Britain's first computer centre for banking: What did this building do?
In: XV World Economic History Congress, 3-7 August 2009, Utrecht.
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At the beginning of the 1960s Barclays became the first British bank to open a computer centre. In this paper I trace the life of this building starting with its official opening on 4 July 1961 and ending with its protracted closure a decade later. From initial status as the most advanced bank bookkeeping system in the world serving as a highly visible symbol of the bank's technological power, to a final repurposing of its grandiose reception as a distribution point for pre- and post-decimalisation output, the building's various meanings are revealed. Making use of written, oral, and visual sources I explore the centre's spatial characteristics, its relation to the distributed structure of the branch, and its place as a first dedicated working home for a newly emerging computing subculture. A blend of multiple perspectives internally from the top down and bottom up, and externally from customer and competitor, offer an analysis that uncovers the part played by the first computer centre place in the banking automation race.
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