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Volume 17, No.2

BCS SG congress

Ian Ritchie looked at how far computing has come in 50 years and where he thought it might be in 20 years’ time. Some people have been remarkably prescient – for example Vannevar Bush in his article As we might think in 1945 – and some have done things much before their time – for example Doug Engelbart in the 1960s who more or less produced a personal computer environment with mouse on a mainframe. All the text and accompanying pictures we read in a lifetime can be held in 60-300 gigabytes; everything we say in about 15 gigabytes. These are well within the range of what personal computers can do. A lifetime’s seeing (at video quality) would take about a petabyte – but we can expect this on a PC by 2020 or 2025.

Hamish Carmichael introduced the Computer Conservation SG, set up 11 years ago and supported by the London Science Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and the BCS. Some of the projects are: a replica of Colossus, a refurbished Pegasus, a rebuilt Turing ‘bomb’, an Elliott 401 and now some software such as George III.

Frances Freeman presented Shopcreator – the winner of the BCS awards last year. It is a simple way to create a web site from which things are to be sold, with all the abilities you need: security for credit card transactions, easy updating (if not done frequently the site loses credibility), automatic frequent re-registration of all site keywords with the major search engines and reliability (no downtime and no delays arising from server overload).

John Aeberhard told us about the Disability SG without visual aids or any variation of tone or pace.

After lunch Jennifer Stapleton asked us to consider the relationship between the BCS and our SGs and to let her know what we would like it to be.

Colin Thompson told us about BCS developments. These were mostly the consequence of the report of a working party, chaired by Brigadier Alan Pollard, that recommended:

  • A wider range of membership options.
  • That membership for Engineers, Managers and Teachers each be treated separately as the needs and resources appropriate to the three groups were so different.
  • That there is a progression path for each class of member
  • That the length of experience required (for the ‘experience only’) routes to membership is reduced to the minimum.
  • That a wider range of academic and vocational qualifications are accepted in the examination route to membership.
  • That people could join as a certified affiliate.

There were some frank admissions of weaknesses in the BCS and a new determination to define a structure that will overcome these and serve members, branches and SGs better.

Brian Layzell explained that the finance of the Technical Board (for SGs) was ring-fenced. He hoped the BCS would be able to handle Credit Card, Direct Debit and foreign cheque subscriptions for SGs and be able to hold records of their non-BCS members and do this maybe even if the SG year did not match the BCS year. The discretionary amount SGs can spend might be increased (for long it has been £500, which is unduly restrictive).

After Tea we broke into four groups to discuss (1) SGs and the Web, (2) Programme 2000 (mainly the Pollard report), (3) BCS/SG relations and (4) Finance.

I attended the third group: it was agreed that SGs have not always kept the BCS adequately informed of their activities and the BCS has not always kept SGs informed of BCS or other SG activities. If organised right SGs could use a BCS-provided admin back-up service, but the load may be very peaky. Some SGs would like the BCS to collect subscriptions and other payments from members as the variety of methods and currencies is hard to cater for. Some SGs (but not all) would welcome editorial or technical writing help.

Anthony Camacho 12 September 2000


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