A Little History
When the Electronics Department was first formed, in 1947, electronics, in almost every sense, was in its infancy. Most staff knew most things about most subjects. As time progressed, the interests of the staff within the Department crystallized naturally around specific areas to form the research groups. One of these groups was the 'Computer Group'. This research group provided computing facilities for the rest of the Department, and started research in Design Automation, or Computer Aided Design as it was then called.
The 'computing resources' shared by the entire department consisted of a single Honeywell 516 machine, which had 32k of core memory and an in-house operating system that could support three users simultaneously.
One of the other original groups in the Department is Microelectronics - the two have collaborated closely since their inception. An early project was the development of one of the first computer-driven IC mask making systems. Tiring of making IC masks by sticking bits of coloured plastic together, a group of staff and students designed and built a computer driven system that directly wrote the IC mask exposure pattern onto a photographic plate. (You could just do that sort of thing in those days.) All the elements of a modern CAD system were there: an input language, editors, and a controlled production system - but the data transfer was all done with paper tape, and you had to be careful not to slam any doors while the system was running or the plate would move.
In the early eighties, the Sensors Group was formed; the primary interest here was in transducers. Recognising that systems are useless unless they interact with their environment, it was natural for the groups to combine: in 1999, the Electronic Systems Design Group was formed around a set of staff and students whose interests lay in the design and construction of complete systems, from the initial collection of scribbled notes on scruffy envelopes, through a complex design path to a finished product.
But some things never change: today, each research student has a
personal machine with over a thousand times more computing resources
than the entire Department enjoyed only thirty years ago. The clock
speed has increased by three orders of magnitude - and programs still
take ten minutes to compile......