History of Helmsman

Roughly forty years ago, a young man called Chris Whyatt developed some software to shorten the timescales on a project he was running for ICL (now Fujitsu Services) in Stevenage. When the project ended, he was granted ownership of the Intellectual Property (IP). That enabled Chris to develop the IP further and to sell the software to other companies. His business partner was his great friend, David R, and they also had Stuart A and Adrian C on board. In the early days, they decided to port the IP to the ICL TME platform, so they ran a design session for a product that was to become known as WCST (Workflow Control System for TME), an automated scheduler that enabled computers to run unattended (then called 'lights out'). The Return on Investment (ROI) for the customer was primarily focused on a greatly reduced headcount for Computer Operations.

In 1987, their company was taken over by Ultracomp Ltd, and they redeveloped the IP for ICL's VME platform, creating Helmsman.  Adrian C was a primary developer for Helmsman, alongside Richard Q.  Helmsman was initially sold to people moving from TME to VME, ensuring that they were able to continue to run 'lights out'.  It quickly became the dominant product of its type in the ICL VME environment and was incredibly successful for Ultracomp.

Recently Chris was fortunate to spend time with Adrian C and other ex-Ultracompers, and was thrilled to hear that Fox Systems Software (who now own the IP) are STILL licensing the product to ICL VME users, and that it is still running on a number of systems across the country.  As stated on the main Helmsman page, the product has now been verified to run on Fujitsu's Modern VME Environment (MVE), thereby futureproofing it for several more years.

Chris remains rightly proud to have been part of this story, and he's sure that Adrian C, Richard Q, Stuart A (you all know who you are) and all the other ex-Ultracompers involved in developing, validating, selling and supporting it over the last 30+ years are as well.

If you’re interested in reading more of Chris’s thoughts about his early developments of Automated Operations, click here.

Final quote from Chris; "I'd also like to thank David Bell, and the late, great Paul Rappaport and Roy Walker for having the faith and guts to fund the Helmsman development, as well as all the customers who bought it. Bloody fantastic product".


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