Moving Targets

Elliott-Automation and the Dawn of the Computer Age in Britain, 1947 – 67

by Simon Lavington

Series: History of Computing

Moving Targets charts the gradual take-up of Information Technology in Britain, as seen through the eyes of one innovative company – Elliott-Automation – and remembered by those who worked for that company. The story touches on the strategic, technical and economic history of the 1950s and 1960s, through such themes as: secret computers built for the Admiralty and for GCHQ at Elliott’s Borehamwood Laboratories; the changing balance between analogue and digital techniques; the challenges of commercial data processing and the marketing arrangement between Elliott and NCR; the introduction of low-cost, reliable computers and their application to industrial control and to avionics; the growing importance of software and the Elliott Algol compiler; and the market rivalry between the Elliotts and other British computer manufacturers such as English Electric and Ferranti Ltd.

Simon Lavington, M.Sc., Ph.D., FIEE, FBCS, is emeritus professor of Computer Science at the University of Essex and the author of many publications. He retired in 2002 and is a committee member of the BCS Computer Conservation Society.


  • Springer London; May 2011
  • ISBN: 9781848829336
  • Read online, or download in DRM-free PDF (digitally watermarked) format
  • Title: Moving Targets
  • Series: History of Computing
  • Author: Simon Lavington
  • Imprint: Springer

In The Press

From the reviews:

“Moving Targets details the history of Elliott Brothers in 1947 through to the last vestige of those families of Elliott’s computers in GEC Computers in the 1990s. The title of the book Moving Targets is surely a reference to the recurring technical and marketing themes described by the book. … there is no doubt that the whole book is exceptionally well researched to a superb accuracy. … the book contains many interesting pictures.” (Roger Newey, Resurrection - The Bulletin of the Computer Conservation Society, Issue 55, Summer, 2011)

“This book focuses on making the history of computing more accessible to a wider audience by linking it to broader historical changes. … The text’s excellent tables, charts, and photos enhance the discussion of technological, economic, and political change. … the author is to be congratulated for a highly readable, wide-ranging account that shows the virtue of broad-based histories of computing that do not take the limits of a specific industry or field of applications as their own.” (Marie Hicks, Technology and Culture, Vol. 53, July, 2012)

“In his latest book, Lavington scrutinizes the extensive work carried out by the employees of this company, and, thanks to his extensive efforts … . The book comprises 14 chapters and 11 appendices. … It is supported by extensive references, cited at the end of each chapter. … this erudite book should appeal to a wide readership, and Lavington should be highly commended for the sterling work that he has carried out in its preparation.” (Barry Blundell, ACM Computing Reviews, November, 2011)