I've never seen the gist of this story
in print before.
For simply ages we and the Americans (and others) have been pooling
intelligence. Not necessarily all our intelligence as lots of
it has the words "UK EYES ONLY" appended, and no doubt
on the other side of the pond "US EYES ONLY".
Just digressing a little
built a decoder for listening into Morse code transmissions.
It was in the days of the old Beeb computer: a really clever
piece of equipment; not only for playing the usual mindless games,
but for helping with really interesting things like running programs
to decode Morse code.
Anyway, I built the interface unit from
scratch and then wrote a program to decode the results. Not too
easy as there are lots of variables
speed of transmission,
length of dots and dashes, spaces etc etc. Real fun to debug.
When it was finished, and coupled to a short-wave communications
receiver, I managed to read lots of messages, mainly short transmissions
between amateur radio stations. I also copied many encrypted
messages, which of course showed up on the monitor screen as
meaningless groups of letters and numbers. I do however remember
receiving one message carrying the heading "US EMBASSY STAFF
ONLY". It wasn't encrypted so was probably pretty boring
stuff. I recall the contents referring to something that happened
the following day but what it actually was I can't remember.
It might have been that time the US invaded Grenada and the reprobates
pinched all the radar equipment from the new International Airport
being built by Plessey, the company I worked for. I think the
story got mixed up the next day because I believe it was said
the airport was being built by Russians... well it wasn't it
was good old Plessey, an English family-run firm. I wonder what
the US did with all our radar equipment? Probably copied it and
put US names on it I shouldn't wonder.
Back to the story about Crisis Management.
Oh yes that's what I was getting at earlier, "Crisis Management".
The US had this powerful Crisis Management system used by their
"executive", if that's the right description?
A year or two before the last female
UK prime minister left office I read a request for quotation,
issued by a government department, for a Crisis Management System
for the UK. Evidently the US system had been viewed, and reported
on by a visitor: and when the benefits of automated crisis management
had been understood by a certain member of the UK government
she just had to have one.
So it was then that a request for a
tender to supply a UK crisis management system had been prepared
and issued to selected UK firms.
What was fascinating was one of the
terms tagged onto the financial statement.
There was a large bonus for the successful contractor if the
system was to be delivered early.
The terms of the bonus got better as the timescale reduced.
Clearly, the game was given away when one looked at the key date
the system was to be in place
Just in time to give the government in power a huge re-election
Knowledge is power it is said.
The crisis management system is built around knowledge.
Unfortunately delivery was late, very late.
The room near the centre of the system
had been finished in a pretty shade of pink.
One of the first things to be done after handover was to re-decorate
that room. Pink wouldn't do. I've no idea what colour John Major
requested, if indeed he was consulted?
In fact did anyone ever tell him about
the new system?
I won't say what it's called but I bet
Tony Blair knew about it and if Mr.Brown looks hard enough I
believe he might find a secret door leading to an underground
passage leading to the system.
When I wrote the above (when Mr Brown
was in charge), "Project Pindar" wasn't known about
much outside the Cabinet Office. Actually, that's nonsense because
the plebs involved in the project knew everything about it. Back
in the tendering stage I was "Project Manager Designate"
which didn't really mean too much. I remember standing on a stage
in a lecture theatre in London, within the building occupied
by the Cabinet Office, armed with a set of notes corresponding
to vu-foils which I'd managed to produce on a computer.
Plessey was the main contractor and
supporting us we had teams from most of the UKs defence contractors.
Lots of meetings were held to decide on the share of the cake
and how to break the development task into chunks large enough
to satisfy the financial ambitions of the bidding teams. I suppose
the whole setup was destined to raise the overall cost to astronomic
levels compared with what it might have been. Knowledge is power
though and what did politicians know about the technicalities
of computers? Not a lot I guess. One or two had been escorted
around the US version of Pindar and may have been prepared to
let UK Industry boffins blind them with jargon... The project
would elevate the standing of the Minister in charge except,
with Cabinet reshuffles, I'm not sure if any one individual took
credit, and by the time it was handed over with cost and time
over-runs the Minister in charge would have been a little upset.
Now in 2018, a search of the Internet
will turn up photographs of Pindar, but mostly these pictures
tell us nothing, and some of the ideas you'll read are not really
accurate (in fact sheer fantasy). Where did the name come from?
When I asked an MoD chappie, at a briefing for the bid, he pointed
out his office window. On the wall opposite the sign read "Pindar