Centring the Computer in the Business of Banking: Barclays Bank and Technological Change, 1954-1974.

Speakers: Ian Martin & David Parsons
Date: 19th April 2012
Time: 14.30 Room open in advance (from 14.00) - meet up with society members.

Fellows Library of the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD


About the seminar

The British banks constituted an important early market for large-scale computing technology. Although the potential of the computer to automate expanding volumes of banking work had been identified early in the 1950s, it presented the banks with significant technical and organisational challenges that took many years to overcome. Not least of these challenges was the need to reconcile the distributed nature of high street banking with the centralisation demanded by the computer. This seminar explores how Barclays - Britain´s biggest bank at the time - worked together with a number of different manufacturers to link its network of branches to its first computer centres by a variety of technological means.

The seminar will include talks about four main applications & the technology used, showing the development of both applications and technology:

Ian will talk about the joint efforts made by the British banks and computer manufacturers to meet the challenges and opportunities of computerisation and Barclays´ pioneering role in the automation and telecommunication of branch accounting work in the 1960s.

David will talk in detail of Barclays´ early work with the EMIDEC 1100 systems, the IBM 1401 and 360 systems, and the Burroughs large-scale B8500 and small-scale TC500 systems.

About the speakers

Dr Ian Martin is a lecturer in the department of Communication and Systems at the Open University. He completed his PhD at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester in 2010.

Professor David Parsons is Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor at Salford University. Until 2006 he was also the BCS Regional Manager supporting BCS professional and chartered member activities in the North. In 1993 he retired from the role Advanced Technology Director at Barclays Bank where he enjoyed a long career working with computers and their application to banking.

Click to see a podcast of this event.