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The Single User System Programme grew out of the Interactive Computing Facility. In 1975, the Rosenbrock Report had recommended that engineers should use multi user interactive systems for engineering research but that, in the future, single user systems (later called workstations and now Personal Computers) would appear on the market that would allow much more to be done on a personal, single-user system connected to a Local Are Network with Servers for specialist facilities.
The first commercial single user system to appear was the Three Rivers PERQ. There was much wider interest in the system than just the engineers. SERC's Distributed Computing Systems Specially-Promoted Programme (DCS) were also interested as were leading edge researchers in other disciplines. In consequence, the Single User System programme became independent of the Interactive Computing Facility.
Having a presence in this new market for the UK's computer industry was important to both the UK Government and the major computer company, ICL. In consequence, an agreement was reached between ICL and Three Rivers to jointly market the PERQ world-wide with ICL concentrating on their areas of strength. ICL also agreed to manufacture PERQs in the UK. SERC agreed to purchase a substantial number of PERQ systems and to work with ICL to develop software for the PERQ relevant to the SERC community.
Later, other companies like Apollo and Sun in the USA appeared all with different and incompatible products. At that stage, the emphasis changed to working towards a Common Base of software that ran on all the systems purchased by SERC supported researchers.
At the end of the Single User System Programme, an audit of the Programme was asked for by the Science Board of SERC. To prepare this, most of the documents relevant to the project were condensed into a substantial history of the Project. This PERQ Audit is included here as the definitive description of what was often called the PERQ Project.
Interest in the PERQ continues to this day. Three major sources of information are:
- PERQ Reference Manual: http://www.vonhagen.org/perqsystems/perq-cpu-ref.pdf
- PERQ Workstations: http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/perq/RD_Davis/Davis-PERQ_Workstations_Nov03.pdf
- PERQ FAQ: http://www.vonhagen.org/perq-gen-faq.html