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Early in 1987, a questionnaire was sent out by the Computing Facilities Technical Advisory Group (CFTAG) of the Computing Facilities Committee (CFC) to academic research engineers to establish the needs of the research engineering community. About 2000 copies were sent out to relevant heads of departments and research engineers and about 450 replies were received.
The main points arising from the survey were:
- The level of software development throughout the community is very high
- Suitable application software is not readily available to all the research community. Costs of that which is, is not seen as the major factor for non-availability
- There is a wide variation in provision of application software at the research level. The ECAD initiative was highlighted as one method of providing software to the majority of the community who could make use of it
- Commercial application packages can be identified which are of particular interest to groups of research workers. Efforts should be made to satisfy this need. Committees (including Computing Facilities Committee where appropriate) and Sub-Committees should consider funding such activity
- Central funding and support is a key issue with the community
- Encouragement should be given for the development and possible exploitation of grant funded software
- The over-riding need was for a comprehensive, affordable and fully supported computing environment capable of satisfying the needs of the research community
- Education/information to the whole community is lacking. The widest possible use of electronic mail could assist in improving this situation
- There is a strong case for the provision and support of an infrastructure, both of hardware and software, especially at the library level to support the research community
- The requirement for support from the SERC via grants for application software can be expected to grow during the next five years
- Single user workstations, plus PC's and micro based facilities, are seen as the solution of many problems, although there remains a minority whose main requirement is access to advanced supercomputing
On the basis of these replies, a proposal was made to CFC by CFTAG for the formation of EASE.
On 3 June 1987, the CFC looked at the CFTAG's proposals and agreed:
- The new name for the Common Base Programme would be EASE standing for the Engineering Applications Support Environment.
- The document specifying EASE should consist of a general statement of objectives followed by a set of Schedules defining the current items in each part of the Environment.
- To ensure that the applications software requirements of the community were provided,
a series of workshops should be held:
- User Interface Management Systems
- Integration Methods and Tools
- Numerical components, Methods and Tools