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Too Far Ahead of Its Time: Barclays, Burroughs, and Real-Time Banking
April-June 2012 (vol. 34 no. 2)
pp. 5-19
I. Martin, Leeds Metropolitan Univ., Leeds, UK
The historiography of computing has until now considered real-time computing in banking as predicated on the possibilities of networked ATMs in the 1970s. This article reveals a different story. It exposes the failed bid by Barclays and Burroughs to make real time a reality for British banking in the 1960s.

1. BBC, "Computerised Banking Ushers in a Cashless Economy," Tomorrow's World, first broadcast, 9 Dec. 1969; http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/tomorrowsworld 8012.shtml.
2. M. Campbell-Kelly and W. Aspray, Computer: A History of the Information Machine, Basic Books, 1996, p. 175.
3. See, for example, L. Heide, "Retail Banking and the Dynamics of Information Technology," Technological Innovation in Retail Finance: International Historical Perspectives, B. Bátiz-Lazo, J. Carles Maixé-Altés, and P. Thomes eds., Routledge, 2011, pp. 275–285,, and J.W. Cortada, The Digital Hand, Volume 2: How Computers Changed the Work of American Financial, Telecommunications, Media and Entertainment Industries, Oxford Univ. Press, 2006, p. 54.
4. B. Bátiz-Lazo and R.J.K. Reid, "The Development of Cash-Dispensing Technology in the UK," IEEE Annals, vol. 33, no. 3, 2011, pp. 32–45.
5. Barclays Bank, "No. 1 Computer Center Press Release,"3 July 1961. See also "Automation Banking," Financial Times,9 Dec. 1955, p. 1; A. Booth, The Management of Technical Change: Automation in the UK and USA Since 1950, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, pp. 142–144; H. McRae, and F. Cairncross, Capital City: London as a Financial Center, Eyre Methuen, 1973, p. 1.
6. Barclays Bank, "Our First Computer," c. June 1961, p. 3.
7. Booth, The Management of Technical Change, pp. 150–151.
8. "Suggested Basis for Local Head Office Circulars to Branches," Barclays Group Archive 758/32, c. 1967.
9. "Mr Callaghan's Budget Preview: 50m Gambling Tax to Finance 4¼ p.c. 'Option' Mortgages: Decimal Coinage in 1971," The Times,2 Mar. 1966, p. 8.
10. One Barclays' manager was reportedly quoted in a newspaper that the computerized conversion could be done in seconds: G. Jarvis, interview with I. Martin, 28 Sept. 2008.
11. For the decimalization impetus, see A. Booth, "Technical Change in Branch Banking at the Midland Bank, 1945–75," Accounting, Business & Financial History, vol. 14, no. 3, 2004, p. 292, and B. Bátiz-Lazo, and J. Carles Maixé Altés, "British and Spanish Savings Banks, circa 1950–1985," Technological Innovation in Retail Finance: International Historical Perspectives, B. Bátiz-Lazo, J. Carles Maixé-Altés, and P. Thomes eds., Routledge, 2011, pp. 137–154.
12. I. Martin, "Britain's First Computer Center for Banking: What Did this Building Do?" Technological Innovation in Retail Finance: International Historical Perspectives, B. Bátiz-Lazo, J. Carles Maixé-Altés, and P. Thomes eds., Routledge, 2011, pp. 37–70.
13. Booth, The Management of Technical Change, p. 151., The "Big Five" were Lloyds, Westminster, Midland, National Provincial, and Barclays.
14. Campbell-Kelly and Aspray, Computer, pp. 135–136. The dwarves were General Electric (GE), Radio Corporation of America (RCA), Sperry Rand, Honeywell, Burroughs, National Cash Register (NCR), and Control Data (CDC).
15. J.W. Cortada, Before the Computer: IBM, NCR, Burroughs, and Remington Rand and the Industry They Created, 1865–1956, Princeton Univ. Press, 1993, p. 37; Memorex, "Burroughs Traces Founding Back Nearly 100 Years," Memorex Intercom: A Special Intercom Issue on Burroughs Corporation, Dec. 1981, p. 1.
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17. Memorex, "Burroughs Traces Founding Back Nearly 100 Years," p. 2.
18. J.R. Yost, The Computer Industry, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, p. 62.
19. "Burroughs," display advertising, The Times,11 May 1959.
20. "Computers, Howland 2.11.77," Lloyds Bank Group Archives, Winton File; "Lloyds Bank Order £120,000 Computer," The Times,13 Nov. 1962, p. 21.
21. "Further Automation by Midland Bank," The Times,1 Feb. 1965, p. 20.
22. A. Harris, "How Burroughs Got £20m out of the Banks," Financial Times,7 Apr. 1967, p. 13.
23. Booth, The Management of Technical Change, p. 41; Harris, "How Burroughs Got £20m out of the Banks," p. 13; G. Jarvis interview with I. Martin26 Sept. 2008; D. Parsons interview with I. Martin7 Aug. 2008. Quote from Burroughs advertisement in "Banking: A Financial Times Survey," Financial Times,22 May 1967, p. 24.
24. Burroughs, "Burroughs TC 500 Terminal Computer: Introduces a New Approach to On-Line Systems Design," c. 1967; M. Campbell-Kelly, , ICL: A Business and Technical History, Oxford Univ. Press, 1999, p. 23; Barclays Group Archive 725/3, A. Duncan interview with J. Campbell11 Aug. 1998.
25. , Burroughs Corporation Defense, Space and Special Systems Group, "B8500 Information Processing System," c. 1966.
26. G.T. Gray and R.Q. Smith, "After the B5000: Burroughs Third-Generation Computers 1964–1980," IEEE Annals, vol. 31, no. 2, 2009, p. 48; Burroughs Corporation, "Burroughs B2500 and B3500 Electronic Data Processing Systems: A New Level of Computer Responsiveness," Mar. 1966.
27. "Computing Success," Time Magazine,23 Dec. 1966.
28. A. Duncan interview with I. Martin23 Sept. 2008.
29. Memorex, "Burroughs Traces Founding Back Nearly 100 Years," p. 1; J.A. Post, "The Burroughs Research Center in Paoli," Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Soc. History Q., vol. 40, no. 1, 2003, pp. 3–18.
30. Barclays Group Archive 725/3, A. Duncan interview with J. Campbell11 Aug. 1998.
31. S. Gray interview with I. Martin22 July 2008.
32. G. Jarvis interview with I. Martin26 Sept. 2008.
33. Gray and Smith, "After the B5000," p. 48.
34. Barclays Group Archive 725/3, A. Duncan interview with J. Campbell11 Aug. 1998; P. Blackburn interview with I. Martin21 July 2008.
35. Burroughs, "Burroughs TC 500 Terminal Computer: Introduces a New Approach to On-Line Systems Design."
36. M. Shilleto interview with I. Martin5 Aug. 2008.
37. Burroughs' president, Ray Macdonald, in a 1969 presentation is quoted as predicting two years previously that , "electronic accounting machines, electronic accounting systems, terminal units and electronic computers [might become] one continuous market from small machine to giant computer" in F.M. Fisher, J.W. McKie, and R.B. Mancke, IBM and the US Data Processing Industry: An Economic History, Praeger, 1983, p. 249.
38. D. Parsons interview with I. Martin7 Aug. 2008.
39. "D-Day Ushers in the Mini-Computer," Financial Times,21 Apr. 1969, p. 29.
40. Burroughs, "Burroughs TC 500 Terminal Computer: Introduces a New Approach to On-Line Systems Design," p. 2.
41. "Business Notes," Comm. ACM, vol. 10, no. 5, 1967, p. 330.
42. M. Ackrill and L. Hannah, Barclays: The Business of Banking, 1690–1996, Oxford Univ. Press, 2001, pp. 332–334.
43. "Barclay [sic] £11½m. Computer Buy," The Times,30 Mar. 1967, p. 15.
44. The Midland placed an order of £5 million for two Burroughs B6500 computers. See K. Owen, "Blow for Computer Merger," The Times,24 February 1968, 11. It had already invested heavily in Burroughs equipment for the branches.
45. Ackrill and Hannah, Barclays, pp. 333–334.
46. "Business Notes," Comm. ACM, vol. 10, no. 5, 1967, p. 330.
47. "Suggested Basis for Local Head Office Circulars to Branches," Barclays Group Archive 758/32, undated, c. 1967.
48. "Computers—Summary," Barclays Group Archive 758/34, undated.
49. For more on CUBE, see D. Alan Grier, "Working Class Hero," Computer, vol. 40, no. 5, 2007, pp. 8–10. For corporate collaboration and voluntarism in Share, see A. Akera, "Voluntarism and the Fruits of Collaboration: The IBM User Group, Share," Technology and Culture, vol. 42, no. 4, 2001, pp. 710–736. For Guide, see D. Sojka, and P.H. Dorn, "Magic Moments in Software," Datamation, vol. 29, no. 9, 1981, pp. 7–16, cited in R. Hull, In Praise of Wimps: Social History of Programming—Some Work in Progress—Including a Chronology and an Extensive Bibliography, Alice Publications, 1992.
50. For an introduction, see E. Wenger, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998.
51. B. Hull interview with I. Martin21 Oct. 2008.
52. Booth, The Management of Technical Change, p. 41.
53. The EMIDEC was a business computer produced at the beginning of the 1960s by British company EMI Electronics Limited. See http:/www.emidec.org.uk.
54. Fisher, McKie, and Mancke, IBM and the US Data Processing Industry, p. 245.
55. J.T. Lynch, "The B8500 from Burroughs," Datamation, vol. 11, no. 8, 1965, pp. 49–50.
56. S. Turkle., The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit, MIT Press, 2004, pp. 165–168; S. Levy, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, Penguin, 2001.
57. "Business Notes," Comm. ACM, vol. 10, no. 5, 1967, p. 330.
58. G. Jarvis interview with I. Martin28 Sept. 2008.
59. "The Story of Gloucester," Barclay News, 1979, p. 4.
60. P. Clarke, Hope and Glory: Britain 1900–2000, Penguin, 2004, p. 149.
61. "Keeping it Quiet," Financial Times,24 Nov. 1970, p. 11; Barclays Bank, "The Story of Gloucester," Barclays News, 1979, p. 4.
62. Barclays Group Archive 725/3, A. Duncan interview with J. Campbell11 Aug. 1998.
63. Barclays Group Archive 754/31, D. Bound interview with J. Sykes19 Oct. 1990; D. Finnis interview with I. Martin7 Nov. 2008; D. Parsons interview with I. Martin7 Aug. 2008.
64. R. Jefferyes interview with I. Martin3 Aug. 2010.
65. J. Perkins interview with I. Martin28 July 2008; J. Evans interview with I. Martin22 July 2008.
66. M. Shilleto interview with I. Martin5 Aug. 2008.
67. B. Baker interview with I. Martin28 July 2008.
68. R. Jefferyes interview with I. Martin3 Aug. 2010; Barclays Group Archive 275/3, A. Duncan interview with J. Campbell11 Aug. 1998.
69. The FUD Factor was coined in 1975 by former IBM employee Gene Amdahl, who left to set up a competitor company making IBM compatible computers. See R.T. DeLamarter, "Chapter 15: The FUD Factor," , Big Blue: IBM's Use and Abuse of Power, Macmillan, 1986.
70. "Burroughs Reports," Barclays Group Archive 758/34, Dec. 1969.
71. T. Schoeters, "1971 Target for Computer Networks," Financial Times,20 Oct. 1969, p. 14.
72. Ackrill and Hannah, Barclays, p. 182.
73. T. Schoeters, "Barclays D-Day Computer Plan Suffers Serious Setback," Financial Times,27 Feb. 1970, p. 23.
74. "Suggested Basis for Local Head Office Circulars to Branches," Barclays Group Archive 758/32, undated, c. 1967.
75. "Barclays/CAP Team Builds Big Accounting Package," Financial Times,3 Sept. 1970, p. 13.
76. Fisher, McKie, and Mancke, IBM and the US Data Processing Industry, pp. 246–247.
77. Booth, "Technical Change in Branch Banking at the Midland Bank, 1945–1975," p. 295.
78. K. Owen, "British Bank Systems May Be Model for US," The Times,27 May 1969.
79. "Barclays Making a Major Change," Financial Times,15 Dec. 1972, p. 10.
80. "Suggested Basis for Local Head Office Circulars to Branches," Barclays Group Archive 758/32, c. 1967.
81. T. Schoeters, "Barclays D-Day Computer Plan Suffers Serious Setback," Financial Times,27 Feb. 1970, p. 23.
82. Barclays Group Archive 275/3, A. Duncan interview with J. Campbell11 Aug. 1998.
83. Barclays Group Archive 754/31, D. Bound interview with J. Sykes19 Oct. 1990; G. Jarvis interview with I. Martin26 Sept. 2008.
84. Ackrill, and Hannah, Barclays, pp. 332–334.
85. R. Vielvoye, "Computer Delay Will Probably Cost the Banks £16m in Lost Savings," The Times,9 Aug. 1971, p. 16.
86. Barclays Group Archive 275/3, A. Duncan interview with J. Campbell11 Aug. 1998; D. Parsons interview with I. Martin7 Aug. 2008; G. Jarvis interview with I. Martin26 Sept. 2008; B. Hall interview with I. Martin5 Aug. 2008.
87. See, for example, Barclays Group Archive 725/3, A. Duncan interview with J. Campbell11 Aug. 1998; S. Gray interview with I. Martin22 July 2008.
88. Ackrill, and Hannah, Barclays, pp. 332–334.
89. See G. Gooday, "Re-writing the 'Book of Blots:' Critical Reflections on Histories of 'Technological Failure,'" History and Technology, vol. 14, no. 4, 1998, pp. 265–291, and K. Lipartito, "Picturephone and the Information Age: The Social Meaning of Failure," Technology and Culture, vol. 44, no. 1, 2003, pp. 50–81.
90. Lipartito, "Picturephone and the Information Age," pp. 54–55.
91. The Banker, Aug. 1971.
92. H. Taylor and H. Read interview with I. Martin17 July 2008.

Index Terms:
real-time systems,banking,British banking,real-time banking,Barclays,Burroughs,real-time computing,Real-time systems,History,Banking,Electronic commerce,software crisis,history of computing,banking,Britain,labor,real-time computing
Citation:
I. Martin, "Too Far Ahead of Its Time: Barclays, Burroughs, and Real-Time Banking," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 5-19, April-June 2012, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2012.33
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