Eric Sunderland Papers

  • Reference
      GB 133 ESF
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      0.5 li.m. 65 items
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

The main emphasis of the material in Eric Sunderland’s collection is the hardware and software for the Manchester Atlas, 1962- 1971. The collection also contains material on the architecture of the MU5 computer system, 1968 -1978.

The collection is diverse in content, but is valuable for providing the perspective of a computer engineer concerned with the daily working of the Atlas computer. It includes information on the development of the working procedures and the testing and monitoring of the computer, as well as more personal material concerning Sunderland's use of the computer to produce compuetrised music.

Former reference: S1-4.

Administrative / Biographical History

Eric Sunderland was born in 1943 in Burnley, graduated from the University of Manchester with a Physics degree in 1963 and joined Ferranti West Gorton the same year. He trained on the job as an Atlas Maintenance Engineer and remained with the company until 1973 when he became a Senior Experimental Officer in the University of Manchester's Department of Computer Science - a role he fulfilled until his retirement in December 1993.

Eric was an outstanding Atlas engineer, taking over in 1965 from Frank Sumner as the local expert on the interface between Supervisor and hardware. In early 1967, he was transferred from being an engineer’s shift leader to providing Supervisor support, thus being responsible for analysing Supervisor post mortems for periods when members of the Ferranti Supervisor team such as David Howarth and Mike Wyld were not able to remain on site. This led naturally to an involvement with Atlas performance analysis and the gathering of data that contributed to the design of Atlas’s successor, MU5. As part of this research Eric obtained an M.Sc. in 1970, the title of his thesis being "Automatic Program Tracing".


There was no given order to the collection. Roughly chronological in order.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader. The material retained at the School of Computer Sciences is currently inaccessible to public inspection.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Other Finding Aids


Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Includes computer paper tape. The Library does not have the means of making this type of tape accessible.

Archivist's Note

The catalogue closely follows the list compiled by Professor Lavington in early 2016.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The papers were transferred by Eric Sunderland to Professor Simon Lavington in December 2015. Professor Lavington then compiled a description and inventory of the collection, before transferring the collection to the permanent custody of the Library in March 2016.


None expected, although some parts of the collection remain at the University's School of Computer Sciences until they are transferred to the Library.

Related Material

See also the related History of Computing Collection archives of Department of Computer Science and Ferranti

Geographical Names