Computel Systems Ltd Archive

Dublin Core


Computel Systems Ltd Archive



An archive of documents recording corporate activities of Computel Systems Ltd. — one of the earliest Canadian computer services companies.


The first commercially manufactured computers appeared in 1951. By the mid-1960s, the computer industry was well established and the broad benefits of computing to large and medium-sized organizations were  well understood. In the 2nd half of the 1960s,  an organization had two options to satisfy its computational needs.  It could create its own data processing center by purchasing the necessary equipment and hiring a team of computer professionals to operate the center. Alternatively, it could use  computers owned and operated by an outside computer service bureau — a vendor of computer power and skills. While the former option was available to all but a few richest organizations, the latter solution offered even mid-sized companies access to state-of-the-art computing infrastructure. Around that time computer services  became one of the fastest growing computer-based industries (it was growing at the rate of, approximately, 25% annually).

Although some computing services were offered in Canada as early as 1950s (the University of Toronto Computation Canter opened in 1952; KCS Data Control of Toronto started its operations in 1955), the real boom in the Canadian computer services industry begun in 1967 with the creation of Computel Services Ltd., later renamed as Computel Systems Ltd. 

Computel was co-founded in Ottawa by  Warren Beamish and Robert Horwood. Incorporated in 1967, Computel was the first Canadian company to offer remote computer services using termionals connected to a centralized computer network. Using such terminals located in Computel's branch offices or on clients' premises, users could submit their data processing jobs, access a comprehensive library of applications, or develop and execute their own programs using  programming tools provided by Computel. Later, the company expanded its services by offering technical advice, programming assistance, data and program conversion as well as research and problem solving. Taken together, these offerings reflected Computel's philosophy of total service.

Computel inaugurated its services in early February 1968.  Terminals in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto communicated over phone lines with the company's Univac 1108 computer that offered 6  connections with remote terminals. Soon after, another Univac 1108 was installed in Toronto and an IBM 360 model 65 in Ottawa. The list of the first Computel's clients included the  Bank of Canada, Canadian National Railways, Defence Research Board, Departments of Agriculture, Finance, and Transport as well as  Dominion Bureau of Statistics,  National Energy Board, National Research Council,  Ontario Hydro, Unemployment Insurance Commission, and Whirlpool Corp. Computel viewed computing as commodity and purchasing computer power as utility. This was reflected in naming its offices as Computer Utility Centers.

By mid 1970s, the company grew into one of Canada's largest and most successful computer-based service companies offering its business throughout North America with its utility centers across Canada (Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Victoria) and the United States (Los Angeles, Miami, Mountain View, Santa Clara).

The documents in the archive have been donated by Robert Horwood (Computel's co-founder and former president) and Gordon Gow (Computel's former director of marketing).

Corporate Documents
  • Computel Systems, Ltd., board of directors meetings, agendas, minutes, reports (1967-1968) [C13]
  • Computel Systems Ltd., Board  File (January 1973) [C02]; includes:
    • Minutes of the Meeting held November 27, 1972
    • Minutes of the Meeting held December 6, 1972
    • President's Report
    • Comptroller's Report
    • Quarterly Report
    • Resolution for Insurance of Shares to SAI
    • Westwood Data Center
  • Computel Systems Ltd., Interim, Quarterly and Annual Reports (1968-1980) [C02]
  • Computel Systems Ltd., Prospectus of Industrial Company (February 5, July 10, and September 3, 1968) [C02]
  • Computel Systems Ltd., A Corporate Profile (June, 1973) [C05]
  • Computel Systems Ltd., minutes of the Directors (February 1, October 19, November 8, December 19 (1967); February 6, March 21 (1968)) [C06]
  • A file of documents on Computel's corporate infrastructure and client base (undated, unsigned) [C10]
  • A file of documents prepared for Computel shareholders including: notices of meetings, financial statements and reports (1968-1972 ) [C14]
  • Computel Systems Ltd., company overview, 8 pages (December 3, 1969) [C10-B]
Promotional Documents
  • Computel, Computel Systems Ltd. (197?) [C04]
  • Computel Systems Ltd. promotional brochure (includes: Introduction,  Services, Advantages,  Computer Systems, Software, and Terminals sections) (197?) [C04]
  • Computel The Best promotional brochure (197?) [C04]
  • Computel: The computer problem-solvers (English and French versions, 1970?) [C04-B]
  • Computel Computer Systems, promotional brochure (undated) [C04-B]
  • Computel Keyboard Services, promotional brochure (undated) [C04-C]
  • Who says You can't use the IBM 370/165 right now?, promotional brochure (undated) [C04-B]
  • Facts About Computel, promotional brochure (undated) [C04-B]
  • Briefly, Computel Systems Ltd., promotional brochure (undated, c1974) [C04-B]
  • TRASS Heat Transfer Analysis with Fluid Options, software promo (undated) [C04-C]
  • Electronic Circuit Analysis-ECAP, software promo (undated) [C04-C]
  • High Speed Computel Terminals, promotional brochure (undated) [C04-B]
  • Computel Systems Ltd... a service facility selling large scale computer time over telephone lines, promotional brochure (undated, c1968) [C04-B]
  • Computel, Computing by Telephone, promotional brochure (1968) [C04-B]
  • Computel's Utility Network (1page, undated) [C04-B]
  • Computel's St. Laurent Utility Center (1page, undated) [C04-B]
  • Computel's Laurier Utility Center (1page, undated) [C04-B]
  • Computel's Toronto Utility Center (1page, undated) [C04-B]
Computel newsletters
  • Computalk, vol. 1, no. 1 (March 1970); vol. 1/2 (August 1977); vol. 1/3 (December 1977) [C08]
  • Computel output, C For issues (undated) [C08]

Other Documents and Publications
  • A new industry's wild ride, Business Week (May 24, 1969) [C03]
  • H.H. Moore and R.G. Murray, Computel as a Service Bureau, A Brief Study on the Present and Future (April 5, 1976) [C03]
  • The Computation Industry and Computel Systems, Ltd., Jones Heward (March 1969) [C03]
  • Computel Users Reference Manual, Computel Systems Ltd. (October, 1967) [C07]
  • Canadian Computer Service Industry, unsigned and undated (1970?)  study [C09]
  • J. Horwood, The First Decade, Computel Systems Ltd. (1978) [C11]
  • A file of documents concerning Access Banking Network Inc., and its involvement in the development of ATM network in Canada (1980s) [C12]
  • J.L. Sorensen, A Solution to the Small Company's EDP Dilemma..., Computel reprint from the Journal of Data Management (April 1969)  [C09]
  • Computer Utility Industry, Mitchell, Hutchins & Co (November 1968) [C09]
  • The Canadian Computer Based Industry, Wisener and Partners (December 1969) [C09]
  • A Fast Talk in Computer Talk, Computel Systems Ltd., 3 pages (undated) [C03-B]
  • Computel Rates; Initial Contract Incentive Plan, 2 pages (undated) [C03-B]
  • Unlimited Opportunity for Women in the Computer Industry,  Computel Systems Ltd., 3 pages (undated) [C03-B]
  • High Speed Remote Terminal; Your Low Cost Answer to Unlimited Computing Power, 7 pages (October 1, 1969) [C03-B]
  • Stock Broker Package Using Computel Systems Ltd. Computer Utility, 7 pages (1968?) [C03-C]
  • Simulation, 2 pages (September 23, 1969) [C03-C]
  • Linear Programming, 1 page (September 23, 1969) [C03-C]
  • Media release (February 14, 1969) [C03-B]
  • Clippings of newspaper and magazine articles (1968-1986) [C1968-C1976, C1980s]
  • A collection of UNIVAC 1108 manuals (1966-68) [UNIVAC Collection]


Robert Horwood and Gordon Gow



Collection Items

Computel Systems Ltd., scans of images
An image of the Ottawa office of Computel Systems Ltd.
View item