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A BRIEF HISTORY

For a few brief years before 1973, the world's most powerful computers were British - the Atlas machines made by ICT (the company which later became ICL). One of these machines was located at the Rutherford Laboratory in Oxfordshire, where it provided computing services to Britain's scientific research community.

This community included the Institute of Geological Sciences (now the British Geological Survey). However, in 1973 the Atlas computer at Rutherford Laboratory was replaced by a new, more powerful, mainframe computer, the IBM 360/195. One of the immediate consequeneces was the immediate need to replace all of the geological data handling software, because of big incompatibilities between the two machines.

Rather than simply patch and mend the various old programs, the opportunity was taken to adopt a much more radical solution. A team led by Dr (now Professor) Keith Jeffery started on development not just of a new software system, but a new type of system. Working from a set of general design principles, a system was written which adhered as closely as possible to the newly defined relational database principles enunciated by E.F. Codd, and also included a range of applications software for statistical, graphical, and a variety of geological applications.

The system expanded to provide a wide range of applications relevant to geology and other natural sciences, and during the 1970s and early 1980s was used in several of the component bodies of the UK Natural Environment Research Council. It was also used in overseas projects and was installed for geological survey organisations across Europe and North America, and in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia.

Central members of the G-EXEC team were

        • Keith Jeffery
        • Elizabeth Gill
        • Stephen Henley
        • John Cubitt
though the team also included a large number of other members who contributed ideas and programming effort: Jonathan Wheeler, Roger Carter, Chris Fage, Sandra Strachan, Stuart Duncan, Helen Phelan, Philip Green, Andrew Bell, and many committed and enthusiastic users.

G-EXEC principles and source code were later used in the development of the DATAMINE mining software system, and though heavily modified and encrusted with newer applications, this possibly constitutes the only surviving implementation of the original G-EXEC.


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