IT memorabilia in Windsor - Part Three

Various artefacts

BCS is holding a series of events up and down the country to celebrate its 60 Year Anniversary. Part of the first event in Windsor saw BCS members bringing in some IT-related artefacts as talking points for members to chat about and to bond over. BCS Multimedia Editor Justin Richards was at hand to talk to some of these members about their nostalgia-inducing memorabilia, and here’s some of what he encountered.

Data Diskettes

Immo Hüneke MBCS, who used to work for Logica VTS, brought in some data diskettes from the 1980s. He explains: ‘I used to work at Logica, and that was the latest and greatest type of media to have back then. We used to make a dedicated word processor called the VTS 2200, and the later follow-up model, the Kennet 2400, (Logica VTS-2400) all using this kind of media to store documents on.

Data diskettes

The later ones could store up to 1.4 Mb; these were the 5 and1/4” discs. We also had the 3” hard-case discs, which went up to 1.44 Mb. I think these went up to 750Kb. We used to store dozens of documents on each disc, using special compression mechanisms. One of my jobs, in the early days, was to devise utilities for disentangling your discs when the machine crashed and scrambled the data.’

LBMS Package Evaluation method manual

Martin Tate FBCS, a BCS member since the mid-80s, worked for a consultancy, LBMS, who created productivity tools to support their methods and techniques. He brought in one of LBMS’s old methods manuals. When asked to explain it Martin said: ‘LBMS were a specialist methods house.

This was from when IT was beginning to professionalise and take a more disciplined approach, like engineering. LBMS developed systematic encapsulated best practices; they had project management, analysis and design of IT systems; they had strategic planning, and they brought out a variant of their method, which was then called “package evaluation” for off-the-shelf solutions.’

Archive methods

Martin has a more personal connection to the methods he learned about while working at LBMS. He explains: ‘They had a rule of engagement that if there was a new method, there had to be a new training course, and the training course had to have an initial pilot run on internal company delegates. And my regional manager shipped me off from the North West to Bristol to attend the pilot presentation of this LBMS package evaluation method training course.

For me it was a “Road to Damascus” conversion experience. I could see how IT was changing and how it was being more off-the-shelf and less about specifying code. I became a great enthusiast for this method (LBMS-PE) and I managed to apply it for a big project for Castrol, as a salaried employee of LBMS. When I later went independent, I specialised in off-the-shelf solutions, although they still weren’t calling them “off-the-shelf solutions”, they were calling them “packages”. And, 54 selection projects later, BCS commissioned me to write the book Off-the-Shelf IT Solutions, in 2015. So, my display board is the grandfather method of LBMS package evaluation, next to my own method.’

Martin went on to clarify that method was originally created by a couple of highly talented LBMS consultants, in the late 80s, and the method manual is copyrighted 1988. Martin started to use it in 89 and has subsequently used it 57 times, personally interviewing over 750 people to capture requirements, and he has personally appraised 1,100 solutions.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the methods talked about in this article check out Martin’s book, Off-The-Shelf IT Solutions: A practitioner's guide to selection and procurement, which can be purchased from the BCS online shop.

Of further note: Learmonth & Burchett Management Systems were a UK methods house responsible for creating SSADM and PRINCE.