Formerly held in the Company Museum

Now in the custody of the
Science Museum Library

Catalogued by Hamish Carmichael,
2002 - 2007

The ICL Archive

The nucleus of the collection was the former ICL Company Museum in Stevenage. There a mixture of material was accumulated under the intelligent and far-sighted guidance of the late Bertie Bellringer and Gordon Collinson. This originally covered the products and history of the British Tabulating Machine Co Ltd, which began in 1904 with the formulation of a consortium to promote the sale and use in Great Britain of punched card machines imported from the United States.

In 1958/59 BTM merged with Powers-Samas to form ICT - International Computers and Tabulators. The Powers company also dated back to the beginning of the 20th century, when a different family of wholly mechanical punched card machines was developed by an engineer called James Powers. In the ensuing years the company museum added a representative assortment of Powers equipment to the collection.

Both BTM and Powers had made first steps into the computer business, and during the 1960s most of the other British computer manufacturers formed alliances with either ICT or English Electric. The museum thereby acquired a rather random collection of material from many other manufacturers. Then in 1968/69 the two major groups were merged into a single entity - ICL - and from that time on the company's hardware and software products are well documented.

Material was at various stages deposited with the museum from the Customer Engineering Training School in Letchworth, from the Head Office Library and Information Service in Putney, from the Education Division Library at Beaumont College, and elsewhere. The late John Pinkerton handed over much fascinating material from the files which he had meticulously maintained over many years. Gaps have also been filled from time to time by a number of donations from other individuals.

During the late 1980s the museum building in Stevenage had to be demolished, and the collection had largely to be dispersed. Wherever possible machines, with relevant documentation, were returned to civic museums close to where they had been originally built, in Manchester, Croydon, and Letchworth, with a lot of punched card equipment being donated to the Science Museum. The main body of the documentation, however, was kept together, and lodged for safe keeping with the Science Museum Library. It now represents a pretty good record of the history of the last major British computer manufacturer, and a probably unrivalled record of the preceding history of the punched card industry.

The collection has now been catalogued by the Computer Conservation Society on behalf of the Science Museum Library.

The collection is not open to general readers, but scholars who wish to consult it should address requests for access to :

The Head of Library
Science Museum Swindon

Hamish Carmichael
The Computer Conservation Society
October 2007