Come up and see my sub-routines

The swinging sixties saw the launch of Computer Weekly. Computer Weekly now looks back to the first issue

The swinging sixties saw the launch of Computer Weekly. Computer Weekly now looks back to the first issue

The first issue of Computer Weekly appeared on 22 September 1966 and was 16 pages long. It was mailed free to 10,000 IT professionals. Subscriptions were excellent value at £4 4s (£4.20) a year. In a letter of intent to readers, the editor JH Bonnett declared, "Many in the computer world are interested in information retrieval, we are interested in information dissemination." The magazine aimed to, "Seek out the men with the ideas who are shaping the future of the computer and encourage them to spread, via our pages, the story of what they are doing." Everyone in the industry, was part of an integrated team, he said, and Computer Weekly was to be the link that brought them together.

In a guest opinion BZ de Ferranti, managing director of International Computers and Tabulators, acknowledged that people's understanding of software was increasing and said the launch of a magazine such as Computer Weekly could only help to speed up the process.

According to Ferranti, the magazine set out to achieve this in two ways. "First, because it will be of real interest to those engaged in the development of software and will help them feel that more people are beginning to understand. Second, the world of the non-specialist will have an opportunity to read in an intelligible form about a field of activity that will have a profound impact on the society in which we live," he said.

The lead story on the front page concerned the UK Atomic Energy Authority's plan to set up a multi-access system based around an IBM 360 at its offices in Harwell. Another front page story looked at Liverpool City Council's £200,000 contract with Plessey Automation for a traffic control system to ease congestion on the approach to the Mersey Tunnel. The news pages were thick with stories about organisations investing in room-sized IBM, ICT and Honeywell computers.

The international section carried the news that Dutch electronics firm Philips had chosen to stay out of the large computer market. Meanwhile, the American Scene column commented on a report which claimed that the use of computers in the US was changing from routine functions such as payroll to more of a management position. This trend was echoed elsewhere in the magazine in an article by Arthur Tulip of Honeywell's Industrial Council, which looked at the computer's role in solving management problems.

As well as features on the British Computer Society, training and the problems of information storage and retrieval, UK computer makers were being urged to "get into Europe". The article, stressed the need for a strong export market to back up home sales. "The creation of an integrated European community working towards common aims with a common purpose and calling upon a fully developed technology may still be beyond our present generation," it said. "But its eventual creation is necessary if the individual nations of Europe are to survive in any meaningful way, and some system that allows for the free marketing of computer systems within Europe is absolutely essential to the survival of the British computer industry."

On a lighter note, the Interlude section, a precursor to today's Computer Weekly Xtra!, reported on how a computer was being used by the New South Wales Herd Production Improvements Scheme in Australia to help match-make bulls with their ideal partners. And in a twist on the "come back and take a look at my etchings" chat-up line, readers were informed of how wily young programmers were attracting girls to their swinging 1960s bachelor pads by asking them if they wanted to come up and see their sub-routines.

Events listed in the Diary Dates column included a talk on the basic principles of hybrid computing systems at City University, London, and the futuristically-titled Electronica 66 exhibition in Munich.

Among the job vacancies advertised, candidates with experience of 024 punches and 056 verifiers were invited to apply for the role of assistant punch room supervisor at supermarket chain J Sainsbury for the princely sum of £1,200 per annum. And a whopping £1,770 to £2,280 per annum was on offer for a senior computer assistant at Cheshire County Council.

Before the introduction of DPM's diary and Downtime, the back page of the magazine carried news stories, including one on the Olivetti Programma 101 machine, which was only "a little larger than a typewriter but with the capacity to store a program". And the Stop Press column focused on plans to install a data link in Cornwall between the County Council's ICT 1902 computer and local schools and colleges to enable students to gain early advantage of computer techniques.

One of the most striking things is how, 35 years on, so little has changed. Computers have become smaller, and advances such as mobile phones, the Internet and wireless technology are notable, but issues such as storage, data retrieval, training, government policy and the need for standardisation are as pressing as ever.

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