Stern Hall

Memories from the Stern Hall Computer Science Lab

Faces and Names
Unix Manuals
Text Terminal
em and ded
  Text Editors
Links and Stuff

Did you visit the Computer Science Lab in Stern Hall at QMC in London in the 1970s or 1980s? Did you work there, play there, were you a student there? Stern Hall is still there, but as a lecture room; Queen Mary College (QMC) is now named Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

This is not a history and certainly not complete. It's just my recollections from 1973 to 1981.   Below is a summary, but you can click on any topic in the righthand contents box.

You can click on any image to view it full size. You can use your browser (control–P) to print out any page (A4 or US Letter in portrait mode); advertising and most of the navigation text will not be printed. A “page setup” may be necessary – setting the margins smaller/larger (top and bottom), blanking off header and footer titles, and possibly ticking “shrink to fit page” or setting the “scale”.


This is an old photo album page.

QMC Stern Hall Faces 1970s  1

Unix Manuals

The Computer Science Lab in Stern Hall at QMC was the first UK Unix site, see em and Unix. Several editions of the Unix Manual were printed from 1975 onwards. The first ones had yellow covers and later pale blue.

The Lab was fairly bohemian with bean bags, low coffee tables (hacksaw job on the legs) and a coffee pot always on the go (no, no web cam). Richard Bornat always left his copy of the CACM on one of the tables. There were always round coffee stains everywhere. This gave the inspiration for the finger painting on the covers of the Unix Manuals.

QMC Unix Manual 2 QMC Unix Manual 1


The hardware that we used played a big part of our work, especially the maintenance, whether scheduled or otherwise. Reliability (or rather lack of it) was big in the 1970s.

In the beginning, at the end of 1973 I think, in Stern Hall were the Interdata Model 4 which had been in the Maths Building and ten or so HP programmable calculators. The Model 4 with Teletype, Imlac and Logabax printer sat on false flooring and was used for research and post-graduate work. The HP calculators were expensive, small and bolted to tables to stop them walking; they were used for first-year teaching.

Text Terminal

The QMC Text Terminal was the best project that I worked on during my time at QMC, probably because so many people people worked on the project and because of the many spin-offs.

A new text-handling display system (the QMC text terminal) is described. Its main features are the ability to subdivide the screen into pages and a colour display. In this way, the user is able to consult a number of pages at one time, extract them, update them and file them. This represents a step towards the ‘electronic desk’. Abstract from QMC Text Terminal.

QMC Text Terminal 1 1978 QMC Text Terminal 5 1978 QMC Text Terminal 2 1978 QMC Text Terminal 3 1978
QMC Text Terminal 4 1978

These pictures were taken by Mik Lamming in 1978; I think that I have the originals. Note the various input devices: keyboard, joystick, mouse, extra keypad and cigarette lighter.   You can click on any image to view it full size.

em and ded Text Editors

The first standard Unix text editor that we used was ed which was based on QED. William Newman had already written a version of QED for our older Interdata/MIFS computer systems, see also An incomplete history of the QED Text Editor.

The two new text editors created at QMC were em and ded. The vi editor, partially derived from em, came later from UC Berkeley.

Links and Stuff

Stern Hall group at LinkedIn
New People's Palace
QMUL at Wikipedia
Who am I?
em and Unix
The life and times of ded, text display editor   PDF
QMC Text Terminal
Mik and Mouse
Distributed Computing Systems Projects: London, Queen Mary College 1984
William Newman obituary
tree meta
Sales Brochure for the Interdata Model 4   PDF
This is a very important scientific paper   PDF

Undergrad – It says here that on error the top bit of register zero is set.
What's it set to?

Nuclear reactor – From 1964 until 1982 QMC maintained a nuclear reactor, the first to be built for a UK university, initially sited beneath the Mile End Road... Read more at QMUL at Wikipedia.

Bad experience – It was a scream that you did not want to hear again in your life; outside on the Mile End Road a woman made her last sound.

Grandfather – My paternal grandfather Albert lived as a child with nine brothers and sisters in Shoreditch or Bethnal Green. He took an engineering course at the nearby Mechanics Institute at the People's Palace in the Mile End Road. He did not finish, he joined the army at the start of World War I in 1914, in which he lost an eye. He was a sergeant in the Army Service Corps Regiment.

This page is temporarily hosted at (thanks Mikey).


Memories from
the Stern Hall
Computer Science Lab