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Data Processing

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0813 POST 113 Series
Held at: British Postal Museum and Archive: The Royal Mail Archive
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Full title: Data Processing
Date(s): 1961-1998
Level of description: Series
Extent: 108 files
Name of creator(s):


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Post Office began to consider the benefits of introducing automatic data processing (ADP) in the 1950s. The first large scale application of a computerised system to Post Office operations was the introduction of the LEAPS system (London Electronic Agency for Pay and Statistics) in 1958. Prior to this, computers had been used in remittance work and postmaster balancing work, as well as in the Post Office Savings Bank.

The LEAPS system was introduced to replace the manual preparation of pay. Two Elliot 405 computers were developed and used for payroll, pensions and statistical work; this meant that the Post Office was now one of the largest users of ADP equipment in the UK.

Gradually, computer applications and ADP systems were proposed and introduced throughout the organisation. In 1961, the Post Office looked at ten areas of Head Post Office work where ADP could be applied. The areas considered were: mail circulation; delivery and collection planning; motor transport scheduling; payroll and staff; postal staff planning and control; cash accounting by counter machine; broadcast receiving licences; postal costing; income and expenditure accounting. A review was undertaken and it was decided to proceed with computer application in all these areas. Eventually, ADP and the use of computer applications and systems were applied to all aspects of postal work.

Several factors had to be considered each time a new proposal for a computer application/system was thought up - the Post Office had to consider whether or not it was profitable to introduce the new system and if there was an urgent need for it, as well as the practicialities of implementation and optimum timing. They also had to think about the effect it would have on the public and on Post Office staff as, inevitably, the introduction of ADP and computer applications meant that fewer staff were needed.

Up until 1969, the Post Office was a government department. Its change of status brought in legislation, namely the Post Office Data Processing Act, 1967 (see related material) which enabled the establishment of the Data Processing Service. The Data Processing Service had two arms - the Post Office Data Processing Service (PODPS) which provided ADP services and support to the Post Office and the National Data Processing Service which worked for external customers.

While the 1960s saw the Post Office considering ways of introducing ADP, the following decades saw the increasing use of computers in Post Office work, particularly in the 1980s with various plans to implement and improve computer systems for data capture and streamlining data processing methods. The counter automation project in the 1980s (which looked at the possibility of introducing a computer system to record cash transactions at local offices) is just one example.

The 1980s also saw the Post Office's Information Technology Department informing people of their work and developing IT strategies; the work resulted in the introduction of several computer systems to assist with the day to day running of the Post Office.

Around 1990 the Information Technology Business of the Post Office became known as 'iT'.


Scope and content/abstract:

This series comprises reports, papers, presentations by postal IT staff, handbooks and user guides relating to the different aspects of data processing in the Post Office. Although automatic data processing (ADP) was first introduced to the Post Office on a large scale with the LEAPS system in 1958, POST 113 focuses on ADP in the Post Office from the 1960s onwards. It charts the process of the introduction and implementation of ADP and computer applications and systems to different areas of postal work in order to capture data, streamline postal operational processes and generally improve the daily running of the Post Office.

Examples of material include: a number of reports from the 1960s on new proposals to implement ADP and several files which provide background to: the planning and control of ADP in the Post Office (POST 113/5), the structure of the Computer Development and Office Services Department (POST 113/10) and details of the different computer hardware already in place by the 1960s (POST 113/11).

This series also contains information on the different computer applications and systems proposed and implemented within the Post Office, such as PIVOT (POST 113/23-POST 113/25) and reviews undertaken by the Post Office and external organisations to suggest improvements to existing systems (for example, POST 113/21). In addition, there are files covering the Mails Circulation Project (POST 113/33 and POST 113/34) and the Counter Automation Project (POST 113/38 and POST 113/40).

Finally, there is information on IT strategies within the Post Office and details of the work of the National Data Processing Service (see POST 113/37 for details on the considerations of data protection and computers).There are also examples of computer handbooks and user guides in POST 113/41, POST 113/42 and POST 113/43.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Material has been arranged into 10 different sub-series: Reports; Plans and Budgets; Planning and Control; Computers: Applications and Systems; Computers: Strategy and Policy; Mail Circulation; Data Processing; Counter Automation; Handbooks and User Guides; and Miscellaneous. The original order was kept to as much as possible.

Conditions governing access:

Public Record

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Allied Materials

Related material:

More information about the LEAPS project can be found in POST 60/342, POST 122/3017 to POST 122/3027 and POST 122/6468 to POST 122/6481.

POST 75/84 - POST 75/89 contains information of ADP in the Post Office Savings Bank.

POST 22/81- 83 and POST 72/573 contains information on the Counter Automation Project.

POST 114/132 contains a copy of the Post Office Data Processing Act, 1967

POST 122/772 contains Automatic Data Processing Papers 1-6, 1957-1959

POST 69 contains board papers and minutes which refer to the National Data Processing Service and data processing.

POST 122/12360 contains information regarding the ADP project and Broadcast Licences

POST 17 contains files to do with the use of computers in mail circulation.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
EAD transfer validated May 2011

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