Notes on Visit made to Daresbury, 12 February 1974

F.R.A. Hopgood and D.G. House


The main purpose of this trip (made by FRAH and DGH) was to obtain some answers to our outstanding questions regarding the Daresbury site. Most of the time was spent with Brian Davies and Trevor Daniels of the Computer Centre.


The countryside around Daresbury seems similar to Berkshire except that most of the towns have significantly more industrial areas associated with them. Outside the towns, there are reasonably unspoilt areas.

Public transport between neighbouring towns and Daresbury is not very good. For example, bus from Warrington runs once every hour.

Schools in the area are comprehensive. There are one or two purpose-built schools. However, most of them have been produced as a result of the amalgamation of existing schools. The change-over took place about 4 years ago.

Most people seem to live south of the site. Northwich, Middlewich and Winsford are quite close (under 10 miles). These towns are similar in size to North Berkshire towns. Industries include an ICI chemical plant, Guinness factory, Power Stations, etc. More select areas are Chester and Lymm. On the other hand, Warrington to the north is rather run down.

House prices range more widely than in North Berkshire. It is possible to buy a terrace house in Warrington for £600. New 3-bedroom houses in some of the towns can be purchased for as little as £ 7,000. At the other extreme, there are plenty of high class modern and old residences for between £20,000 and £40,000.

Council houses are available in several towns. Runcorn New Town have some with a three week waiting list!

Computing Hardware

The main equipment is:

370/165 with 2 Mbytes store
2305-2 drum
6 3330 exchangeable drives
8 2314 exchangeable drives
2 1403
1 2540
1 2501
1 Calcomp drum plotter
2 7-track tape decks
6 9-track tape decks

The eight 2314 drives are to be replaced by 7330s (ITEL) which are 3330 compatible drives.

The 2305, 2314 and 3330 are all attached to the same two 2880 channels.

Three 2860 channels have a 2319, 1800 and 2x 2250s attached to them. All remote teletypes are attached to the 1800.

Most local users seem to use either IBM 2741 typewriters (11), or VISTA alphameric displays (50 of these!). The latter are attached over fast lines. Output rolls up almost instantaneously. These devices cost about £1,000 each.

The Laboratory's staff are building their own workstations consisting of a PDP-11 with a variety of peripherals attached using CAMAC interfaces. The cost, including a display console, is about £ 7,000 compared with the GEC 2050's cost of £15,000.

Computing Workload

The 370/165 is being used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, contrary to rumours. Most of the workload is generated on site. The major external user is CERN (8%). The NERC workstation attached to the 370/165 uses about 1/2-hour per week [check]. Most of the workload comes from the Nuclear Physics groups at Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Sheffield and Lancaster (80%). Professor Hani (Manchester) provides low priority compute-bound jobs.

The CPU efficiency is about 70% (30% idling). This is similar to the Rutherford 360/195. While we were in the machine room, efficiency rarely dropped below 100%. This was with a number of on-line programs.

On-line programs are each restricted to 70 kbytes. Not more than 5 are allowed at anyone time and averages out at 2 or 3 (140 to 210 Kbytes).

Computing Software

Primary language used is FORTRAN (Level G and Level H). There is a 15% use of PL/I. ALGOL is available but is not used.

Brian Davies appears to do most of the day-to-day running of the Computer side. He seems to split his time between management and applications programming.

The number in the Applications software area is rather vague as some are resident in CERN.

The Systems programmers have been together for about 2 years. They do not seem to have any difficulty in keeping staff.

Operators are recruited locally. Again, there appears to be no trouble in getting or keeping staff.

The Electronics Development section works quite closely with the Systems Group. Most interfacing is done locally.

Computer Buildings

The Computer Block and associated offices are housed in a single building. There is both a Think Room with a number of displays and a card punch room. There are about 22 offices in the Computing Block.

To accommodate ACL [the Atlas Computing Laboratory] within the Computer Block is impossible. We probably need 60 to 80 offices for ourselves and 10 to 15 for users.

There are two other office blocks available at Daresbury. The A block is primarily for Administration. The B block currently holds NP staff. This is likely to be used partly for NSF and some space may be available for ACL. For example, there is space that can be used for equipment like the 2050 and microdensitometer. Total number of offices in B block is about 60. It is therefore unlikely that office space will be available for ACL even if a significant part of B block is used.

The position of the Computer Block in the centre of the site makes it difficult (but not impossible) to put up additional accommodation for offices or computer equipment nearby.

The Computing Room was extended to accommodate the 370/165. They do have sufficient space to allow a dual processor 370/168 to replace this. would be some problems. The current raised floor is 18in high in the new part but only 6in in the old. The 370/168 would require the 18in false floor. The old floor would therefore have to be taken out and dug up.

There is no possibility of getting the 370/165 and another comparable machine in the current computer block. Installation of a P4 or STAR-l00 would require another computer block. The simplest way of doing this might be to put it on top of the existing one. The structure should stand it if the foundations will.

Note that it is not possible to upgrade a 370/165 to a 370/168. It is possible to upgrade the 370/165 to the Mark 2 version allowing virtual memory. It would not be as fast as a 370/168.

The Operating System is OS/TSO. HASP is not available. However, workstations are run using HASP locally) attached to interleaving with a package (written locally) attached to OS.

Currently, jobs larger than 540 kbytes will not be run in day shift.


There are no adequate dark rooms on the site. Photographic section only has single frame developing equipment.

The PDP-15 would be connected to the 370/165 via 1800. This could be quite a fast link.

Trunking for teletypes is available in all on-site offices.

Office accommodation is better than at Rutherford, but possibly not as good as at ACL.

Rob Allan 2016-09-20