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English Electric's Deuce Drum

Manufacturer English Electric
Identification,ID -
Date of first manufacture1955, as per John Barrett
Number (of DEUCE computers) produced about 31, as per John Barrett, 33, as per Robin - March 2012
Estimated price or costPrice of whole DEUCE was £50,000. as per Peter Docherty
location in museum -
donor Max Burnet

Contents of this page:

English Electric's Deuce Drum

English Electric Deuce Drum (1957)
This drum was part of the English Electric Deuce, a British computer. The rapidly-spinning cylinder has a magnetic coating that could store 8,192 words of 32-bits each on 256 tracks of 32 words each. The drum rotates at 6,510 RPM. There are 16 read heads and 16 write heads in separate head arrays. The head array can be positioned to 16 track locations.

This was considered a 'second generation' drum memory; first generation drums could be enormous and very heavy, yet their low cost made them a popular choice for mid-range computers in the mid to late 1950s. This drum weighs about 60 pounds. Note the handlebars for lifting. The cylindrical assemblies on top are for positioning the head stacks after the drum comes up to speed.

Courtesy: Computer History Museum

See 'ENGLISH ELECTRIC' D.E.U.C.E.' in "Interesting Web Sites" below

Special features
from Gordon Bell - e-mail March 10, 2003
Subject: RE: EE Deuce & Paper on SODA a one level store and symbolic assembler for Deuce by Brigham and Bell

SODA (symbolic, optimum, deuce assembly program) converted the two stores into a single level store.

Because some of the English machines had small main memories and backing drum stores, they created the one level store. Just like we did in 1957-1958.

Unfortunately, it was done first at Manchester and then appeared in Atlas.

In 1958, when I met Wilkinson at NP (that Deuce came from) to give a talk, he said who needs a symbolic, optimum assembly program -- (in essence) real men program in binary.

SODA was used as the back end for a Fortran compiler that got written for DEUCE.

The runtime and memory manager was used by George, a reverse polish notation system. George was used as a model for the EE KDF9 Architecture.


Historical Notes
from Peter Gregory - Sept 30, 2016
Ed, I just saw your website and thought that you might like to know that we had two DEUCE at Bristol Aircraft Company (later part of BAC) in the late 1950’s. They were bought primarily for trajectory simulation of the Bloodhound surface-to-air guided weapon, and I was responsible for trajectory simulation and so spent many hours in the control room, pushing chads back into punched cards to modify programs and data.

I used DEUCE between 1959 and 1963. Typically, it took 5 minutes for a trajectory simulation, but as Bloodhound2 began development, with 100 mile range, the times grew to almost an hour. In 1963 we gained access to the IBM 7090 in IBM’s London datacenter. The 7090 was about 45 times faster than DEUCE and later, working for IBM we rated the 7090 at about 0.25 MIPS.

I remember that programming was “hairy chested”; the Autocoder was derided, and program development was time-consuming, with constant scaling.

Great days!


Peter Gregory.

This Artifact

Interesting Web Sites

Other information

Peter Docherty (Jan 2007) wrote
Ed, I noted that you had no price for the deuce. In 1956/57 the price was £50,000.

I worked on the DEUCE as an engineer in Marconi House, The Strand, London WC2 from November 1956 until the end of 1961. The DEUCE it was by then in Queen's House, Kingsway. I left there to go on a KDP10 course at Kidsgrove and helped to commission the machine which went to BOLSA (Bank of London and South America) where I became the reaident engineer .

I have one or two circuit diagrams of the DEUCE machine.

Peter Docherty

John Barrett (November 2007) wrote
I was doing one of my irregular trawls of the WWW for Deuce references when I came across Peter Docherty's entry on your site at http://ed-thelen.org/comp-hist/english-electric-deuce.html

Although Peter is listed on my Deuce People page http://users.tpg.com.au/eedeuce/people.html#263 it was only by reference from someone else. I have emailed him and hope to hear from him soon.

The number of Deuce people on my site is now 445, just when I think that is the end another turns up.

David Green, http://users.tpg.com.au/eedeuce/people.html#17 who was a programmer in Kidsgrove , and later at Sydney Uni when I went there to install a KDF9, has added a site of Deuce documents at http://members.iinet.net.au/~dgreen/deuce/deucdocs.html I was able to give him David Leigh's address in UK, who has a mass of Deuce documents, and the two of them spend many happy hours photocopying as much as possible http://users.tpg.com.au/eedeuce/people.html#151

David Green has spent many hours producing a Deuce Emulator and the beta version I have played with is very impressive and brings back memories. The two emulated panels of the Deuce are attached.

Still concerned that when I pop my clogs all this history will be gone. Just don't seem to be able to get through to museums how dependent they are on written historical documents that people reading them can read and recognise. Not the case with floppies CDs etc. I think I've said all this before.

Cheers from Sunny Sydney - John

(click on images to enlarge)

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Updated Sept 2012