The British company Ferranti Ltd, which closed down in 1994 after over 100 years of operation, was an electrical engineering company with a long history of working on government and military contracts. They created several families of computer systems used by the UK research and military establishments, but this connection means that there is little information available on the Web about their work.

The Argus family did not contain general purpose computers: rather, they were desgned to interface to other electronic systems and thereby control them. The original Argus machine was developed in 1958 for military use and was used in the Ground Station (Launch Control Post) for the Bloodhound Mk2 missile system. It later became the world's first process control computer in 1962 when it was installed at ICI to control an ammonia/soda plant. Ferranti went on to develop many models in the Argus family, which became very successful.

In response to the publication of this page, several people have emailed me to relate their experiences with these machines. I can do no better than reproduce their comments here, in their original form.

I have a small number of Argus cards like the one shown on the right: click on the thumbnail images of the front and back of the card to see a larger version of either. The card is brown paxolin and measures seven and 1/2 inches by four and 3/4 inches. It is marked on the circuit side "4 x SINGLE ENTRY FLIP FLOP". It uses eight British military specification transistors CV5878 made by GEC, which are equivalent to GET102, a general-purpose PNP junction type. This suggests that it is simply four D-type flipflops, equivalent to a (relatively) modern 74LS175 chip or CMOS equivalent.

I also have a "TRIPLE ENTRY FLIP-FLOP X2" which has eight Newmarket V10/1S transistors on it, a "GENERAL PURPOSE NOR GATE" with four V10/1S transistors on it, and a double-width "STABILIZER VOLTAGE 10V" with unbranded CV7054 power transistors and various Texas Instruments CV transistors.

If you recognise these cards or can tell me anything about them, or you worked on the Argus, please

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

Argus 600 4K core store Ferranti DTL IC I have recently bought two 4K core stores from the Argus 600 computer, dated about 1971. These are two-board assemblies as shown on the left, where the top board is extensively populated with Ferranti ZN200E series DTL integrated circuits, especially the ZN244E dual 4-input gate, as well as tall coloured unmarked DIL components (shown on the right). The lower board, hidden in the image, is a Plessey core plane, using tiny ferrites, as well as Fairchild FSA2500M IC's in 10-pin flat-packs. These are core-driver diode arrays. This two-card construction is one of the neatest core planes that I have seen, although quite limited in capacity. Oddly, the DIL chips have their pins bent so that they can be soldered to the top side, rather than using a through-hole construction.

I now have information about these boards, thanks to Peter Farr. Click on this link to find out about the coloured blocks, the bent pins, the instruction set, and many other aspects of the Argus series.

Argus 400 core store I also obtained a device that was claimed to be an Argus 400 core store, shown in the image on the right, but which I now know to be a complete Argus 400 machine. It is quite compact and is mounted opened up, on a board labelled "Argus 400 computer", clearly for display purposes. Regrettably, many of the components bear no markings, or have lost them under corrosion, but they can be seen to be 8- or 10- lead integrated circuits in TO-5 type cans - this is the Ferranti Micronor series of logic chips again. The module on the right-hand side of the image bears a stack of closely-spaced planes that are the core-store. Andrew Graham has sent me an image of an identical unit from a book about Ferranti. I have now donated this machine to the UK Computer Conservation Society.