How we started

The NAG project began in 1970 as a collaborative venture led by Dr. Brian Ford, OBE, between the Universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Oxford, and the Atlas Computer Laboratory (now part of the Science and Engineering Research Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory). The original aim was to develop a library of numerical and statistical subroutines for use on their ICL 1906A/S machines. Because of the different language emphasis in the centres and the difficulty of mixed-language programming it was decided to develop the library in both Algol 60 and ANSI Fortran. The Mark 1 Library contained 98 user-callable routines and was released on 1st October 1971.

Hear NAG's founder Dr. Brian Ford OBE describe the making of the NAG Mark 1 Library.

Universities with other types of computers became interested in the activity, and various machine-range implementations were initiated from Mark 2 of the Library onwards. Hence, the early aims of NAG could be summarised as follows:

  • to create a balanced, general-purpose library of algorithms which meets the numerical and statistical needs of computer users;
  • to support the library with documentation giving advice on problem identification, algorithm selection, and routine usage;
  • to provide a substantial test suite, including example test programs, for certification of the library; and
  • to implement the Library as widely as user demand required.

In adopting these objectives, NAG committed itself to a long-term program of library contents development with a strong emphasis on documentation, testing and portability. This emphasis has been maintained throughout the subsequent years of NAG's development, and is reflected in the present day range of NAG products. Both the contribution activity and the implementation process were coordinated from Nottingham until August 1973. The central office of the project then moved to Oxford University, and at this point the name of the project changed from "The Nottingham Algorithms Group" to "The Numerical Algorithms Group".