Marconi – Another British Computer Manufacturer

Speaker: Alan Hartley-Smith
Date: Thursday 18th January 2024
Time: 14:30

25 Copthall Ave, London EC2R 7BP and
Via the Internet using ZOOM.


About the seminar

Although not well-known, Marconi supplied many own-design machines from the late-1950s including the world-leading microelectronic Myriad and the distributed-processing Locus as part of its on-line systems. These were mainly for continued implementation of military defence or civil air traffic control systems.

Marconi was involved in both generation and display of radar data from the second world war onward using and designing, the full range of analogue processing technology then available, up to and including the provision of the UK Linesman/Mediator air defence system. This was supported by the work of its Great Baddow Laboratories which included fundamental material research as well as theoretical and practical applications. Thus when an opportunity came to supply a completely new system for the Swedish Air Force the Company was well placed to seriously consider moving to digital technologies. From this developed a capability in both computer processors and a wide range of peripheral devices applied to military and civil air traffic systems in the UK and in many countries round the world; also in conjunction with other English Electric companies to their industrial applications and eventually, through its own Computer and Automation Divisions, to new areas. Because much of this work was of an individual process control nature it did not become generally known, so the fact that collectively the number of delivered Marconi computer systems totals in excess of 600 may come as a surprise.

About the speaker

In common with all young men of his generation Alan served National Service, in his case in the RAF being retained as an Instructor at Locking No.1 Radio School following training on the Marconi Radar Office system. Subsequently he joined Marconi at the Baddow Laboratories in the radar research group, and followed through to systems engineering in this discipline for many years. Later he moved through other organisations, eventually retiring from the Computer Department of UMIST.

Click to see a podcast of this event.