A Brief History of Computing at Aberystwyth from 1962-1969

Extract from the Introduction to M.Sc. Thesis, 1969, Statistics and the Computer in Practice. [Sylvia G.Lutkins, member of Academic Staff,  Dept. of Statistics]

In September 1962, an IBM 1620 electronic computer was installed in the new Physical Sciences building on the Penglais Campus. The Statistics Department, founded in 1960/61 by Professor Dennis Lindley, was responsible for organizing its use, and for supplying help and advice where necessary.   The computer consisted of a basic core storage unit of 20,000 decimal digits; eight-hole paper tape input and output, and an on-line typewriter (which printed at 10 characters per second.)
At that time, few people in the College had had any experience of either programming or operating a computer, so one had to learn mainly by the method of trial and error. (I remember we had to ring the engineer, based in Shrewsbury,  to ask him how to switch it back on later that day after he had installed it ! ) Courses were given in FORTRAN programming by the Statistics Department to individuals (staff and postgraduates from several departments, e.g. Statistics, Applied Maths, Econometrics, Chemistry, Physics, Rural Sciences, Plant Breeding Station, etc.)
An open-shop system for using the computer was adopted, whereby people booked time to run their own program, with some operating advice. A limited tape-punching service was provided, but anyone with large amounts of data had to punch it themselves.
From October, 1964, the ATLAS computer at Chilton, Didcot, was available for running lengthy programs.
A 1311 Disk Drive Storage Unit was added to the 1620 computer in April, 1965.
A punched card reader was installed in April, 1965.
Following the recommendation of the Flowers’ Report on Computers in Universities, a separate Computer Unit, distinct from the Statistics Department, was established in October, 1966.   Peter King, from the Statistics Department, was appointed as head.
The 1620 remained in use for a further 18 months, and was superceded by an Elliot 4130 computer, complete with card and paper-tape readers, 4 magnetic tape units, a line-printer and a graph plotter. This computer became fully operative in January, 1968, with a highly efficient punching and operating service. The storage capacity was increased to 32K by 1969.

Sylvia Lutkins