Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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English Electric LEO Co

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1950. Automatic Computing Engine (ACE).

Note: This is a sub-section of English Electric Co

English Electric Computers

English Electric LEO Company of Kidsgrove, computer makers

1949 the National Physical Laboratory chose the English Electric Co as industrial partner in computer development, following its Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) project; industrial input was seen to be needed to improve reliability and performance of the machine. The new computer was called the Digital Electronic Universal Computing Engine (DEUCE) [1].

1951-52 English Electric engineered the Pilot ACE into a more robust entity, DEUCE.

English Electric, as a big engineering company, needed computers, as did the Royal Aircraft Establishment, making a small but specific initial customer base for DEUCE[2]. Seven DEUCES were built at the Nelson Research Laboratories at Blackheath, with first delivery in 1952.

At the same time, English Electric developed a separate process control machine called KDN2 - this later developed into KDF6, and KDF7.

1954 The LACE (Luton Analogue Computing Engine) computer was developed at Guided Weapons Systems at Luton; LACE computers were used for missile modelling and simulation.[3]

1954 Recognising the commercial potential of DEUCE, further development and production was transferred to the recently formed Industrial Electronics Department at Kidsgrove.

1955 the first Kidsgrove version of DEUCE was released. Eventually 32 of these machines were made and very widely used, especially in scientific establishments but also in some commercial roles[4]

c.1958 Production of the LACE II computer was transferred to Kidsgrove but further use was cut short by the increasing competition of digital computers.

1963 LEO Computers was merged into a joint venture with English Electric, the English Electric LEO Co.

1964 The English Electric LEO Co became a wholly owned subsidiary of the English Electric Co. English Electric then merged the computer interests of its Marconi subsidiary with English Electric LEO Co to form English Electric-Leo-Marconi Computers.

When the time came for a new range, English Electric went across the Atlantic to its partner, RCA, rather than developing the Leo marque, though installations continued to operate very successfully for several years afterwards. EELM worked with RCA to re-engineer the RCA501 to become the KDP10 (later the KDF8), aimed entirely at the emerging commercial marketplace.

The KDF9 was another computer developed at Kidsgrove. It was technologically independent of the earlier machines, and was attractive to computing-intensive customers.

1967 Under the Industrial Expansion Act, English Electric Leo Marconi was merged with Elliott Automation - the computer activities were put together in English Electric Computers Ltd

1968 English Electric Computers Ltd was taken over by International Computers and Tabulators (ICT) to form International Computers Limited (ICL). By this initiative, the Ministry of Technology aimed to create a British computer industry that could compete with major world manufacturers such as IBM.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Staffordshire University Computing Futures Museum - Kidsgrove [1]
  2. Deuce - its life and times, by Jeremy Walker. [2]
  3. The Analogue Alternative: The Electronic Analogue Computer in Britain and ..., By James S. Small
  4. From Cathode Ray Tube to Ferranti Mark I by Tom Kilburn[3]