BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (formerly British Computing Society) , is committed to making IT good for society. BCS uses the power of our network to bring about positive, tangible change. It does this by championing the global IT profession and the interests of individuals, engaged in that profession, for the benefit of all.
This desire to make IT good for everyone – the public and IT practitioners alike – can be traced right back to BCS’s formation in the 1950s. It was formalised in the Society’s Royal Charter, granted to BCS in 1984, and this desire to make IT a force for good remains the core purpose of BCS today.
Back in the 1950s computers were, by today’s standards, unrecognisable. Machines were hulking, formidably expensive and notoriously unreliable. Computers were also rare as the computing industry itself made a slow and ponderous start. There were, at the time, fewer than 10 commercially manufactured computers running in the UK.
As the decade progressed, however, systems like the home-grown Leo, the Ferranti Mark 1 and the IBM 650 – the first non-British computer installed in the UK – showed computers had promise. Excitement and fascination began to grow.
Study of these new machines, their capabilities and their possibilities was initially unstructured. Engineering and accountancy bodies, for example, formed interest groups and universities offered computing summer schools. In 1955 the study of computing took a step forward with the formation of the London Computer Group (LCG).
In 1956, the British Computer Society was formed when the LCG merged with other interested associations and groups. A year later, BCS was incorporated, by Articles of Association, as the British Computer Society Ltd. As 1957 progressed, and BCS took shape, the now familiar local and specialist group structure was formed. The decade closed with BCS’s first conference being oversubscribed.
Speaking about the time, Professor Sir Maurice V. Wilkes – a founding BCS member and its first president said: ‘We were all young people in a young field.’
People of note:
The 1960s began with the Russians putting the first man in space and ended with Concorde taking flight. During that time the fledgling computing industry grew both technically and structurally.
BCS itself saw its membership double to 2,000 by 1960. By 1965, this number had grown to 5,000. In 1966, BCS was granted charitable status. This growth in BCS’s membership paralleled the computing industry’s advancement and development. The decade saw, for example, huge leaps forward like magnetic tape begin to take over from punched cards.
The decade closed with BCS instigating a new membership structure, professional exams and saw its membership hit 18,000.
In March 1968, BCS Professor President, Stanley Gill said: ‘The BCS is 10 years old. In view of our youth and enthusiasm it is easy to forget that we are a national force’.
People of note:
The 1970s saw the evolution of computing from a hardware industry toward a software and services business – fuelled by technology advances which brought in the microprocessor, random-access mass data storage and online systems.
The BCS’s new professional membership structure, and the responsibilities that went with it, further increased the society’s duties and its standing. All this was underscored by an accelerated take-up of computing which, as a side effect, raised issues far beyond technology.
In 1970, BCS received its Armorial Bearings from HM College of Arms, including its shield and crest. A decision to include core memory in the Arms shows how quickly technology become obsolete as the micro-computing revolution and integrated circuits was about to take off.
A year later BCS launched its code of conduct and in 1972, its code of practice. By the middle of the seventies, BCS saw membership top 22,000 members and in 1976, HRH the Duke of Kent became a patron.
People of note:
In the 1980s the business PC arrived to challenge the established central processing architecture and cause market disruption. The UK government named the BCS’s silver jubilee year of 1982 as IT Year, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came to lunch with the Society and His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent became President of BCS. Elsewhere BCS was awarded a royal charter in 1984 and became part of the Engineering Council.
As the decade progressed, the BCS Young Professionals Group was launched. Other notable events were the formation of the first overseas section in Hong Kong and the BCS’s HQ move from London to Swindon. The decade closed with BCS membership hitting 30,000.
People of note:
Both the very old and the very new dominated much of the 1990s for the IT industry, users and the BCS. The internet and the web emerged from there US military and European physics beginnings respectively to change the world of both IT and business.
The Society’s heritage and position as the professional body for IT specialists gave it the authority to lead work on the year 2000 system problem. The BCS also became one of the first professional bodies to launch Internet and web services, both to maintain its role as a source of information and to enhance communication with, and between, its members.
In 1996, The Engineering Council licenced BCS to award Chartered Engineer status (CEng) and in 1998, BCS launched the European computer driving licence. A year later the Society released SFIA – the Skills Framework for the Information Age.
People of note:
The 21st century had already seen a faster rate of progress in technology and, perhaps more significantly, in its application than any of the previous five decades. In such times the need for a progressive – yet stable – professional body was reflected in massive growth in BCS membership and in the Society’s service.
The new millennium opened with membership reaching 30,000. During the same year, Maurice Wilkes, BCS’s founding president was knighted.
Early in the millennium Mauritius became the site for BCS’s first regional office. Closer to home, the Society sponsored the Scouts’ computer badge. In all, 20,000 achieved the accolade in the award’s first month of existence. Elsewhere, BCSWomen was founded by Dr Sue Black OBE.
2003 saw an EGM to discuss changes to the BCS charter and bye-laws. Ninety seven percent of eligible members voted in favour of change and the outcomes were approved by the Privy Council.
In 2004, The Science Council licensed BCS to award Chartered Scientist status (CSci). Charter and bye-law changes were enacted heralding the creation of Chartered IT Professional status (CITP). In the same year, the European Computer Driving License registered its millionth UK candidate.
In 2007, BCS celebrated its 50th anniversary. The Society grew to more than 50,000 members, 40 UK branches and 15 international sections.
Two years later – in 2009 – BCS underwent a transformation to become BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and adopting a new corporate branding. BCS was adapting to the changing world stage of IT and improving what it offered its members.
The new decade heralded a wave of challenges, changes and opportunities. Among all the devices released around that time, the most important was probably the iPad. Suddenly a whole new world of touch-enabled possibilities erupted. Further developments in mobile tech – such as the Retina display – saw ever higher resolution displays head toward our mobiles and tablets. And while mobile devices became better looking chip makers focused on making phones and tablets more powerful and efficient.
Everybody was suddenly, tapping, sweeping, reading, watching and sharing – on their handheld devices. Enabling all this portable power was, of course, the continuing shift toward cloud computing. The age of the mobile internet was truly upon us, along with all its benefits and pitfalls.
Its against this backdrop that BCS began focusing more audibly on ‘making IT good for society’. The drive saw the institute take on four core challenges: Capability, personal data, education and healthcare. In each area we aimed to have conversations with members and with the public and use these inputs to feed into policy.
In 2016 BCS began focusing its experience on digital health and social care and explored professionalisation of informatics. This led to the formation of the Federation of Informatics Professionals, of which BCS was a founding member.
2017 saw BCS celebrate its 60th anniversary. Under the presidency of Paul Martynenko, the Institute celebrated its past while underlining its relevancy and its on-going determination to make IT good for society.
Carrying this spirit forward in to 2018 and beyond, President Chris Rees announced a focus on ethics in IT and ensuring that products and services help us all. This includes new products using emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain, big data and VR. The key to ensuring inclusive products is diverse development teams and, to this end, BCS continues to campaign and champion LGBTQ+ representation across the whole industry.
People of note: