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International Computers Limited History

International Computers Limited (ICL) was mainly a manufacturer of mainframe systems for government and large businesses, though from the mid 1980's they did begin to make desktop computers.

ICL was created in 1968 by Tony Benn, Minister of Technology in the Labour Government, as a British computer company to compete with the likes of IBM. ICL was formed by merging International Computers and Tabulators with English Electric Computers, which itself was a merger of Elliot Automation, the computer divisions of English Electric and Marconi, and Lyons Electronic Office.

The ICT part of the merger was selling the ICT 1900 medium sized mainframe, which initially used only 15-bit addresses (so a maximum of 32768 words of memory) but was later upgraded to 22-bit. The ICT 1900 range sold well in the UK during the 1960s and 1970s, as a competitor to the IBM/360.

Meanwhile the EEC part of the merger had the System 4 series which was largely software-compatible with the market-leading IBM/360. This made it popular with countries behind the 'iron curtain' who could not buy American technology.

After the merger ICL produced the 2900 series in 1974, which could emulate the 1900 series and System 4, making it backwards compatible with the previous ranges. About 3000 of the 2900 series were sold, a considerable number for a mainframe computer.

ICL also produced operating systems, the best known being VME, programming languages such as COBOL, Fortran and Pascal, and a variety of applications software for large businesses.

In December 1981 ICL announced a joint venture with Sinclair Research to co-develop a desktop computer/communications device – the One Per Desk.

From the early 1980s ICL began to licence technology from Fujitsu of Japan.
In September 1984 ICL was taken over by Standard Telephones and Cables and ICL soon became the most profitable section of the group.
ICL bought Nokia Data of Finland in 1991 which introduced the high-volume PC end of the market to the company.

Meanwhile Fujitsu began to play an increasing rôle in the running of ICL and eventually took full ownership of the company. In 2002 ICL was renamed Fujitsu Technical Services and the ICL brand name disappeared.

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