Elliott Brothers (computer company)

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Sector, made by Elliott Brothers Ltd, UK, ca. 1854

Elliott Brothers (London) Ltd was an early computer company of the 1950s–60s in the United Kingdom. It traced its descent from a firm of instrument makers founded by William Elliott in London around 1804. The research laboratories were originally set up in 1946 at Borehamwood. The first Elliott 152 computer appeared in 1950. Elliotts' were a pioneer of Head-up displays - HUDs.

The computer scientist Sir Tony Hoare was an employee there from August 1960 to 1968. He wrote an ALGOL 60 compiler for the Elliott 803. He also worked on an operating system for the new Elliott 503 Mark II computer, although this was unsuccessful and abandoned along with "over thirty man-years of programming effort." (c.f. The Emperor's Old Clothes)

The founder of the UK's first software house, Dina St Johnston, had her first programming job there from 1953-1958.

John Lansdown pioneered the use of computers as an aid to planning; making perspective drawings on an Elliott 803 computer in 1963, modelling a building's lifts and services, plotting the annual fall of daylight across its site, as well as authoring his own computer aided design (CAD) applications.

In 1966 the company established an integrated circuit design and manufacturing facility in Glenrothes, Scotland, followed by a MOS semiconductor research laboratory. The Glenrothes site was closed in 1969 following the take over of English Electric by GEC.

Elliott Automation[edit]

The Elliott Automation logo

Elliott Automation (as it had become) merged with English Electric in 1967. The data processing computer part of the company was then taken over by International Computers and Tabulators (ICT) in 1968; this marriage was forced by the British Government, who believed that the UK required a strong national computer company. The combined company was called International Computers Limited (ICL). The real-time computer part of Elliott Automation remained, and was renamed Marconi Elliott Computer Systems Limited in 1969 and GEC Computers Limited in 1972, and remained at the original Borehamwood research laboratories until the late 1990s. The agreement which governed the split of computer technologies between the two companies disallowed ICT from developing real-time computer systems and disallowed Elliott Automation from developing data processing computer systems for a few years after the split. The remainder of Elliott Automation which produced aircraft instruments and control systems, was retained by English Electric.


EASAMS was E A Space and Advanced Military Systems (the EA was never spelled out), based in Frimley, Surrey - first at the nearby Marconi Electronic Systems plant in Chobham Road and later, when it became a limited company, at its headquarters in Lyon Way. It evolved its proprietary EMPRENT an early PERT planning system used for the construction of North Sea Oil platform, and for the BAC TSR-2 which later was incorporated into MRCA multi-role combat aircraft which finally became Panavia Tornado. EASAMS senior management was highly conservative, and a number of innovative engineers working on 'private venture' projects such as Hierarchical Object Oriented Design HOOD and Ada language development left to form their own companies, including Admiral Computing which later merged with Logica, Systems Designers Ltd and Software Sciences (later part of IBM UK).

EASAMS Ltd was an independent company within GEC, founded in 1962 to provide services in system design, operational research and project management. In the 1990s EASAMS became part of Marconi Electronic Systems before losing its identity.


The following Elliott computer models were produced:

  • Elliott 152 (1950)
  • Elliott Nicholas (1952)
  • Elliott/NRDC 401 (1953)
  • Elliott 153 (DF computer) (1954)
  • Elliott/GCHQ OEDIPUS (311) (1954)
  • Elliott 402 (1955)
  • Elliott 403 (WREDAC) (1955)
  • Elliott 405 (1956) (One donated by Nestle to The Forest School, Winnersh, and named Nellie).
  • Elliott 802 (1958–1961) 6 were sold
  • Elliott 803 (1959) about 250 sold, mainly 803B
    • 803A had 4 or 8K of 39 bit words of memory and all internal data was held in a single 102 bit long serial path.
    • 803B had 4 or 8K of 39 bit words of memory. The single data path was split into several shorter (48 bit long) serial paths to reduce instruction execution time. A hardware floating point option was available.
  • Elliott ARCH 1000 (1962)
  • Elliott 503 (1963) software compatible with 803
  • Elliott 900 series (1963)
    • For military customers there were four models of the 900 series: 920A, 920B, 920M and 920C. Only a few of the 920A were produced, rapidly obsoleted by the faster 920B. The 920M was a miniaturised version of the 920B. They were discrete transistor machines. The 920C was a later even faster derivative built using custom integrated circuits. All were shipped in robust "militarized" cases suitable for mounting in vehicles, ships and aircraft.
    • Civilian customers were sold versions of the 920A, 920B and 920C called Elliott 920A, 903 and 905 respectively. These were shipped in desk sized cabinets suitable for use in an office or laboratory environment.
    • Versions of the 920B and 920C for industrial automation were sold as Arch 900 and Arch900 respectively. These were shipped in industrial cabinets similar to those used for the civilian systems.
      • The 903 was a desk-sized machine popular with universities and colleges as a teaching machine, with small research laboratories as a scientific processor and also as a versatile system for use in industrial process control. It was typically equipped with 8 or 16K of core store and was predominantly a paper tape based machine but card readers, line printers, incremental graph plotters and magnetic tape systems were also available. The machine was usually programmed in symbolic assembly code, Algol or Fortran II. The civilian 920C was the 905, also in a desk-sized configuration. Some 905s had fixed head disk systems attached. A Fortran IV system was provided for the 905.
  • Elliott 502 (1964)
  • Elliott 4100 series (1966) A joint development with NCR Corporation. Elliott selling to the scientific market and NCR selling to the commercial market.[1][2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Systems architectures for the Elliott 4100 Series computers (PDF) (Report). ourcomputerheritage.org. November 2011. E6X2. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Introduction to 4100 Software (PDF) (Report). NCR ELLIOTT. July 1965. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Simon Lavington, Moving Targets: Elliott-Automation and the Dawn of the Computer Age in Britain, 1947–67, Springer, 2011.
  • Simon Lavington ed 'Alan Turing and his contemporaries: Building the world's first computers', BCS, 2012

External links[edit]