Work History

Peter Clout, Life Fellow of the IEEE – Standing for Division IV Director-Elect 2022.

Asking for your vote – but before I do that, I think that it is important that you know a little more about me!

Work History in: university, national laboratory, international laboratory, industry and in entrepreneurship.

  • Before college I worked as a computer programmer for English Electric in London.
    • The Deuce computer was a development of Turing’s Ace computer and pilot Ace computer. Deuce had over 1,400 tubes and consumed about 9KW of power. The main memory was acoustic, mercury delay lines, so that time was a consideration in placing instructions in memory. It was a three-address instruction computer, source, destination, and next instruction. The serial bit-rate was 1MHz so the maximum instruction rate was 16Kops/sec. The fun part was that I was programming in raw binary and punching out the actual instructions on the cards to load in. One ran the computer oneself and there was a technician on hand in case a tube was going out of specification and needed replacing. A personal computer with a dedicated support technician!
  • Studied physics at University College, London (BSc (Sp.)) and then at the new University of York, UK (DPhil).
    • Back then the UCL physics department managed to make an exciting subject dull and uninspiring. On the other hand, joining a brand-new physics department as a PhD student at the then new University of York was exciting and inspirational. At UCL I only knew my fellow students in the physics class while at York I got to know all the faculty by first name and also the senior administrators and vice-chancellor of the university.
  • Research Fellow at the University of York Department of Physics, UK.
    • After six years of being away from computers, I had the job of developing a system to collect data from three experiments using a 16-bit computer from a UK company, Digico Ltd. There were no Input/Output (IO) boards available, just a socket on the back of the computer that one could plug in a cable to connect to IO electronics. These electronics I developed and installed for timed counters, digital IO and analog IO using diode-transistor integrated circuit logic at the gate and flip-flop level, development boards from Digico, and wire-wrap connections between logic board connectors. All very basic.
    • Programming again was with the bare computer but this time there was an assembler available. The problem was that the experiments ran for days at a time and so there had to be a way to compile and test programs at the same time. A small modification to the computer made this possible so that the data acquisition code ran in the second (optional) 4k-word memory while the lower memory was available normally. I had created a simple virtual computer without knowing what a virtual computer was. This way, while experiments were being operated and collecting data, the assembler could be run and programs loaded and tested. I also developed a simple file system for the magnetic drum for experimental data.
  • Senior Scientific Officer, Daresbury Laboratory, UK.
    • I joined a group that provided data acquisition support for high-energy physics and synchrotron radiation-based experiments. While at York I worked alone building the computer system, at Daresbury I was in a significant data acquisition group of about 12 people. Much of the work was working on standards for CAMAC in collaboration with the NIM committee in the USA and the ESONE organization in Europe. I also organized promotional exhibits for CAMAC at conferences and commercial exhibitions as well as supporting the UK CAMAC Association and the European CAMAC Association.
    • The CAMAC standardization work brought me into contact with the IEEE and the Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society (NPSS) in particular. Much CAMAC work was reported and discussed at the Nuclear Sciences Symposium.
  • Senior Scientist, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Hamburg, Germany.
    • EMBL, based in Heidelberg, Germany, had an outstation in Hamburg which was at the DESY High-Energy Physics Laboratory. This exploited the synchrotron radiation from the electron storage rings DESY ran for high energy physics experiments. The EMBL Outstation needed a significant data acquisition upgrade and this I provided with the first version taking about a year. It was a 3-year contract and I chose to move on after the contract was over for personal reasons.
  • Staff Member, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, USA.
    • I joined a group that was building beam lines and a storage/accumulation ring for 800 MeV H and protons from the LAMPF linear accelerator. The intense extracted pulse of protons from the storage ring then was sent to a target to generate a flash of neutrons for the assembled experiments. A 5-year and $40M (1982 dollars) project was delivered on time and the control system was under budget at 8% of the project. My job was to staff up the controls group and provide the input/output hardware and software along with the cabling, console and other items needed. Overall over 2,000 pairs of wires connected into the computers. The next projects were for the Strategic Defense Initiative. The first one was completed and successful. The experiment was fielded at Argonne National Laboratory as they had the beam source available that the experiment needed. This was perhaps the first time that an experiment could be and was run remotely as we had the same access to the experiment in Los Alamos as we had at Argonne Lab through a dedicated network connection. The second experiment was a complete, ground-based system with a much larger staffing. This was still in the development stage when I left Los Alamos National Laboratory for my next adventure and challenge.
  • Vista Control Systems, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA.
    • A small group of us licensed the software that we had developed and formed the company to further develop, sell and support the software we had developed for the Los Alamos Lab projects. The software has a logical internal architecture and exploits all the current computer software and graphic features. In addition, it can be deployed on several different computer and operating system combinations and two different graphic windowing systems. All can be interconnected and work together on the one network. We sold to industry, research, government, utilities and others.
    • The company had a very significant impact by collecting a broad reach of data at a rate that matched the rate things changed on the plant. Access to data that the plant engineers had not seen before allowed them to understand the issues that had caused plant shutdowns and better see problems developing and schedule maintenance rather than keep running and suffer a plant crash (which I have been told can each cost many millions of dollars). Thus $M were saved, pollution reduced, better product was made with greater efficiency.

The opinions expressed on this website are the opinions of the author and not necessarily the opinions of the IEEE.

“So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”

Norton Juster