A few reflections from John Boothroyd (JB) about working with DEUCE at Kidsgrove

January 2007 Recorded by his daughter, Alison Hutchison

Reg Allmark

"A natural electronics engineer – absolutely brilliant - no one better in the team."

Colin Haley

Colin always looked ahead and never stopped thinking about wider issues - such as what problems would lie ahead after this one was tackled – or what other way to consider the current problem.

As an example of this, JB remembers that there was a problem with the Farnborough machine – something to do with tracks (??) on the magnetic drum heads (??) and trying to work out which track was contributing to a problem. So, JB and Derek Royle went down to Farnborough and spent several hours recording magnetic drum errors – recording data in order to try to isolate the problem. After this laborious data collection, they effectively ended up with a set of equations to solve, with two unknowns.

The equations were rather unusual and so, back at Kidsgrove, JB went off to talk to John Denison. John Denison immediately recognized the equations as being a particular type of linear simultaneous equations (? Chebychev equations). and recommended a book (in the library) that had all the details. John Denison may also have considered that solving the equations would not necessarily be useful in solving which track had a problem!!

JB then went over to talk to Colin Hayley. Colin ignored the data and equations and immediately suggested that they try increasing the value of a nearby resistor (leading to/ from?) the magnetic drum. This they did - and the problem was solved – and no similar problems were encountered after that.

John Denison

"The brightest engineer and programmer in the team."

Reflection about Farnborough

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.

Why was this necessary – well the Farnborough Open Days were coming up and Princess Margaret would be visiting, so they would not want anything to go wrong at that time. JB remembers that he spent several days at Farnborough and alternated days with "young" Day in terms of taking charge for the machine's maintenance.

On the day that the Princess was present, JK Brown himself came down and, after seeing the Princess, JB remembers that JK Brown was all puffed up – and reported back to the workshop in a loud voice - "Isn't she tiny!"

The only other thing JB remembers was that when he went to Farnborough, he stayed in a pub with a rather strange name – The Tumbledown Dick

About his own work

JB was expert in setting up the Multiplier/ Divider function on the DEUCE. In earlier computers multiplication and division had been undertaken through software / programming. Then the NPL designed the first hardware divider and, while JB was not involved in this design process, JB was the first to set it up fully. JB then became expert at fixing problems that went wrong with the Multiplier/ Dividers in DEUCE machines.

JB had an MA from Cambridge. His preferred joke about this was "You can always tell a Cambridge man, but you can't tell him much!"
(Maybe this is a standing joke for any Oxbridge graduates – I'm not sure. AH)

JB left Kidsgrove in 1964 to take up a position as Officer-In-Charge of the Hydro-University Computing Centre, University of Tasmania.