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Mighty oaks from little acorns grow…

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1930 The site is cleared to build the new Head Office MBM-Su56P29This is the scene next to Liverpool Town Hall in 1930 as the foundations are laid for the new headquarters of Martins Bank – 4 Water Street.  Less than 30 years later the Bank has expanded across England and Wales and the hitherto science fiction world of the computer is both a reality, AND another first for Martins, as “Pegasus” takes pride of place in the new Liverpool Computer Centre at nearby Derby House. How this achievement has come about is due in no small measure to the vision, dedication, ingenuity and perseverance of one member of the Bank’s staff – Ron Hindle.    It is Ron’s ability to see the future and then to explain it in terms that people can understand that puts Martins Bank ahead of the field, but his ideas, which are shared generously with the London Clearing Banks will shape the way in which electronic banking in the UK is achieved for the next 60 years…   In his role as Manager of Organisation Research and Development, and later as chair of the committee set up to bring a decimal currency to the UK, Ron is ideally placed to ensure that the best and most progressive systems and ideas are adopted to the benefit of all.  Here, we tell only a small amount of the story of the computerisation of Martins and the legacy of Ron Hindle, but for the first time we are able to bring you previously unpublished images of the man at work, and of the machinery in place and in action.

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At the Office 59 Exhibition in Sweden, Ron visits the stand of the ADDO Adding Machine Company.  He is looking for the best way of being able to convert data entered onto an adding machine’s keyboard, into a language that can be recognised by a computer. To achieve this, the adding machine must be able to produce a stream of punched paper tape that will provide the data in binary form.  This will form the very basis of inputting data which can then be manipulated, stored and used to maintain accurate records of the everyday workings of a bank account.   The complexities of processing the daily work of branches cannot be underestimated and it is therefore very important that the right choice of machines is made, as the Bank will have to commit VERY large sums of money to modernising its practices.

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1959 Office 59 Exhibition Sweden R Hindle Looks at Addo ADP Equipment RH

1959 Ron Hindle at demo of Burroughs VRC RH.jpg

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LEFT: The Office 59 Exhibition in Sweden –

Ron looks at the AddoX Machinery.

 

RIGHT: Ron (centre) inspects the “Visible Record

Computer” at Burroughs in Detroit

Images © Ron Hindle Estate

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From September to November 1959, Ron Embarks on a mammoth tour of the USA, visiting banks and computer manufacturing companies to compile his report of more than 200 pages to enable the Bank to make the right choices for computerisation.  His itinerary is quite punishing:

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During this period Ron is visiting numerous institutions, attending lectures – some of which he himself gives – AND preparing his very detailed report between trains, boats, buses and planes.  He looks at every conceivable type of operation, machine and computer used by a large number of banks.  Later his visits to Italy and Scandinavia will also prove extremely valuable.

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1960 s Ron hindle Giving Lecture (2) RH.jpg

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Ron Hindle giving a lecture at 68 Lombard Street Office in the 1960s

Images © Ron Hindle Estate

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Enter the wing’d horse!

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Pegasus Booklet.jpgAt the end of the 1950s, and after much research and careful consideration of the impact of trialling new equipment alongside the normal running of a branch, PEGASUS – a computer manufactured by the British firm Ferranti is chosen to be the brain of Martins Bank’s Branch Accounting.  What we nowadays refer to as peripherals – keyboard screen etc., consists at that time of the following: An input device – an adding machine (the Swedish “ADDO X” machine) that prints out binary onto punched paper tape. “The Computer” – the enormous collection of equipment you see below, ingests the paper tape and makes sense of the numbers.  A Printer – the Friden Flexowriter – which is a line printer capable of quite astonishing speeds for that period. Printed output will signal the beginning of the end for the neatly handwritten accounts and bank statements in which staff have until now taken much pride.

1960 ish Dennis Pearce at Ferranti with Pegasus

Denis Pearce (left) is Ron Hindle’s “right-hand man”.  He is seen here making final checks of the Pegasus II Computer at Ferranti’s London 

Headquarters, with a member of their staff…

 

Image © Ron Hindle Estate

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1964 Pegasus II at Water Street image for 'Four Centuries of Banking' Vol I PAAnother first for a woman in Martins…

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The basement of Derby House, a former reference library near to 4 Water Street is chosen to become Liverpool Computer Centre, and a local branch – Liverpool Heywoods - is chosen to have its daily work processed by Pegasus.  Not shy at being first with so many things, Martins appointed Edna Devaynes as the UK’s first lady Computer Centre Supervisor.  Edna has already clocked up a distinguished career with Martins working entirely with and around office machines, training staff and touring the country installing new equipment. She is the ideal choice to take charge of Pegasus. Not surprisingly, her appointment attracts considerable interest from the press as this article from Martins Bank Magazine from 1961 explains:

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1961 04 MBM.jpgA personality at present in the news is Miss Edna Devaynes, who supervises the Ferranti Pegasus 2 computer which we have recently installed in the basement at Derby House, where the Liverpool Commercial Reference Library used to be situated. Miss Devaynes is a native of Liverpool but, owing to war conditions, her education was spread over various schools in different places. She commenced her business career with William P. Hartley Ltd., the jam manufacturers, where she was trained as a machine operator in their Accounts Department. She entered the Bank as a machine operator in 1945 and served at a number of branches. Her first important promotion came in 1956 when she became Deputy Lady Supervisor at Liverpool City Office. Two years later she was entrusted with the job of starting and running the Bank's training school for machine operators to serve in the Liverpool, Northern, Craven and South Western Districts of the Bank. It was also part of her job to visit branches in various parts of the country to supervise the installation of new machinery and to introduce new systems. Now she has become Supervisor of the Bank's first computer centre.  Her principal interest outside the Bank is foreign travel and she has paid three visits to the United States and Canada, in 1955, 1957 and 1960, and she has also visited Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany and France.x

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All Systems Go…

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Staff are busy in the machine room at Heywoods branch, as the day’s work reaches them from the counter, and other sources in the branch. The items have to be checked to ensure that each customer’s account number has been written on by hand or is printed on the relevant vouchers. they are listed on the ADDO-X machines and binary computer tape is produced.  It is this tape that goes each day to the Liverpool Computer Centre. The punched tape contains details of the customer’s account number, and the details of the items that are to be passed to their account that day – cheques to be debited, other items to be credited and so on.   Pegasus has a tape reader that can read these items very quickly and process the information to individual customer records.

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Heywoods PPT

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A machine readable cheque and

how it might appear on paper tape

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The Machine Accounting Room at

Liverpool Heywoods Branch

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1961 Pegasus installed and working MBM-Au61P55.jpgAt the Liverpool Computer Centre, four high speed tape drives busily manipulate the information they receive from Pegasus, as the operator feeds in the paper tape.  It is impressive that even at this fledgling stage of evolution, this banking computer can handle the details of more than 30,000 current accounts. 

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The operator sits surrounded and almost swamped by the huge cabinets that go to make up the Pegasus II Computer.  In the future, solid state technology will reduce the need for large numbers of air conditioning units to be installed.  These are currently needed to keep the computer equipment cool, and to an exact working temperature…  Edna Devaynes and her staff at derby House also maintain the bank of Friden Flexowriters, which are loaded with reams of  special paper – perforated and lined up to produce a customer’s bank statement on each sheet:

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1960 Edna Devaynes and Staff with Flexowriters RH

1960 Edna Devaynes with Flexowriters RH

Images © Ron Hindle Estate

1960 Friden Flexowrite at Liverpool Computer Centre RH

1960 Close up of Heywoods statements printing on Friden Flexowriter RH

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And so the first part of Ron Hindle’s vision for Automatic Data Processing is complete – the experiment at Heywoods, along with another at Branch at South Audley Street in London provides valuable information about how robust such systems will be when rolled out across Martins’ network of branches.  The other phase of automation requires the consensus of the London Clearing Banks, but once approved will provide the standard method of processing cheques and other items across all banks that is still used today – reader/sorting…

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1963 Valerie Blunden demonstrates IBM Reader Sorter at Lombard Street RH

Image © Ron Hindle Estate

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Operated by computer centre staff member Valerie Blunden, this IBM reader-sorter looks after the clearing at Martins Bank’s Lombard St London Office, and is capable of reading and sorting 950 cheques per minute.  Once again, this is a massive achievement for the time.  The developments described on this page lead directly to the establishment of a purpose-built and state of the art computer centre at Walbrook, London.  It is there, that Martins Bank Staff will run Branch Accounting, the computer program that will process the transactions of thousands of bank accounts in Martins AND Barclays, for the next forty years and beyond.  You can read more about this on our  LONDON COMPUTER CENTRE page.

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A lasting legacy

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It will probably be impossible to fully estimate what the work of Ron Hindle did for the automation of British Banking.  What is especially notable is his amazing generosity of spirit in sharing his ideas with everyone else.  Even though there is bound to have been a level of corporate secrecy on some issues, Martins Bank, through Ron made an enormous and lasting contribution to something that we still take for granted today.  That the speed of CLEARING a cheque doesn’t seem to have improved in 50 years is more a testament to the reluctance of individual banks to help one another, as the mechanisms for instant clearing may well have been in Ron’s calculations from the start!  Without doubt, the Liverpool Computer Centre was the acorn from which mighty oaks have grown, and are still clearly visible.

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SPECIAL THANKS TO ANNE HINDLE FOR GENEROUSLY MAKING AVAILABLE

THE FILES AND PAPERS OF HER LATE HUSBAND RON.

 

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