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Minutes of the meeting held on 29/ 05/1963 at 11, Charles II St, London
- Sir William Penney (Chair)
- Dr J B Adams
- Dr R A Buckingham
- Mr C Jolliffe
- Professor T Kilburn
- Dr T G Pickavance
- Dr J Howlett
- Dr W M Lomer representing Dr F A Vick
- Dr E N Mutch representing Dr M V Wilkes
- Sir John Cockcroft
- Dr J C Kendrew
- Mr M J Lighthill
- Sir Harrie Massey
- Professor R E Peierls
- Sir Graham Sutton
1 MINUTES OF THE MEETING ON 27TH NOVEMBER, 1962
In minute 3.4 Professor Kendall's initials should be corrected to D G. With this correction, the Committee approved the minutes.
2 MATTERS ARISING FROM THE MINUTES
Minute 7: Dr Howlett reported that the change of fast printers and the addition of an engineer's console had been financially approved, and that work on them was in hand.
3 PROGRESS REPORT
Dr Howlett submitted his progress report NI/ACC/63/1, and drew attention to the main features of it. Generally, he said that the machine and the buildings were going to schedule. In reply to Dr Adams, he said that the computer might possibly be installed and operating by Summer 1964, but the contracted date was March, 1965. The Chairman and Dr Buckingham asked for more information about the difficulties with cross-talk between the drum reading heads. Professor Kilburn said that on the Manchester machine this trouble was leading to errors at the rate of one in 10,000 events. For the present he had made modifications to enable these faults to be cleared in about 2 seconds. Ferranti were having better heads developed by two firms, one of which had been very successful, but could not achieve the full output required, while the other was not yet quite so successful, but was very keen and had adequate capacity.
The Committee noted with approval the two joint appointments which were being arranged between the Atlas Laboratory and universities.
4 PROGRESS WITH THE MANCHESTER AND LONDON ATLAS COMPUTERS
Professor Kilburn said that with the qualifications concerning the drum store which had already been discussed, the Manchester University Atlas was complete and maintenance was now in the hands of the Ferranti engineers. The Mercury autocode was finished; the Atlas autocode was in use but he would expect some faults to be found in it for a few weeks.
Dr Buckingham said that the London Atlas was being commissioned in the factory. Delivery was due in October.
5 PROPOSED USERS COMMITTEE
Dr Howlett said that in Paper NI/ACC/63/2 he had revised his proposals, as he had been asked to do at the last meeting, bringing in the changes then decided upon. The Chairman asked if the Committee now thought the proposed membership about right and the terms of reference right (subject to correction of the word format to read forum in No 2 of the terms of reference). The Committee agreed that they were, and approved the proposals. They asked Dr Howlett to set up the Committee consulting the Inter-Universities Computer Committee about the university membership, and a suitable body, such as the Committee of Principals, about the CAT member. It was agreed that the Users Committee should be invited to choose their own chairman on a rotating basis, and that the secretariat should be provided from the Atlas Laboratory staff. travelling expenses and subsistence expenses where appropriate would be payable to members.
Dr Howlett was asked to circulate minutes of the Users Committee, and also general information including copies of paper NI/AVCC/63/2 and information about data transmission links to all likely users, establishing a mailing list of interested people as soon as possible. He said that he had already made a start by sending out one news letter to all the computing laboratories at universities and CATS.
6 PROVISIONAL DEMANDS FOR ATLAS TIME FROM TREASURY-FINANCED LABORATORIES - 62/10
Dr Howlett said that the information which he had been able to collect, on the lines laid down at the last meeting, was reported in paper NI/ACC/63/3. The amount of detail was disappointing. Only total figures had been given, and of these the demands of Harwell, Culham and the Rutherford Laboratory were much the largest and fully saturated the machine. However in his judgement the university demands would be likely to amount to about 40 hours per week by 1967/68.
It was agreed that the aim should be to work the machine for the maximum number of hours per week, say three 40-hour shifts ( a fourth shift being a possibility for the future). The demands now forecast would more than use all the time. The Chairman said that the Rutherford Laboratory demand seemed to him to be a firm and realistic one. The AEA demand was also realistic, but the AEA had other possible ways of meeting it. He therefore proposed to restore flexibility to the Atlas programme by reducing the AEA demand to a steady one of 40 hours per week of each of the three years considered. All the other demands could then stand as stated in the paper, and there would be something in hand. The Committee welcomed this proposal and agreed to it. The Chairman asked Dr Howlett to revise paper 63/3 incorporating the change in the AEA demand and any amendments to other demands.
Dealing with the question of charges, the Chairman said that it would be undesirable to discourage use in the early years, when the computer was being worked up, by charging the full year's overhead costs against a relatively small amount of work. This point had been touched upon at an earlier meeting, but he would like to consider it in more detail outside the meeting. this was agreed.
Priorities Committee: At the previous meeting, a possible priorities committee had been discussed. It was agreed that a need for such a committee was foreseen, but that the reduction of the AEA demand made it unnecessary to set one up at present.
7 DIRECT DATA CHANNEL - 62/11
After discussion of the question of the use of the Atlas Computer coupled directly to experiments or to complex measuring machines, the following conclusions were reached:
- Room would not be found to install a measuring machine such as the Hough-Powell device in the Atlas building. Data for computing on the Atlas must come in by wire or on tape, cards etc. Very fast transmission of data over a distance greater than 100 ft would require special electronic terminal devices at each end of the cable.
- Work using a direct data channel, if accepted by the Director of the Atlas Laboratory, must not be allowed first call on Atlas time during extended periods, particularly in the day-time. this would probably mean that on-line computation of counter experiments on Nimrod would not be acceptable, and for them the Rutherford Laboratory would have to consider getting a smaller fast computer and feeding data processed by this into the Atlas in the normal way.
- Notwithstanding these restrictions, there was a demand for the equipment recommended in para 2 of paper NI/ACC/63/4, costing £7,000, initially for work with track measuring machines at the Rutherford Laboratory. The Committee recommended the purchase of this equipment, and asked Dr Howlett and the Secretary to consider in more detail who would use it, and recommend whether the cost should be borne by the Atlas Laboratory or by the nuclear physics part of the Institute's vote.
8 DATA TRANSMISSION LINKS - 63/5
Dr Howlett presented in paper 63/5 the information on data links which he had been asked at the last meeting to assemble. The Committee agreed that while such links including those using Post Office telephone lines were extremely useful and would certainly be needed, they were very slow and expensive in relation to the speed of a big computer, and that the facts were probably not known by all the potential Atlas users. Dr Howlett was asked to deal with the subject in his circulars to users. He was also asked to enquire from the Post Office whether they had any plans for making available faster circuits, including TV links in non-broadcasting hours.
9 NEXT MEETING
The Secretary was asked to fix a date for the next meeting in or about late November, 1963.