Britain’s first computer centre for banking: what did this building do?

Martin, Ian (2010). Britain’s first computer centre for banking: what did this building do? In: Bátiz-Lazo, Bernardo; Maixé-Altés, J. Carles and Thomes, Paul eds. Technological Innovation in Retail Finance: International Historical Perspectives. Routledge International Studies in Business History. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 37–70.



At the beginning of the 1960s Barclays became the first British bank to open a computer centre. In this chapter 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, provide a detailed analysis that uncovers the part played by the first computer centre place in the British banking automation race.

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