Days of cyber policing with a colossal computer

Retired sub inspector of police Surendran Nair.

Retired sub inspector of police Surendran Nair.  

Cop, part of first team of computer cell, remembers digitisation drive

When his grandchildren once went to the Kerala Science and Technology Museum in Thiruvananthapuram, Surendran Nair, a 78-year-old retired sub inspector of police, asked them to look for a relic of a Third Generation Computer preserved there.

For, the artefact, a forebear of the modern computer, held special memories for him having personally used it as a member of the first team inducted into the computer cell of the Police department, dating back to the early 1970s.

Mr. Nair was part of a seven-member police team, comprising a sub inspector and six head constables, who were chosen for a month-long training at the IBM centre in Madras, as Chennai was known then, in 1972. That team was inducted into the first computer cell formed under the Crime Branch a year later.

For the next 24 years, Mr. Nair’s career revolved around computers before he retired as sub inspector from the State Crime Records Bureau in 1996. Among the six head constables from that era, only he remains.

“The Third Generation Computer, known as TDC 316, was the first computer we had and, unlike the modern computer, it was massive and almost filled an entire room,” says Mr. Nair.

The team then went around police stations across the State imparting training on collating data in compliance with the police code book as part of what turned out to be one of the earliest digitisation drives in police. They fed that data into the computer to be retrieved upon future requests from police stations.

Output after hours

“We used to get requests from districts asking for details of ex-convicts based on their modus operandi. Unlike the modern computers, which do the search and give the output in a matter of seconds, in those days we could venture out after giving the search command as it took hours to get the desired output from the data,” he chuckles.

Initially, the data sought had to be sent in as hard copies to the police stations concerned. Later, online exchange of data became possible after telecommunication units at district police headquarters became interlinked.

Even as he leads a retired life at Ambalathara in Thiruvananthapuram, Mr. Nair observes with pride how his former employer has turned into a tech-savvy force, running a model cyberdome and organising an annual global cyber conference.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 1:53:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/days-of-cyber-policing-with-a-colossal-computer/article30070989.ece

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