussions between JF Coales and Pennington & Son, solicitors, of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, between Mar and Oct 1948. Sent by JF Coales to SLH Clarke on 10 Feb 1995. Copies of most of these papers are also held in the Archives of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, London, under catalogue number SC168/1/6/2/1Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Unsigned obituary of C A Laws, IEE News, published by the Institution of Electrical Engineers, Dec 2002, p 7Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Benjamin R (1996) Five lives in one. Parapress Ltd., Tunbridge Wells. ISBN: 1-898594-25-2Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Laurence Clarke (2009) E-mail to Simon Lavington dated 14 Oct 2009Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Maurice Needham (2007) Telephone conversation with Simon Lavington on 26 July 2007Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    ND (Norman) Hill (1995) A personal account of the early history of Elliott Brothers research laboratories. 6-page typed manuscript and accompanying letter to Laurence Clarke, dated 9 May 1995Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    The National Archive, file ADM 220/1668: Report on the visit to the United States in August and September 1944 of J F Coales and H C Calpine of the Admiralty Signal Establishment, with Mr H Clausen of the Naval Ordnance Department. Document dated Nov 1944Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Clymer AB (1993) The mechanical analogue computers of Hannibal Ford and William Newell. IEEE Ann Hist Comput 15(2):19–34. See also: http://web.mit.edu/STS.035/www/PDFs/Newell.pdf Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ival TE (ed) (1956) Electronic computers: principles and applications. Iliffe & Sons Ltd. (Published for Wireless World), LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Hodges A (1983) Alan Turing: the enigma. Burnett Books, London. ISBN: 0-09-152130:0Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Bell J (1947) Data transmission systems. J Inst Electrical Eng, Part IIA 94:222Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    The National Archive (1948–1950) Report ADM 294/15: MRS5 radar: minutes of quarterly meetingsGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Commander FC Morgan (1948) Hand-over notes. Admiralty Signal Research Establishment, Dec 1948. In File ADM 220/222: Fire control radar: outline of work in progress, Dec 1948, The National ArchiveGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    RB (Bob) Nichols (1995) Letter dated 19 Oct 1995 enclosing three typed pages of historical notes, sent to Laurence Clarke. Nichols joined Borehamwood towards the end of 1947, first in the Instruments Division and then moving to the radar group to work on MRS5Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Eric Whitehead (1994) Letter to Laurence Clarke dated 22 Nov 1994Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Kingsley FA (1995) The application of radar and other electronic systems in the Royal Navy in World War II. Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Wilson JF (2001) Ferranti: a history. Building a family business. Vol 1, pp 1882–1975. Carnegie, Lancaster, ISBN: 1-85936-080-7Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Anon, Appreciation of the general principles of Fly-Plane Fire Control Systems, and Comments on a proposal by Mr B M Brown, RNC, Greenwich, for a Naval fly-Plane System. Admiralty Gunnery Establishment, Teddington, Middlesex, Report number AGE/R1/25.00/Maths, 1950. Now in the National Archives as document ADM 263/149Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Cochrane CA (1953) Netting Trials: final report. Borehamwood Research Report number 298, 5 June 1953Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    HG (Harry) Carpenter. Notes taken by Simon Lavington of nine lengthy telephone conversations with Harry Carpenter, during the period 16 May 2000 to 9 Dec 2002. Harry was unwilling to commit his historical anecdotes to paper but was more than happy to talk. Part way through these exchanges, in Nov 2001, Harry obtained clearance under the provisions of the Official Secrets Act to reveal certain details about his hardware design activities at Borehamwood (see also Chapter 3). More generally, Harry’s reticence to write down anecdotes about Borehamwood was explained in a letter to Laurence Clarke, dated 10 Nov 1994: “I have never disguised the fact that I feel the organisational structure of the RLEB [Research Labs of Elliott Brothers] was badly flawed and ill-suited to the kind of development work we were trying to do (with, incidentally, an impossible time-scale)....‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’”
  41. 41.
    DBG Edwards, conversations with Simon Lavington, 2006–2008. (Dai Edwards joined Professor F C Williams’ computer design team at Manchester University in Sept 1948, having graduated in Physics. Edwards remained at the forefront of computer design at Manchester University, becoming Professor of Computer Engineering in 1966 and retiring with the title Emeritus Professor in 1988). Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Metropolis N, Howlett J, Rota G -C (eds) (1980) A history of computing in the twentieth century. Academic Press, New York, p 308Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Redmond KC, Smith TM (1980) Project Whirlwind, the history of a pioneer computer. Digital Press, Bedford. ISBN: 0-932376-09-6Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Rochester N (1950) Radio progress during 1949: electronic computers. Proceedings of IRE, Apr 1950, p 374Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Lavington SH (1975) A History of Manchester computers. First edition published in 1975 by the National Computing Centre. Second edition published by the British Computer Society in 1998: ISBN 0-902505-01-8Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Coales JF (1972, Jan) Computers and the professional engineer. Proc IEE119(1):1–16Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Hersom SE (2002) Nicholas, the forgotten Elliott project. Resurrection, the Bulletin of the Computer Conservation Society, Issue number 27, spring 2002, pp 10–14Google Scholar
  48. 48.
  49. 49.
    Turing AM (1937) On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem. Proc Lond Math Soc 42(2):230–265. Corrigenda in Vol 43, pp 544–546Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Clarke SLH (August 1975) The Elliott 400 series and before. Radio Electron Eng 45(8):415–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    (a) Anon, 150 years of instrument making. Unsigned article in The Elliott Journal, vol. 1 number 1, March 1951, pp 3–10. (b) Elliott Brothers (London) Ltd.: large advertisement placed in The Times newspaper of Monday May 11 1953, “issued in compliance with the Regulations of the Council of the Stock Exchange, London, for the purpose of giving information to the public with regard to the Company”. In the matter of factory floor space, this advertisement gives the following figures: (i) Century Works, Lewisham, floor space of about 155,000 square feet. (ii) A factory at Rochester, Kent, is occupied under tenancy from the Ministry of Supply at an annual rental of £12,200. The premises consist of a modern single-storey building with a floor area of about 185,000 square feet. (iii) A research establishment at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, is housed in a modern building with a floor space of approximately 80,000 square feet, under tenancy from the Admiralty at an annual rent of £8,750 Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    The National Archive, file ADM 178/309: Report on morale and output of Elliot Bros Ltd: suggestions for improvement, 1943. Produced by the Director of Naval Ordnance, September 1943, DNO. Note: this file was originally marked as ‘Secret: closed until 2043’Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Correspondence with the Ministry of Defence and associated government departments, in a confidential file labelled From Commander H Pasley-Tyler’s Lewisham files, 1950 – 1956, formerly kept in the Strong Room at BorehamwoodGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Letter from J F Coales to S L H Clarke dated 10 Feb 1995, containing copies of papers written by JF Coales between Nov 1947 and 24 Feb 1948. The papers include the 16-page document entitled Proposals for setting up the Research Laboratories of Elliott Brothers (London) Limited, Borehamwood as a separate company, written in January 1948Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Hugh McGregor Ross (1994) Letter to W S (Bill) Elliott, dated 1 Jan 1994Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Hugh McGregor Ross (1994) After the Elliott 400 series. Resurrection, the Bulletin of the Computer Conservation Society, Issue number 9, spring 1994Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Interpretations of this incident differ. In an e-mail to Simon Lavington dated 14 Oct 2009, Laurence Clarke remarked that he and Andrew St Johnston always found Lotti Ross “to be scrupulously polite”. The incident itself is not deniedGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Laurence Clarke (2009) E-mail dated 29 June 2009, sent to Simon LavingtonGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Internal memo dated 5 Oct 1951, from Leon Bagrit to JF Coales and Mr Wykeham: “Confidential. Arising out of the meeting held at Century Works on Friday the 28 September 1951, I confirm that as from Monday the 8 October 1951, Mr Coales will carry out the duties of Research Director of the Company and Mr Wykeham will assume the title and function of General Manager, Research Laboratories, Borehamwood” Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    JF Coales (1994) Transcript of an interview by William Asprey of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, 21 Mar 1994. A copy of this is in the Archives of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, London, catalogue number SC168/1/6/2/4Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Laurence Clarke (2009) E-mail to Simon Lavington dated 14 Oct 2009Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    The following sources have been used to obtain figures for the company’s pre-tax profits: (a) A three-quarters page advertisement in The Times newspaper for Monday 11 May 1953, which gives a brief history of the company together with detailed financial detail for the years 1943–1952. (b) London Stock Exchange Yearbook for 1954 onwards (available at the Guildhall Library). Elliott’s shares were first quoted on the London Stock Exchange in 1953, so the Yearbook gives financial information for Elliott Brothers (London) Ltd. from 1953 onwards. (c) Additional financial information may be gleaned from the surviving Elliott-Automation Annual Reports. Those for the years 1958 to 1966 have thus far come to lightGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer London 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Computer Science and Electronic EngineeringUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

Personalised recommendations