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Examines TOPS, British Rail's system for the computerised monitoring of freight wagons
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: TM221, The digital computer
Item code: TM221; 10
First transmission date: 13-09-1975
Published: 1975
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:30
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Producer: Andrew Millington
Contributors: Robert Arnott; Richard Maddison
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Central computer; Computer monitoring; Hardware/software; Minicomputer terminal; Off-line work; Punched cards; Rail freight wagons
Footage description: Opening shot of goods trains in a siding. In voiceover Richard Maddison briefly describes British Rail's system for the computerised monitoring of freight wagons - TOPS (Total Operations Processing System). In interview Robert Arnott, the TOPS Project Manager, explains why British Rail needed TOPS. Shots of freight sidings. Maddison explains the aims of TOPS. Map of the national distribution of minicomputer terminals which comprise TOPS. Maddison describes the system of punched cards which are used to control freight wagons. Various shots of wagons and of staff in area freight offices operating TOPS via local minicomputer terminals. Arnott explains how TOPS can control the status and location of all British Rail's freight wagons from the central computer. Shots of the central computer at Blandford House, London. The disc files are seen stored, and an animated diagram is used by Maddison to explain the function of the four main files. He explains how the equipment in area offices is operated. This is seen on film. Shots of freight train. Maddison uses a scale model to explain how various freight wagons would be moved into Willesden from different locations before being assembled together and moved to Dover. In detail he shows the relevant TOPS procedures for these freight operations. Still using the scale model, he demonstrates the use of cards to control and record the complicated manoeuvres of the goods wagons, and eventually to compile train lists. The latter are a record of trunk freight trains. Maddison explains how the minicomputer is used. He shows us the hardware components of the computer. Film of the minicomputer being used at Willesden area office to perform in reality the operation demonstrated earlier with the scale model. Maddison provides the commentary in voice-over. He explains how train lists are compiled from clerical and computer routine procedures, and how this information is fed into the central computer. In interview Arnott lists the advantages of these particular minicomputer terminals, including speed in bits per second. Maddison reveals the inside of the on line terminal, pointing out its features. Maddison describes the software, which is held on cassettes. Shot of the assembly level language listings. He demonstrates the facilities of the programs, whose action is monitored on a visual display unit. Effects of the Willesden information, input to the card reader seen on VDU screen. Over shots of an area freight office Maddison explains how off-line facilities are operated. He shows the qualities of peripherals, especially VDU terminal and the card reader-puncher. He briefly describes how peripherals are programmed.
Master spool number: 6HT/71854
Production number: OU411
Videofinder number: 1468
Available to public: no