SADIE, SUSIE and the Molecular 18

 
I worked for BCL as a Field Service Engineer from November 1970 until May or June 1974 when they went bust. BCL were then bought from the official receiver by Computer World Trade Ltd for £1, and all the field service staff including me went to work for Compuetr Field Maintenance, which was part of CWT. BCL then continued to produce computers, and CFM maintained them so, although I had little to do with BCL as a company after they went bust, I still had plenty to do with their equipment, and for quite a long time we shared office premises with them in London.

I was interviewed at the factory in Portslade by a guy called John Metcalfe who was the Customer Service director or some such position. His interviewing technique left a lot to be desired, but the fact that I had recently changed the head gasket and timing chain on my Ford Popular seemed to be enough to convince him that I was the man for the job! He offered me a position in London, not ideal for me but it sounded interesting so I accepted. I was intially sent on a training course to BCL's office in Manchester, the course was run by Martin Roscoe if I remember correctly. We did a 3 week training session on the IBM 735 golf-ball typewriter, then a further 3 week session on the IBM Model B and the Hermes. As these two "modules" spanned the Christmas period, I spent Christmas working at the factory in a department that modified the typewriters in readiness for their inclusion in BCL's finished systems.

At this time BCL were producing the Sadie V and Susie V machines as well as the Multi-Susie. The names were an acronym, but I can't remember exactly what it stood for - Sales and D...... Invoicing Electronically??? something like that. Sadie had no permanent storage, the program was hard pinned onto a series of boards and it used temporary delay line storage. The Susie also used the delay line for working memory, but also had a magnetic drum for permanent storage. The Multi-Susie had one large central cabinet with processor and a huge magnetic drum, and a number (up to three I think) workstations attached. We also worked on the earlier Sadies and Susies, but it was really the Series V that brought about BCL's main period of growth.

The Molecular 18 came around 1972/3 at a guess and moved BCL into a more serious computing environment. It had clearly been cribbed from Data General's Nova range, there were a number of quite startling similarities.

If you want me to go on about the technical aspects of Sadie, Susie and Molecular, I can do so at great length. I could probably even remember some of the machine code instructions!

I worked at the Central London office, originally Tottenham Court Road, then Victoria, and subsequently Old Street, but by that time I was working for CFM

When I first started my boss was Roy Lockmuller (branch service manager) and his boss was Dave Church (Regional Manager I think). Roy was demoted/moved sideways or something shortly after I joined, and we had a temporary manager called Malcolm Morris who subsequently went on to run the Flying Squad. Management skill - not a lot! We then had a new manager John Forster, who I am still in touch with on a very regular basis, and I will send him a copy of your mail and I'm sure he will repsond with his memories.

Other staff - Paul Hammond, another engineer at TCR; Dale Geeves likewise; Malcolm Hammond Paul's brother, a salesman. Branch sales manager was Paul Hood.

Customers: Sadie and Susie sold well into the rag trade around the back of Oxford Street but I'm struggling to remember names. Cornhill Shoes in East London. Hahn and Co, timber merchants in North London. Acbars, engineering firm in Walworth Road, Mann & Overton, suppliers of London taxis, Wandsworth Bridge Road, Harry Moss car Accessories, Courtiers - importers of upmarket glassware and tableware eg Villeroy and Bosch. Tate Gallery also had one.

Molecular 18 - sold quite a few as upgrades to Sadie/Susie users, so Tate Gallery had one, Harry Moss had one, Courtiers had one. Biggest installations were Land Securities, Underwoods Chemists, Greenham Tools, Hounslow. Smaller installations at Pritchard Englefield and Tobin (solicitors); Monument Tools, Clapham; etc etc

Branches - 2 London branches, TCR and City. Wembley, Croydon, Southampton, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds. I'm sure there were others.