The following is a list of those who worked at MSD in those early days as they come to mind,
I track them down or they contact me after visiting this website. (John Barrett)

Please use the INDEX to locate DEUCE PEOPLE on this and other pages of the website.

[WWW] - Link to personal or reference website. - Email Address may be available here.
[EA] - Email address on file. I will forward email but will not provide address.
[PA] - Postal address on file. I will forward mail but will not provide address.

Mathematical Services Department (MSD) - (Pre Deuce)

The RAE was the only government establishment, apart from the NPL, to develop an important computing centre during the late 1940s. Hollerith machines were installed in 1944 as the basis for a Computing Laboratory, which was under the direction of R.A. Fairthorne. A Mathematical Services Department was soon set up, and by taking on outside work it became a wellknown and influential computing centre in the late 1940s and early 1950s. (Mary Croarken) NAHC/RAE

Dr Stuart H HOLLINGDALE M.A. Ph.D. Senior Principal Scientific Officer - Head of Department

"The high speed computer, although essentially a post-war creation, has now spread all over the world. While the U.S.A., with more than a thousand machines in operation, has a substantial lead, increasing numbers of computers are now being manufactured and put to use in most of the other industrialised countries, from Sweden to Australia. The decision to concentrate on British examples, both of machines and applications, was taken purely on grounds of brevity and convenience.

The first three chapters are intended to serve as a very elementary and leisurely introduction to the subject. The fourth chapter outlines some of the historical background. I have taken the story up to 1946, which I regard as the birth year of the high speed automatic computer as we know it to-day. In chapters 5 and 6 two actual machinese, EDSAC and DEUCE, are discussed in more detail. I have selected these because I happen to know them best.

Chapter 9 deals with a very different topic, the operation of a computing service. Here I have drawn heavily on some ten years personal experience at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough."

(Extracts from the preface to "High Speed Computing - Methods and Applications" - S. H. Hollingdale 1959)

Robert A FAIRTHORNE - (WWW) - Chief Mathematician

Dr Kenneth DIPROSE - Head of the wooden hut in which I worked.

Designed a mechanical module which could be cascaded to 'digitise' shaft rotations in wind tunnel instrumentation applications. (John Barrett)

Dr K.V.Diprose was the first person to design a method of calculating the shape of a wind tunnel using numerical methods which was possible when the computing power of ACE and then DEUCE was available. Maths Services Department worked on this for at least five years. My senior lecturer in Computer Science at FCOT (the Tec) always quoted this as the first really big calculation done on a digital computer. (Enid Wollett nee de Boucier)

Mr PEARSALL - Mechanical Engineer

Bill HOLE - A design engineer who could measure voltages up to 1000V, within 10%, just by touching with a moistened finger.

Ruth WINTER - [EA] - Scientific Assistant
Ruth was a great help to me when I started work at RAE. My first job was to assemble some instrumentation amplifiers, when I returned from my lunch break, several components had been pulled off the tag strips. Ruth explained that this was Dr Diprose's "non verbal" way of informing me that he thought my soldering was not up to scratch. (John Barrett)

Edward J PETHERICK - Head of the wooden hut developing a special purpose computer using dekatrons to process supersonic wind tunnel instrumentation data.
(I notice this machine refered to as RASCAL but have no recollection of that name being used at the time. JB)
Designed the first binary coded disc but was under a cloud for forgetting to patent it before getting the first prototypes made by a manufacturer in Scotland, who did.

Geoff ROWLEY - Design engineer in the Rascal hut.

Gus GEARING - Senior Fitter in the machine shop adjacent to the Diprose hut.



RAE Mathematical Services - 1955

In 1955 Mathematical Services moved into a new two storey aluminium Bristol building (R 14) in preparation for the arrival of the DEUCE computer.

Dr Stuart H HOLLINGDALE - Head of Mathematical Services Department

The normal DEUCE daily timetable at R.A.E. is somewhat as follows:

8.30 a.m. Machine switched on by the maintenance engineer.

8.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. Scheduled maintenance period. Routine checking and servicing of machine.

10.30 a.m. Machine handed over to the users.

10.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. Programme testing.

1.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. `Production' work. (During the afternoon a few short periods may be devoted to additional programme testing, training and demonstrations.)

The machines are normally operated in this way from Mondays to Fridays, with occasional all-night or week-end working to deal with work of special urgency. Saturday is often used for engineering work which cannot conveniently be done during the week, such as the periodic inspection and overhaul of certain parts of the machine.

The daily programme-testing period is shared between all the programmers who wish to do so. Normally a programmer is not allowed to book the machine for more than fifteen minutes on any one morning, but he may be allocated another five minutes between 4 and 5 p.m. in the afternoon. Machine time is valuable, and programmers should be encouraged to ponder on unexpected machine behaviour after they have returned to their offices, not while they are still 'on the machine '. 'Production time', on the other hand, may, by arrangement, be booked in as long periods as required.

(Extract from "High Speed Computing - Methods and Applications" - Chapter 9.6 by Dr S. H. Hollingdale - 1959.)

Robert A FAIRTHORNE - Chief Mathematician

Ted YORK - Chief Programmer

Geoff TOOTILL - [WWW] - Joined MSD as an SSO (Senior Scientific Officer) having been involved with BABY at Manchester.

Paul BIRCHALL- Mathematician / Programmer
Was the senior one of us in the group associated with DEUCE. (Paul Samet)

Paul SAMET - [EA] - Mathematician / Programmer
Co Author of "A Programming Handbook for the Computer Deuce"

I was asked to demonstrate the machine to a party of senior Ministry of Supply folk. I had Kathy to help me, ie she loaded cards etc while I talked. After a while we loaded the 'Reaction times' program. I explained what it did and said that we had found experimentally that the first time one was faced with it the reaction time in milliseconds (the interval between the word NOW appearing on the left hand monitor to depressing one of the hand keys) was approximately 10 times one's age in years. 'Nonsense, young man, let me have a go' from the most senior of the visitors. The monitor showed 515 and he glared at me with 'Damn you, I was 51 last month!' After that I could do whatever I liked with the group.

I don't think any of us were appointed as 'programmers', we were all mathematicians by original training. At that time, 1955 onwards, there were no computing qualifications of any kind. The little group I was with were all Scientific Officers, John Thorpe was an Experimental Officer, the young girls were were all Scientific Assistants.

The second DEUCE was installed towards the end of 1956. We tried to tell some of our more credulous users that we were thinking of the two machines end to end, so that we could do double length arithmetic, or alternatively at right angles so that we could do complex arithmetic. Some of them almost believed us!

David G BURNETT-HALL - Mathematician / Programmer
Co Author of "A Programming Handbook for the Computer Deuce"

Douglas WILLIAMS - [EA] - Mathematician / Programmer
Married Kathleen Mills

"Doug came to RAE in 1954, and left in 1958 to go to a lecturer position at Glasgow University. I started at the MS Dept, RAE, in October 1952 and left (to get married in Edinburgh) in March 1959. We came out to Monterey in June 1961 for one year. Doug became Director of the Naval Postgraduate School Computer Center the next year. He retired in 1995." (Kathleen Mills)

Marjorie M. BARRITT
An application of a computer to wind tunnel design.
This article describes an application of a computer to the aerodynamic design and automatic control of a large wind tunnel. The work was started in 1953 on the ACE Pilot model at the N.P.L., Teddington, and completed on one of the DEUCE computers at the R.A.E., Farnborough.(The Computer Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1)

Enid de BOURCIER - [EA][PA] - Mathematician / Programmer
Married Mike Woollett

I was recruited to be the Machine Supervisor in Hollingdale’s empire building days back in Septemer 1953.
I remember you, John, from the days of one hour for the engineers each morning, then if we were lucky I would allocate 10 minutes testing time to each programmer.
I trained on Pilot ACE at NPL in the early months of 1954. I claim to be RAE’s first woman programmer, but I expect I am the only person who knows that."

Mike WOOLLETT- Mathematician / Programmer
Married Enid de Bourcier

Ken DODD - Mathematician / Programmer

Jimmy WATT - Mathematician / Programmer

Carl LINDEN - Mathematician / Programmer

Maurice PRIESTLEY - [EA] - Statistician / Programmer

John THORPE - Mathematician / Programmer

David WILLIAMS - Mathematician / Programmer

Gwilym JENKINS - Statastician / Programmer

Peter KEMSHELL- Mathematician / Programmer

George CORK - Mathematician / Programmer

George and John Thorpe were in Cambridge on a course. One evening they were doing their homework in their hotel room, probably preparing for their stint on a computer. John looked up at George and said "George! they're actually paying us for this!"

Doesn't this epitomise the thrill of working in a developing field?

(Olive Cork)

Peter BUNNEY- Mathematician / Programmer

Norman ROUTLEDGE- Mathematician / Programmer

Arthur BETTS - Engineer

Chris PALMER - My boss


"I was the maintenance engineer of the first Deuce computer delivered to the Mathematical Services Department in May 1955. RAE was the first customer to be supplied outside the English Electric group.

Princess Margaret visited RAE Farnborough soon after Deuce had been installed and a demonstration was arranged for her.
Needless to say, low level minions like maintenance engineers and operators were banished from the area.

Pat Walter and I devised a cunning plan, as the royal visitor was being greeted in the foyer by those higher up the pecking order, we snuck inside the Deuce. The entourage entered the computer room and her royal highness was treated to a monophonic rendition of "God save her sister" played through a loudspeaker attached to P32 of the output staticiser.

To help her royal highness appreciate how this wondrous act was achieved with a mere £ 55,000 of government money, the doors to several bays were opened to reveal the racks of electronics inside.

Through the small horizontal gaps between the racks those inside were able to gaze unobserved upon the royal visage. All was well until Dr Hollingdale decided to enhance her royal highnesses visit by throwing open the rear door to display the 1450 valves within. Opening the door switched on the lights and we were exposed, so to speak, the good doctor hurriedly closed the door explaining that it probably wasn't a very good idea as it might upset the Deuce's cooling system.

No mention was ever made of the incident. Either we were not recognised or Dr H preferred to forget it."

Kathleen MILLS - [EA][PA] - Scientific Assistant

The two DEUCE machines at Mathematical Services Department, RAE, Farnborough.
Kathleen is standing in front of the output punch of "Daisy".

Now married to Douglas Williams and living in Monterey California.

"One thing I remember about the twin DEUCEs, known as Gert and Daisy, was that for special events we used to have them 'singing' a duet 'Anything you can do, I can do better.' "

"Kathy showed her skill with the program (Reaction times) but she cheated, she watched the counter on the right hand monitor and got a reaction time of 0. Once when she did this she got something like 5 and said she was clearly losing her touch."
(Paul Samet)

"I was never known as Kathy Mills -- it would always have been either Kath or Kathleen. Because of that, I can tell that Paul Samet (who does call me Kathy) probably gave you the bit about the reaction time -- it was more a case of being able to anticipate the NOW, after doing it so many times!"

Thanks to Kathleen for persevering in her search for this elusive photo of Maths Services Staff outside R14.

Pat WALTER - [EA] - Scientific Assistant - Deuce operator

The two DEUCE machines at Mathematical Services Department, RAE, Farnborough.
Pat is sitting at the control desk of "Gert".

'Daisy' was once put out of action for an hour or so by a workman, who, whilst 'fixing' the overhead air duct - dropped his spanner on the mushroom containing the mercury delay lines! The air went blue around the operator and the workman beat a hasty retreat.

Keen program testers nearly came to blows and as organiser I had to keep the peace - but one day, having turned off a user, he lost his temper and whilst leaving the room - kicked an oscilloscope trolley which smashed into DEUCE, hit the 'Drum Cabinet' and put the machine out of action for some time. (name withheld).

Wind Tunnels were a constant hazard to the user because the power surge at 'switch on' could drop the drum out of sync, ruining any job in progress. So a warning phone call had to be given - I would rush to assess the situation then negotiate a suitable delay of 5 to 15 minutes to enable the user to make a suitable pause in prog.

In the early days production runs could take 1 to 11/2 hours each and were always done twice and compared (in theory the same error was unlikely!) so overtime was very popular with the girls. We could load the data cards then sit and knit whilst chatting to fellow operators. Dr H once brought visitors round whilst I was knitting and hastily explained that the machines were so reliable that the operators could do two jobs at once! Oops!"

Thanks to Pat for this photo of the Hollerith Room in R14

An important member of any automatic computer group is the machine organiser; the smooth working of the computer room depends, in no small measure, on her efficiency, personality, tact and charm. Her duties are to arrange the daily timetable, to supervise the machine operators, to see that the records are properly kept, to ensure that programmers and operators are available at the right times and to steer them away from the machine when their allocation of time has expired.
(Extract from "High Speed Computing - Methods and Applications" - Chapter 9.6 by Dr S. H. Hollingdale - 1959.)

The punched card equipment queen, shared an office with Marjorie Barritt.(Paul Samet)

Joan BAKER -[EA] - Scientific Assistant

Rosemarie CHAPMAN


Heather PEARCE


SA who was on loan from NGTE Pyestock.

Ian PIGGOTT - Technician who worked with me on the Deuce.

David FOWLER - (WWW) - (EA)
"As a student, sometime around 1957 or 8, I worked one summer a[t] Farnborough, the British air research establishment (I forget its proper name), where I learned to programme Deuce." "I don't remember two Deuces at the RAE. Perhaps I should describe the delay lines: there were a couple of large dustbins in which, if you got to look inside, you could see contained U-shaped tubes filled with mercury, each with a transmitter at one end and a receiver at the other."

Bill YOUNG - All the valves received at MSD were tested prior to being allocated for Deuce or other projects. This task was generally saved for students of Farnborough Tech who had recently joined RAE. The AVO valve tester was set up to test several new boxes of Z77 valves and Bill was shown how to carry out the test and evaluation of each valve. Those that failed the heater test in one box to go back to store, those with emission in range 1 for Deuce in another box and those in range 2 in another etc.

After being supervised for the first few valves Bill was left to get on with the job. Along comes Arthur Betts with a valve from his TV "Mind if I just check this out?", quick twiddle of many knobs, "OK thanks" and off he goes. As you may have guessed, Arthur was testing one of those dreadful TV valves popular in the 50's with a wierd heater voltage. From then on Bill found that every valve failed the heater test but he plodded on doggedly until all boxes had been 'tested' !!. The boxes were returned to the store with a complaint that most of the valves were faulty. Later we recieved a letter of apology from Mullard !!!

Philip REDFERN - Central Statistics Office - London

At the time when use of a computer was first discussed, no Government department outside the scientific civil service had a computer installed and working. Instead of buying time on a commercial installation, we found that time could be made available on the twin Deuce installation at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, Hampshire. We did not consciously choose Deuce from a range of possibilities. After learning of the Deuce capacity available for our job, the National Physical Laboratory staff were called in as computer experts, and they satisfied themselves that it was a reasonable proposition to analyse the family expenditure survey on Deuce.

Extract from: Experience in using a Deuce computer for the family expenditure survey. Full text in TIFF format here.

English Electric Deuce Maintenance Engineer

"JB remembers that JK Brown always called Ken Day "young" Day. JB remembers that Ken often worked on maintaining the Farnborough machine. One day, JK Brown suggested that JB would need to go down to Farnborough for a few days – all expenses paid - as "young" Day may need a bit of help keeping the machine's maintenance going." (John Boothroyd - Deuce Reflections )

Richard BAKER
BTM (British Tabulating Machine Company) engineer who visited RAE regularly to service the tabulators, keypunches, collators and other electro-mechanical equipment.

The official history of Mathematical Services Department by DERA
"Computing at RAE Farnborough 1948-1968"

Any additions or information about those listed above would be appreciated.
To email me click the image below.

To return to the DEUCE homepage click the image below.