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Sir Arthur Humphreys

Sir Arthur Humphreys played a major part in all the negotiations within the British computer industry that resulted in the single company, ICL. He was born in Lewisham in 1917 and trained as a solicitor's clerk. He joined the British Tabulating Machine Company (BTM) in 1940. At the time, BTM was the UK producer of a major line of electro-mechanical punched-card machinery. During the war, the company worked on the Bombe and other machines for Bletchley Park.

By 1953, he had become head of BTM's commercial department. In 1958, he was involved in the negotiations between BTM and Powers-Samas that resulted in the formation of International Computers and Tabulators (ICT).

By 1962, he was head of product planning during the period when ICT moved from the manufacturer of punched card equipment to computers. He was responsible for the importation of machines from Univac and RCA that were the basis for some of ICT's early machines.

The 1960s saw the integration into ICT of the computing interests of GEC (1961), EMI (1962) and Ferranti(1963), which included the Mercury and Atlas computers.

This resulted in ICT having the most incompatible range of computer products that it would have been possible to imagine. On a visit to Ferranti Canada, soon after the acquisition of Ferranti's, with Peter Hall and E C H Organ, the FP6000 was presented and this was used as the basis of the new 1900 series (24-bit word, 6 bit characters) that it was hoped would span the whole range of power, speed and cost required by any of ICT's existing customer base. In 1964, IBM announced the IBM 360 series (32-bit word, 8-bit characters) which would be ICT's major competitor.

However, in October 1964, Humphreys, now a Director, was able to show a 1902 and a 1904 working at the Business Efficiency Exhibition at Olympia.

In 1965, he was Director of Marketing and responsible for all company functions other than manufacture. In 1968, he was a key ICT player in the merger between English Electric (their System 4 range was based on the RCA Spectra range which was similar to the IBM 360 architecture) and ICT that resulted in International Computers Limited (ICL). The merger was pushed by the UK government under Harold Wilson to establish a single national computer company able to maintain a position in the international computer industry. Surprisingly, ICT became the dominant partner and Humphreys was appointed Managing Director of ICL. He had the responsibility for assessing the strengths of the 1900 and System 4 series and coming up with a strategy to once more rationalise incompatible computer ranges and define a replacement new range.

In 1972, Humphreys was moved upstairs to the post of Deputy Chairman and Geoff Cross became Managing Director. Humphreys retired in 1983. In 1970 he had founded the Double Majority Association for those who had worked for the company for 42 years. He chaired their annual dinner in May, 2003, a few months before his death, where he was able to announce that the association membership had reached 420 people.