Re: Ah, the "good old days" ...
Martin, you're an ICL man? Are you aware of the various collected stories of ICL by its old-boys?
Anthology I :
e.g.: Hot stuff, c. 1974 Chris Horrobin
In the 2903, all the mechanics of the peripherals were controlled by programming in the central processor rather than by their own electronics. Of particular note was the pair of instructions to switch the card reader’s ‘picker’ solenoid on and off. The solenoid was rated for dissipating heat on the basis of only being ‘on’ for extremely short periods. This led to the famous software failure known as ‘select card reader and catch fire’.
source of the great Sales word Apolocolocyntosis: extravagant or absurdly uncritical glorification
Also stories in the pension newsletters, eg:
> Bert Morton and Jim Woodhead were members of Doc Keene's development team during the 1939 - 45 war, and to us new starters, they were characters in their own right. Bert never used an Avo to time camshafts on his machines. 110v (the general machine voltage) was his accepted safe voltage and he generally used his right hand with his two middle fingers withdrawn to his palm, and index and little fingers extended as probes, to "feel" the open and closed voltage conditions at the cam contact points. He warned his team against trying to emulate his success in this measuring technique.
I think my favourite story was ICL trying to install a machine for an outpost of an African railway. Couldn't get an electrical Ground so couldn't fire it up. Lots of attempts, culminating in digging a vast hole with mechanical diggers, wiring together a dozen junked cars and pushing them in with the diggers, refilling the hole then soaking it thoroughly, and... still nothing.
Finally someone twigged. There's a thousand miles of railtrack passing by the building. Run a line out, quick spot of soldering, tada -- they have a ground.
Charles Dickens's grandson has some glorious stories there -- an outstanding tech.manager, with precisely 0 tech knowledge.