80s computerHave a look at these excerpts from a Land Registry computer appreciation course from around 1983 – you could see this as the very beginnings of our Digital Service Delivery programme!

Getting used to different technologies is nothing new for our people and we’ve come a long way since the early days of computerisation.

We were already being asked to think about how we used computers in our everyday life in 1983

“We live in an age of computers and cannot fail to be aware of them whether used to produce our bank statements, calculate wages and salaries, guide astronauts in space, aid the design of ships, buildings or bridges, or any of the many uses to which they are put. Our lives each day are affected by the computers around us. Computers are among the most useful tools ever invented by mankind.”

In 1983 Land Registry owned 2 IBM computers 

“The Land Registry owns an IBM 4341 computer which currently is used primarily for the work of the Land Charges Department. The introduction of the “Mechanised Day List” (MDL) in the Plymouth DLR in November 1980, on the second of the two IBM computers can to some extent be regarded as the initial experimental phase, enabling quite advanced techniques and data handling to be tested.”

Computerisation soon brought efficiencies for Land Registry

“The computerised system offers a far quicker and more efficient service to solicitors. In its first full year of operation (1975-76) it brought the Land Charges Department into surplus for the first time in fifteen years, and a surplus of £1,300,000 was recorded in 1978-79. These surpluses largely reflect the economies resulting from the operation of the computerised system.”

The early days of computerisation were still pretty labour intensive

“On 28 November 1977 a new computer based index of proprietors’ names (Index ’77) came into operation. A Data Processor at the DLR prepares punched cards of the proprietors’ names and, after being checked by compare/dispatchers, the cards are sent to Plymouth for adding to the ’77 Index. On 30 June 1981 the index contained – 10.67 million records of proprietors (5.83 million title records).”

The very earliest stages of Land Registry’s Digital Service Delivery…

“At the end of 1976 and the HMLR Steering Committee accepted its principal conclusions that ‘computerisation in this field was viable and offered potentially considerable practical and economic benefits.’”

…and Customer Strategy.

“Whilst few of the early developments of computerisation are likely to affect the public directly, it may be possible under the proposed new system to achieve some improvements in our service even in the first phase. In devising and implementing these various steps in computerisation, due regard must be paid not only to the cost benefits of the new system but also to their practical impact on the public and on the legal profession.”

Imagine barcodes being a new idea!

“In March 1983 a further enhancement was put into operation to help determine the benefits of computerisation in locations work. This involves attaching small hand-held scanning devices to VDU terminals which can read magnetic labels attached to case bags. In this way it is possible to keep a computer record which tracks the movement of case bags around the office. This system has similarities to magnetic stripe systems which are often seen working today in supermarkets, stores and public libraries etc.”

A room full of technology then will fit in your pocket now – how things have moved on in 30 years.

“A District Land Registry computer will comprise a number of linked devices including the CPU, disk storage, magnetic tape drives, and certain printers, which will be sited together in one room.”

Over time this brave new world has become part of Land Registry’s history – time to build a new future!

“Because any computer record can be called up at a screen via the title number, and/or printed, it will be unnecessary once computerisation is started to store registers in the same way as the ‘blue cards’ are held in filing cabinets today. For the purpose of any office copy, or official search enquiry, it will be possible to display or print the computerised record by use of the appropriate title number. The future register will therefore be computer stored.”

Louise Howe
By Louise Howe,
Digital Service Delivery communications at HM Land Registry