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Single User Systems (PERQ): Administrative Guidelines

Brian Oakley, Secretary of SERC

19 September 1982

SERC Instruction 5/82

1. This SERC Instruction provides guidance for Operating Divisions in their administration of research grant applications involving single user computer systems, such as ICL's PERQ, for which Council has instituted a central purchasing and maintenance scheme.


2. Advances in' computer technology mean that it is now possible' to provide, within the compass of a single research grant a computer with the ability to carry out programmes which hitherto would have required access to the very largest of machines at Chilton or Daresbury. This degree of performance allied. to a comparatively low capital cost (typically in the region of £25,000) produces a situation in which many research workers can carry out the majority of their computing on their own personal machine; hence the term single user system. Such a development carries with it the danger that individual users or groups will develop software in isolation and which is not readily transferable from one machine to another. To prevent waste of resources and misuse of research manpower, the Council decided that from the outset this class of computer shall be purchased centrally and provided with standard operating system software developed by a small team at RAL.

3. As yet; the technology is in its infancy and there are comparatively few low-cost systems of the requisite performance. ICL with its PERQ is in the vanguard of developments and Council adopted this machine as the first standard within its scheme. In due course competitors will emerge and, subject to technical assessment, will be accepted as standards within the meaning of the scheme and receive support from the RAL team.


4. All grant applications (and similar requests from Establishments) seeking a PERQ or minicomputer system of this class shall be referred to the support team at RAL as and when they are received. In order to provide the Committee with the advice that it needs, a pro forma as at Annex 1 should accompany each RG 2 sent to RAL. Unless an applicant specifically requests a PERQ, it may be difficult for committee secretaries to identify which requests fall within the ambit of Council's single user scheme. Price can serve as a rough guide but, where there is any doubt, the support team can a1ways be consulted. ICL-supplied peripherals intended for use with a PERQ can also be obtained through RAL.

5. If the Committee finds itself unable to accept the technical. advice and wishes to supply an alternative to the PERQ, the support team must be notified. The team will then arrange for the case, to be referred to the Central Computing Committee who will he asked to rule whether a non-standard machine is justified on computing technical grounds.


6. Ownership of PERQs (and subsequent standard machines) will be vested in the university or polytechnic concerned in accordance with normal research grants practice. They will be purchased and maintained directly by the Council, however, so that the sums set aside within the grant for these purposes should be omitted from announcement letters. Institutions should be advised of these arrangements by inserting the statement as at Annex 2 under the section, Additional Information.

7. The Council's Central Computing Committee will be responsible for administering the contract by which all systems will be maintained. Maintenance costs included on individual grants will be aggregated by Finance I and transferred to the Committee for this purpose. This will ensure that systems are properly maintained in a cost-effective manner throughout the period they are required for SERC-supported work. Inclusion within the maintenance contract will be an additional condition of grant as at Annex 3.


8. Once Committees have met and their decisions are known, Operating Divisions should copy each grant announcement on which a PERQ is included to the support team at RAL and to Finance I. The support team will check that the equipment specified in the announcement is complete and satisfactory from a technical point of view and then place an order with ICL, specifying the point of delivery. They will also be responsible for verifying that orders have been fulfilled in a complete and satisfactory manner, on the basis of which invoices will be passed to Central Office Finance Division for payment. Finance Division will pay for all purchases, attributing their cost to the relevant Committee (or Establishment) and notifying the Operating Division of the charge on the grants heading. Maintenance charges will be debited simultaneously.

9. These arrangements are to take immediate effect and will be consolidated in the Operating Manual of Regulations, Practices and Procedures in due course.

ANNEX 1 to SERC 5/82


FROM: (Name of Committee Secretary)

SUBJECT: Application from, ......; Grant Reference No.

The attached research grant application(s) will be considered by the ...................... Committee on .................. Will you please advise me on the computing aspects of the proposal by completing this form and returning it to me not later than ..'......'............

1. The applicants computing requirements could be met by a PERQ single user computer system.
2. If a PERQ system is appropriate please specify:
  1. the preferred configuration;
  2. the purchase price;
  3. the annual maintenance costs.
3. Any other comments.

Annex 2 to SERC 5/82


1. This grant includes the award of a PERQ computer system which will be purchased centrally by the SERC and delivered direct to the institution. This item will become the property of the institution in the normal way, subject to the reservations outlined in Standard (Special/Co-operative) Research Grant Condition GC 8.

2. The Council has also arranged a central maintenance contract for PERQs and related systems. The system supplied under the grant will be included in the contract at no cost to the institution and will be thus maintained during the period of the grant. The contact for maintenance is name ................ tel no ............... reference .....................

Annex 3 to SERC 5/82


It is a condition of the grant that the PERQ computer system included in the award is properly maintained during the full period of the grant under the central arrangements made by SERC.