Linux in Manchester

Dr. D.E.Clark

We started a group in Manchester last year. That was in December. We may not be the last word but we are due for the third meeting in the old summer term.

I have had a tenative word with the President of the BCS about setting up a Linux SIG if the membership want it.As in my very limited experience nothing has happened like this since Manchester got its machine going in the late forties.

My knowledge of computers is very limited indeed as I am a medic. I had my first computer course at IC in FEB 63. The Lecturer was Dr McConlogue (Mac analogue -quarter-square multipliers and all that). The machine was the London University Computer Unit Mercury,At that time there were 2**8 computers in the UK. (It was the first course that they had given outside the computer unit.) That was in academic terms before the Flowers report.

When I did my`A'levels in the 50's I remember our Chemistry teacher Dr Royal saying that what Manchester does today the rest of England does tomorrow; he was always talking about Ernest (Rutherford). Manchesters first machine worked 3/52 so I was informed before Morris's (M.V.W) machines in Cambridge. I expect that they have never foregiven us for it. While on the first MRC conference on Computers and Mathematics in Medicine and Biology (Autumn 63) we were treated to a demonstration,and it was the first transatlantic demo of project MAC,the MIT time-sharing system that was based on the ideas in Stratchy's (Oxford) paper of 1959,that Herbert Teager showed on the Teager Channel that he built for the 709,it was a practical proposition. As you know the IBM 709 was valve based. (Mean time between failures of 20 minutes. MAC was based on the IBM 7090 a germainium transistors machine and they were heat sensitive. Mean time between failures when out got all of the weak transistors out; was I thought on my machine 18,000hrs.)

The programmes that they ran at Oxford on the demo was the calculation of filter paramters on say a Butterworth 3 pole filter. In the late 60's I saw MAC at MIT and the kludge display. (PDP-9)

I watched as Multics was produced and then the idea of Unix came. However I remember going to the computer Centre when UNIX was available free. But nobody here was interested. They were all engaged in Atlas Autocode and George III. And as a one man band running a computer as a service I did not have any time to take it further. I offered the medical school a timesharing system in 1976. They were not interested. However we were transmitting medical data over the phone networks in 76. I had a BD50 on the PDP-8. This was a dual channel RS232 This,the PDP-8 we hooked to the 7090 as if it were a mag tape So that we had the power of the mainframe attached to the PDP machine. We could send to the mainframe. +/- 11 bit medical data samples,2 six bit characters to be crunched down,doing FFT's. The max data rate we used was 16k per sec. The actual transfer rate between the two machines was 60K-6bit characters + parity in synchronous mode. I like real time working it makes sure that the systems are up to it,batch is for development. The medical data that we transmitted over the phone lines in those days was Morbid Anatomy-PM's. They are exactly like medical records but are produced after the event. (The link for between PDP-8 and the 7090 was based on an idea that I had in the late 60's,It was finally built by a small team,the hardware was a complete rebuild of a 2 E.Eng students projects by a dentist,the software on the PDP-8 done by a PhD student in my department,the machine code side of the 7090 by my systems programmer,and the applications demostration off the FFT's by a medical student,who had a physics degree. I made a few suggestions to get it all going.)

This was at a BCS Northern Medical Specialist group meeting in Lancaster Royal Infirmary. The RS232 was specified as a standard in 67,and I think that I bought the device in 72. What was interesting was that there was nobody in the University as far as I knew could tell us about RS232 at all so it was a real suck it and see.

However in 78 my department was closed downI was told that there was no future for doctors in computing. So until march 91 I did a training in Public Health. So after all this time I am still a junior reseach fellow.

At the age of 61 I must look to retirement within a few years. When I learnt of the Linux system I was more than interested indeed it was like I was Moses being taken up the mountain to see the promised land. So I got a colleague to put on 0.94 in August 92 I did not use it because as a radio ham interested in tracking satellites there was no software around at that time and I could not spend all my time trying to develop the control and tracking programme for the system. The KCT (Kanas City Tracker) interface that controls the aerial postion AZ and EL means that in order to use it I have to reverse engineer the board and then start from scratch writing the software. The system positions the aerials to point at he in coming coming satellites. I find it a tremendous thrill when the relays,to give it a bit of noise start to click,of the external interface system that eventually link thru long cables to the rotators and elevators. The colours of certain parameters change on PC-1 display and radio's signal strenght meter starts to rise. The frequency display on the radio starts change to as the PC calculations compenstate for the doppler shift of the signal from the incoming satellite. Data from the received packets go up screen of PC-2's display,all the controls start to come alive. Then the radio's transmitter fires and soon your call sign scrolls up the screen, the forgive the romance. But in the jargon you have acquistion.

However there is movement in that direction. There is a HAM-HOWTO by Terry Dawson in vk land (AUZ).

As a fellow of the BCS of nearly some 20yrs standing I have seen many things in computing but I have never seen anything like the way that Linux has developed. So having recently had a Coronary bypass, inspite of the fact that I dont drink or smoke and since I was appointed here some 30 yrs ago I cycle in and out of the university. When I retire there is Linux and the networks to look forward to. My great goal is to get the BCS to agree to a specialist group. I dont mind an informal group here in Manchester. Many people in the UK and of course elsewhere worked there hides off to get this system where it is.

Please forgive the diatribe but Ted Harding of the the Convener of the Manchester Linux group will help you. See Manchesters Web pages. Ted can tell you more about Manchester than I can.

The english is very bad I know I did not start medicine until later as I could not get matric without english language which I had to take four times to get a pass in those days you had to sit a pass the whole exam at once,one slip and you were in trouble.

                        Your sincerely 
                           Snr Res Fellow
			     in Medical Informatics.
    P.S We would hope to have our third meeting end of June.
    P.P.S  Medical Informatics to me as a doctor is S**10.
	     1) Sums -Calculations
             2) Simulations -Modelling
             3) Storage -Information Storage/Retrieval
	     4) Scenes  -Image processing
             5) Signals - eg.EKG,EEC,EMG etc
             6) Surveys
             7) Support -A.I. and neural nets,Bayes etc 
	     8) Safety and Security   
             9) Statistics -Stats and Epidemiology
            10) Skills  -WP,Dbases,SpdShts
                         E-Mail,Ftp,Web and other network skills
                         Fax ,Medline,BIDS and NISS.
		Data Acted on by intelligence becomes Information
                Correctly aggregated Information becomes Knowledge
                Safety depends on 1) Safe Hardware. 2) Safe Software.
                3) Educated users. 4) Safe Environment.
                This is very important in medicine.
	  Appolo 13 "Hello Houston we have a problem main B bus has gone
	  CapCon's next words to this historic news."Bring up another
	  computer on the realtime net."