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This part of the website is concerned with the Informatics Department in the period 1984 to 1994. Up until 1975, mainframe computing at the Rutherford High Energy Physics Laboratory was run by Computing and Automation Division. The merger with the Atlas Computer Laboratory eventually resulted in a combined Computer Division run by Bob Hopgood. By 1984, due to new activities, the size of the Division had grown and accounted for 25% of RAL's scientific staff. A review of computing within SERC had also recommended that the Interactive Computing Facility and the Single Users Systems programme's should be returned to the Engineering Board rather than be Council-wide facilities. In consequence, it was decided to split the Division into two each with a single main source of funding for each.
Bob Hopgood took over a new Department called Informatics which was mainly responsible for the research activities and SERC computing initiatives funded by the Engineering Board. A second department, Central Computing, run initially by Cliff Pavelin and then Brian Davies, was responsible for the mainframe and networking activities at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
The main areas of work for Informatics over its lifetime were:
- Systems Engineering: funded by the Engineering Board, the Alvey Programme and ESPRIT II, The Department was involved in a number of projects in the areas of Software Engineering, Intelligent Knowledge Based Systems (IKBS) and Man-Machine Interaction (MMI).
- Engineering: funded by the Engineering Board and ESPRIT I and II, many developments took place in providing infrastructure and support for UK engineers.
- Alvey: the Department was heavily involved in the provision of the infrastructure for the national Alvey Programme.
- Technology: two specific technology-based projects were the Transputer Initiative and the assessment of the newly-emerging Super Workstations.
At the split into two Departments, Informatics had 41 people in post. By 1987 this had grown to 102 and it peaked around 110 in 1989. This was mainly due to the ramp up in activities to support the Alvey programme but also by the move of Bill Trowbridge's Engineering Application Group into the Department on Bill's retirement.
The run down of central support by the Engineering Board and the decision not to have a follow on programme to Alvey meant that from 1990 onwards funding decreased significantly. Many Informatics staff moved to vacancies in other Departments and the decision was made in 1994 to merge the two computing Departments back into a single Computing and Information Systems Department (CISD).
By 1994, most of the information relating to computing was available online at CCLRC. The only newsletter, ATLAS, was mainly a pointer to the places where information could be found. CISD was run by Brian Davies until his retirement in 1999. Keith Jeffery succeeded Brian Davies.
Our thanks to UKRI Science and Technology Facilities Council for hosting this site.