2.4 ICT 1900 competitive position   (by Virgilio Pasquali)


At the end of 1963, when the newly merged ICT was in the early phase of development of the 1900 Range, ICT was the number one supplier in the UK (the UK was probably the only major country in the world where IBM was not the dominant supplier). To maintain credibility and market share, ICT had to market, and to keep competitive, a range of 1900 systems equivalent to the IBM 360 range. But the IBM R&D spend at the time was greater than ICT total revenues.


ICT had a technical interchange agreement with RCA, but, having decided to adopt the 1900 range in preference to the IBM compatible RCA Spectra 70, ICT had to develop, market, manufacture and support the complete range from its own resources.


The competition


Many other computer companies were very active in the period 1964-74, some of them being:


Burroughs (B2500, B3500 etc. and B1700, B2700, B3700, 4700, 6700, 7700)

CDC (6400, 6600 and Cyber 72, 73, 74, 76)

DEC (System10)

Honeywell (2000 Series and 6000 Series)

NCR (Century)

Univac (9000/Series 90 and 1100 Series)

RCA (Spectra 70)

GE (400 and 600 Series)


But, though the above systems were monitored and considered when assessing the competitive scenario, “The Competition” was IBM with the IBM 360 Range and, later, the IBM 370 Range.


From a performance point of view, the 1900 range competed well with the lower part of the IBM 360 range and, with the arrival of the 1901, had a lower entry point.

But at the higher part of the Range, the 1900, given parity of hardware technology, could not compete well with the top members of the IBM range when comparing “commercial” performance in single (i.e. not multiprocessing) systems. The need to be in this area of the market with its emerging advanced applications (i.e. Real time transaction processing), prestigious customers and high profitability, provided impetus towards the early development of (anonymous) multiprocessors systems, and it was one of the factors leading to the introduction of the 2900 range in 1974..


ICT1900 and IBM360 in 1966


By 1966 both the IBM 360 and the ICT 1900 were settling down after an initial period of turmoil. The following diagram plots the IBM 360 range and the ICT 1900 range positions in 1966(in terms of single processor performance measured in POWU 2/Sec)



ICL1900 and IBM370 in 1974

Looking at the competitive position in 1974 in terms of data processing performance, ICL (as it had then become), by the application of very advanced and fast MECL10k technology and the necessary packaging and cooling technology, had improved its relative position at the top of the range.

ICL was delivering a range of competitive 1900 systems (the S and T series) using advanced designs with "state of the art" technology.


Besides maintaining the range competitive, in 1974 ICL had introduced the 2903 ( a new 1900 compatible system) below the bottom of the 1900 range, competing with the IBM System 3. ICL development teams were also well advanced in the development of the three top models of the New Range (ICL2900 Range).



The following chart maps the span of the two ranges (ICT/ICL 1900 and IBM 360/370) in 1966, at the beginning, and in 1974, towards the end of the 1900 as a full range.

It shows that, despite great disparity of resources, by 1974 ICL had actually increased the span of its 1900 range, at least in terms of processor performance.

The ICT (and ICL) engineers adopted successfully a “technology intercept” policy by working very closely with IC’s manufactures and other innovative suppliers to take into account technologies under development and adopt them early.