Post-War

BTM ended its agreement with IBM in 1949 and was now its competitor, dependent on its own research and development capacity. It was also competing with IBM in its formerly protected markets. This was a moment of significant change in the company and in the world of commercial computing. BTM recruited John Womersley, who was Alan Turing’s boss at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), and Raymond ‘Dickie’ Bird from the General Electric Company to form an electronics development group. The war had been good for the company, with net profit increasing from £36,000 in 1940 to £251,000 in 1950, with a capitalisation of £2.5 million by 1951. With strong finances, a brilliant new electronics team and all of the developments that had taken place in secrecy during the war, BTM was perfectly placed for rapid expansion in the electronic era.

BTM launched its first electronic computer for the commercial market, the Hollerith Electronic Computer (HEC2M) in 1955. In the late 1950s BTM began to reach out to other companies involved in electronic developments. In 1956 it joined forces with the General Electric Company and in 1959 it merged with Powers-Samas to form International Computers and Tabulators (ICT). Together they aimed to pool their technical resources and lead the market in the rapidly developing computing industry. In 1963 ICT took over the computer division of Ferranti, further adding to their electronic computing capability.

On the advice of the Minister of Technology, Tony Benn, in 1968 the British government forced a merger of ICT with the various other British computing companies to form International Computers Limited (ICL). The government subsidised company was not a commercial success, as the mainframe market began to decline at the beginning of the 1970s. By the time ICL had developed the machines that the government had asked for there was no longer a demand for them, as decentralised systems with better software had overtaken these behemoths. ICL remained heavily dependent on government contracts, where it benefitted from ‘preferred supplier’ status, until it was absorbed into Fujitsu in the 1980s.

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