History of Computing

Moving Targets

Elliott-Automation and the Dawn of the Computer Age in Britain, 1947 – 67

Authors: Lavington, Simon

  • Charts the gradual take-up of information technology in Britain, as seen through the eyes of one innovative company
  • Examines how the dawn of the digital computer age in Britain took place at various times for different applications
  • Includes a history of airborne computers up to 1988, written by a former director of Elliott Flight Automation
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Hardcover $149.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-84882-932-9
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Softcover $149.00
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  • ISBN 978-1-4471-2636-2
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  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
About this book

The Elliott-Automation company was an active participant in the birth of the information age in Britain. By 1961, the company was supplying 50% of the digital computers delivered to UK customers in that year.  Yet by the end of that decade, Elliott-Automation had effectively disappeared in a flurry of takeovers, leaving little apparent trace of the technical excellence that had once characterised the name Elliott.

Moving Targets charts the gradual take-up of information technology in Britain, as seen through the eyes of one innovative company.  The book examines how the dawn of the digital computer age in Britain took place at various times for different applications, from early government-sponsored work on secret defence projects, to the growth of the market for Elliott computers for civil applications.

Topics and features:

  • Charts the establishment of Elliott’s Borehamwood Research Laboratories in 1946, and the roles played by John Coales and Leon Bagrit in reviving an ailing company
  • Examines early Elliott digital computers designed for classified military applications and for GCHQ, such as the Elliott 152, 153 and OEDIPUS
  • Describes the analogue computers developed by Elliott-Automation, including the giant TRIDAC
  • Reviews the development of the first commercial Elliott computers, the growth of applications  in industrial automation, and the competition offered by rival manufacturers in Britain
  • Includes a history of airborne computers up to 1988, written by a former director of Elliott Flight Automation
  • Discusses the evolution of computer architectures and systems software for the Elliott 800, 900 and 4100 series computers
  • Investigates the mergers, takeovers and eventual closure of the Borehamwood laboratories, and the demise of Elliott-Automation and its successors, ICL and GEC

This unique text will be of great interest to historians of technology and business, and will also appeal to the general reader curious about the emergence of digital computing in Britain and the work of the previously unsung computer pioneers of the Elliott-Automation laboratories at Borehamwood.

Simon Lavington is Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the University of Essex. Among his many publications is the book Early British Computers.

Reviews

From the reviews:

“Moving Targets details the history of Elliott Brothers in 1947 through to the last vestige of those families of Elliott’s computers in GEC Computers in the 1990s. The title of the book Moving Targets is surely a reference to the recurring technical and marketing themes described by the book. … there is no doubt that the whole book is exceptionally well researched to a superb accuracy. … the book contains many interesting pictures.” (Roger Newey, Resurrection - The Bulletin of the Computer Conservation Society, Issue 55, Summer, 2011)

“This book focuses on making the history of computing more accessible to a wider audience by linking it to broader historical changes. … The text’s excellent tables, charts, and photos enhance the discussion of technological, economic, and political change. … the author is to be congratulated for a highly readable, wide-ranging account that shows the virtue of broad-based histories of computing that do not take the limits of a specific industry or field of applications as their own.” (Marie Hicks, Technology and Culture, Vol. 53, July, 2012)

“In his latest book, Lavington scrutinizes the extensive work carried out by the employees of this company, and, thanks to his extensive efforts … . The book comprises 14 chapters and 11 appendices. … It is supported by extensive references, cited at the end of each chapter. … this erudite book should appeal to a wide readership, and Lavington should be highly commended for the sterling work that he has carried out in its preparation.” (Barry Blundell, ACM Computing Reviews, November, 2011)


Table of contents (14 chapters)

Buy this book

eBook $109.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-84882-933-6
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF, EPUB
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Download immediately after purchase
Hardcover $149.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-84882-932-9
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
Softcover $149.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-4471-2636-2
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Moving Targets
Book Subtitle
Elliott-Automation and the Dawn of the Computer Age in Britain, 1947 – 67
Authors
Series Title
History of Computing
Copyright
2011
Publisher
Springer-Verlag London
Copyright Holder
Springer-Verlag London
eBook ISBN
978-1-84882-933-6
DOI
10.1007/978-1-84882-933-6
Hardcover ISBN
978-1-84882-932-9
Softcover ISBN
978-1-4471-2636-2
Series ISSN
2190-6831
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XXI, 710
Topics