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The Engineering Applications Support Environment (EASE) was the replacement for the Common Base Policy. Instead of attempting to define a common base, both hardware and software, for engineers, the Computing Facilities Technical Advisory Group (CFTAG) proposed a programme that would raise awareness but leave decisions on choice of hardware and software to the engineering users. The strategy was formulated over the period 1987 to 1989.
The initial EASE Strategy and Workplan were approved by the Computing Facilities Committee (CFC) on 4 April 1989.
The EASE mission statement was To stimulate and encourage engineers to use appropriate state-of-the-art software and hardware to enhance their research. A special edition of the Engineering Computer Newsletter gave the details of the EASE programme. The strategic objectives were to:
- improve communications both within and between disciplines
- increase the level of knowledge about relevant computing technology within the community
- ensure the delivery of critical computing technology
- devise methods of assessing the effectiveness of Information Technology (IT) use by academic engineers
- encourage the use of IT standards improve the efficiency of researchers using IT.
The initial Programme was based on three major planks:
- the Education programme which included seminars, workshops, tutorials and community clubs
- software for Engineers, which included international de facto standards, software components, software production tools, and an engineering environment
- future Developments covering applications on super and parallel machines, special purpose graphics machines, and new software technology.
The Engineering Computing Newsletter was the major method of communication.
Unlike the Interactive Computing Facility and the Single User System Programme, EASE did not have a large hardware presence. Consequently, it was an infrastructure activity that could be cut at very short notice if a financial crises was anticipated. In December 1991, SERC believed it had a serious financial crisis in the current year and required all the Boards to cut their programmes to accommodate this problem. The Engineering Board achieved its share of the cuts by reducing the EASE Programme by 80% within one year (shedding 32 of the 40 staff working on EASE in Informatics over a period of a year). In the event there was no crisis but EASE was effectively closed down anyway in the period 1993 to 1996. The decision caused Central Computing and Informatics Departments to be merged in 1994.
Some of the EASE successes are described in this part of the web site:
- Community Clubs in Computational Fluid Dynamics, Graphics and Visualisation, and Parallel Processing in Engineering
- Assessments: a series of hardware and software assessments (workstations and servers) published
- Advisory Group on Computer Graphics (AGOCG), established with JISC and which published the Graphics and Visualisation Newsletter
- Contracts: in universities that included AI Support for Engineers, Quality Assurance Tools, and the Kent Software Tools
- the Energy Kernel System (EKS) jointly funded by EASE and the Building Sub Committee
- Engineering Computing Newsletter which ran for 60 editions
Also there was a regular series of seminars, workshops and tutorials run each year on a wide range of topics (typically 12 to 15 events per year) under the Education and Awareness programme . A series of technical reports were made available free to the community, including a very popular LATEX Cookbook, the EASE 90 Conference held at UMIST on 18-20 April 1990.