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Stoke Poges 60th Anniversary (1)

As part of its 60-year anniversary celebrations, BCS has been running several events throughout the UK as a way of thanking its most active volunteers for all their hard work and support over the years. BCS Editor Justin Richards reports on one such event held in Stoke Poges.

Iain Thompson, Vice-President Community, welcomed guests and introduced BCS President Paul Martynenko, who went on to thank gathered members for three things: ‘Firstly, for creating an industry.’ Martynenko observed that just within his lifetime digital and creative had grown to become one that currently employs over two million people and accounts for almost nine per cent of the UK's total GVA. ‘And BCS has played a big part in creating the industry, nurturing it, and setting it on its path to growth.’

‘BCS has been pivotal in professionalising IT, and in putting computing on the national curriculum; so, secondly, I'd like to thank you for creating the BCS’, he went on to say.

‘Finally, I'd like to thank you for what you're going to do,’ He clarified: ‘We have a mission: Making IT good for society. And because computers and computing play such an important role in the function of modern society, BCS’ relevance and its importance shouldn't be underestimated’. He ended by noting that the front cover article in that week's edition of The Economist featured, for probably the first time in its long history, an article on the risks of artificial intelligence-driven facial recognition and how it was going to completely change our world. This point was made to reinforce his message that BCS is becoming more relevant in an uncertain world, and its members would be essential in helping to steer a complex world down the right path.

Some members brought along a range of memorabilia from their careers, which they were happy to chat about. These included:

Mike Buckland, Events Manager for BCS Berkshire

A member since 1982, Mike brought along his very first Cobol programs that he'd submitted to the BCS as part of his application to becoming a member. He said: ‘It was nice to resurrect them from out of the attic, and it was interesting to see how long-winded the code was back then!’ He went on to say: ‘I did it as part of my first job for local government writing COBOL, and indeed IBM assembler programs. And if you made one mistake, if one character was out of place, you didn't find out until the next day because you'd submit it the night before to an IBM 360 mainframe!’

Dorothy Graham, one of the originators of the BCS Software Testing Specialist Group

Dorothy brought in information about the beginning of SIGIST, which is still going strong, and she has the proceedings from its very beginning up to 2006. She also brought in information about the qualifications she was involved in developing, including the first qualification in software testing. They ran the first course that awarded a certificate in software testing. It used to be with ISEB, and is now with the ISTQB. It's certified about half a million people in software testing.

I asked her about the changes that had transpired in her industry since the documents had been published. She responded: ‘Certainly, technology has moved on so much, but people are still essentially the same. People are still struggling with many of the same problems in software testing because people haven't changed noticeably; you still have the same sort of interactions, they're still struggling with the same issues, but just doing it a bit differently. I guess the biggest difference is that software development is so much more responsive to the users and much more agile. Back in the day, when you had Waterfall and quality management systems, it was quite a different way of doing software development. Whereas nowadays, with agile teams, you might get deliveries 100s of times a day.

Peter Short, IBM museum curator

Peter is one of four curators that looks after the museum at IBM, Hursley, near Winchester, and he brought along a selection of electronics from the museum, starting from a mechanical counter, with some discrete components, through to small scale integration and right through to large-scale integration. This included a TCM or thermal conduction module, which is a module containing many chips which are water cooled through a Helium chamber and would have been the equivalent of a mid-range system 370 in 1987. The TCM was worth half a million dollars back in the day.

Stoke Poges 60th Anniversary (2)

Peter also brought along the second prototype for the invention of a swinging arm for driving heads across hard discs. Peter noted: ‘And from that invention, something like 15 billion hard drives have been built as a result. It became the most licensed electro-mechanical patent that IBM ever produced.’

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He continued: ‘At Hursley we have so much stuff on shelves, that isn't on display, that even regular visitors to Hursley won't have seen the entire collection! Early IBM kit is hard to come by because most of the kit was rented so when the customer had finished with it, it would be upgraded, and sent back to IBM, where it went through the crusher and then it was gone. So we're very lucky to have some of the early artefacts. Before that IBM concentrated on clocks, scales, and coffee grinders, which people don't always believe that IBM produced.’

Peter also brought along a 1926 IBM catalogue that reveals all the products from that period. He said: ‘They tend to be easier to find because they were bought, so now and again people find them locked away in the attic and someone turns up with a clock or time recorder for us. And once you get into the PC era people are buying again so we've got PCs coming out of our ears!’

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John Mitchell, workshop liaison for the Information Risk Management and Assurance SG

John brought in the first and last editions of the IRMA journal, which was published quarterly for twelve years. Its purpose was to introduce to its members all aspects of risk management and assurance. He said: ‘During those twelve years we never missed an edition, but we found that because we published quarterly, things were moving so fast, and with the advent of the internet it was easier for members to do their own searches than to wait three months for the next issue to come out. So, we ceased publication in 2008.’ John was editor of the journal for a substantial amount of time that the journal was published, and he went on to say: ‘The main challenge of producing such a quarterly publication was the advent of the internet and of email. For example, for the last five years we didn't publish hard copy at all, we just did it electronically.’

Stephen Castell, a committee member of the BCS Law SG since about 1994

Stephen Castell, a BCS member since 1974, brought in a selection of his own publications and writings about computers, and all things related thereto, including a letter in Computer Digest, (long since gone), an academic note in the Computer Journal of 1976, and a copy of his Computer Bluff guide from 1983, which got translated into several languages.

Stephen also did some work on data broadcasting with the BBC, and was involved in the initiative to amend the Broadcasting Bill of 1996, which introduced the digital multiplex (digital TV) in the UK. He said: ‘This was trying to get a spectrum of the radio frequencies allocated for experimental services, so that anyone could use it. An “internet of the air”, if you like. It never happened, even though John Whittingdale OBE, who's still in Parliament, very much championed it.’

John Mitchell receives John Ivinson Award

As part of the 60-year anniversary celebrations Dr. John Mitchell, a member of the BCS for about 40 years, was awarded the John Ivinson Award that recognises the outstanding services of an individual member.

John has served on BCS Council and has been involved with various committees, the most recent being the Risk Audit and Finance Committee. The citation cites John's outstanding and consistent service over many years to the benefit of BCS, especially for his work on the Risk and Audit Committee and for providing excellent frameworks to develop and establish high standard activities within IRMA and across the wider BCS community.


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