Ken Moody interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 17th August 2008
Macfarlane (Alan)
Source: From
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsBooks / Papers Citing this PaperColour-ConventionsDisclaimer

Ken Moody interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 17th August 20081 (Full Text)

  1. 0:09:07 Born in 1940; mother's family were from Northern Ireland, rumoured to be sheep stealers, and reputedly related to John Adams a participant in the mutiny on the Bounty [who signed onboard Bounty hiding from the law as Alexander Smith]; grandfather was the eldest of twelve children, set for a career in the United Kingdom, but his brothers were sent off to the colonies; grandfather was a customs officer; mother born in Weymouth, then moved to Cardigan where she grew up as a young child; later moved to London and in her teens went to Winchmore Hill Collegiate School for Girls; paternal grandfather, always interested in money, married his first cousin; family originally from the Isle of Wight. My mother was the second of five, the only girl; father was the second of five, the only boy; they married in 1934 and settled in Broxbourne; father worked in his father's business, which was concerned with real estate in Tottenham and was also an accountancy firm; grandfather had done well enough by the mid-1920s to buy a very large country estate in Hertfordshire.
  2. 5:22:02 I grew up in Widford, the village of that estate, during the war, so my grandfather was living just down the road, an authority figure; by then my father was dead as he died when I was only a month old; he had a brain haemorrhage at thirty-eight; my mother, who had not worked since their marriage, was a qualified lawyer but was unable to become a solicitor as she could not afford to take the articles; she worked for the solicitors Longmores of Hertford from 1940 until she retired in about 1968 [she actually started working for the Colne Valley Sewerage Board, which was based at Longmores, in 1942; at the end of the war in 1945 she became a full-time employee of Longmores, as a general managing clerk]; the whole of my life was in and around Hertford until I went to Cambridge; mother was clever, interested in literature, a good mathematician; her older brother, Wilfred, was a scientist; he did the statistical estimation for the first traffic lights installed in the United Kingdom at Piccadilly Circus; his son, Frank Adams2, was one of the world's great mathematicians; mother was also an amateur actress; later, when in a nursing home, she reacted to the French nursing staff by reciting Baudelaire; she was a terrific person, the centre of my life as I never knew my father; his name was Ken and at birth I was registered as John (after my maternal grandfather) Kenneth (after my father) Montague (after my paternal grandfather); I was renamed Ken after my father died; I had no siblings.
  3. 9:54:22 I went to the local kindergarten, Miss Lawson's, in Broxbourne where we were then living [my mother had let the Broxbourne house during the war, and we moved back there in 1945]; there from five until eight; I was taught parsing, tables, a little French, feel that I was privileged; when about three my mother sent me to work out the number of window panes in a window to keep me quiet; I returned alarmingly quickly with the answer, thirty-five, so I must have known either my five or seven times table by that stage; as a mathematician I liked rules so Mrs Pedley, who taught me to parse English, was probably the teacher who was most important in my formative years; at eight I went to prep school, Beaumont House in Heronsgate, between Rickmansworth and Chorley Wood; Peter Vesey, the Headmaster, taught the senior classes mathematics, an enthusiast and a terrific teacher; he was an important person in my life; another charismatic teacher was the Latin master, Vernon Birds, who had fought in the trenches and bore the psychological scars, but had great enthusiasm for the classics; school was quite successful for me, never bullied, and was extremely good at sums; I was also quite good at cricket; Broxbourne had a good tennis club where I played, and later took up squash.
  4. 18:16:16 Went to Haileybury [& ISC] in 1953 [on the site of the old East India Company College, with a strong military tradition]; it was between Broxbourne where we lived and Hertford where my mother worked; mother's boss, [Brigadier] John Longmore, was a governor, and he was able to help with bursaries; without this connection I am sure my mother would not have been able to send me there; in some ways it didn't suit me, but they let me play squash and tennis; Richard Rhodes-James, a housemaster, had been a Chindit in Burma, and was the officer in charge of C company in the Combined Cadet Force; I was a good mathematician in the sense that I could do all the questions; only at S-level did I have any real difficulties; I was lucky that when I entered the A-level course a new mathematics teacher, Stuart Parsonson, was appointed; Frank Newbold who took over as head of maths was a very good teacher but quite traditional; Stuart decided that there were capable people who could do S-level in two years instead of three; I was ready to take the entrance examination for Cambridge at the start of my third year in the sixth; there were a lot of good mathematicians; I was probably the best in my year; Vernon Birds's teaching meant that I came top in Latin in the school at O-level, and feel reasonably confident that I could have done Latin A-level as well as maths and physics, but I was told that if I wished to take Latin I would have to change to classics and learn Greek in a year; so I gave Latin up until I had to polish it up for the Cambridge entrance exam; English changed its nature after O-level, when it became a subject for relaxation in the mathematical sixth form; Jack Thomas would give us interesting books to read and make us talk about them; Bertie Bradstock taught us O-level French and was a real character; I was happy at school.
  5. 27:14:03 I was a bird watcher from the age of three; before she was married my mother worked in the Cabinet Office as P.A. to Hubert Henderson, the Chairman of the Keynes group advising on the state of the economy in the depression [(Sir) Hubert Henderson was actually a professional economist who became secretary of the Economic Advisory Council]; Hubert was worried about her brain going to waste after she married, so he got Hope Bagenal, his brother-in-law, a visionary architect, to keep an eye on my mother [Hope was one of the leading acoustical architects of the period; mother prepared the index for his book Practical Acoustics, which appeared early in 1942]; he lived nearby and used to visit during the War, and we would go to watch birds; remember seeing my first kingfisher; I am not a twitcher but always have light-weight binoculars with me, true at both my prep school and Haileybury. At Haileybury on Friday afternoons we were allowed to do things other than games under the heading of public works; I tried building, but later became a printer with E.J. Miller. If you go to a well-organised Colonial Service school thoughts about God are subsumed by the strict timetable for Confirmation; a ritual process in which one moves from being a christened member of the church to being a confirmed member without too much thought going into the process; I went to church with my mother every Sunday; I think she became concerned with the substance as well as the ritual later in life; I could always take or leave the ideas; it was really when I went to university that I started to think about it seriously; one took communion at school, but by the time I left was no longer doing so; I am definitely not an atheist; I get strong theistic moments, for instance, with the sight of ducks on a bright summer's day; I describe myself when pressed as a vague pantheist; I could be a Buddhist more easily than most other religions.
  6. 32:09:15 Stuart Parsonson had been supervised by Norman Routledge while at Cambridge, so it was decided that I should apply to King's, where Norman was Director of Studies; I did the entrance exam; did not find all the papers easy but did well enough to get a Major Scholarship to King's; as I still had the rest of a year of school, Stuart Parsonson taught me the first year of the maths tripos; when I arrived at Cambridge I went straight into prelims to Part 2 so missed Part 1 completely; arrived at King's in 1958; Noel Annan was Provost; for students, he seemed a little pompous and full of himself; the most decisive thing for me going up in October 1958 was the dichotomy between half the entrants who had done National Service and the other half who had not; one moved into an independent, near adult society, which was a social shock; I found going up to Cambridge quite a frightening experience; then I found the ping-pong table, made friends, started playing squash.
  7. 39:03:00 Norman Routledge was a charismatic supervisor, a very capable mathematician, an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Pure Mathematics; I don't think he got on with his research, certainly he was not confirmed to retiring age and left after a year; I think he was one of the last who lost his chance of an academic career by too much interaction with students; he was one of the founders of the King's loan record library, which was a wonderful resource for students at that period; I learnt to understand and enjoy classical music partly because of the records one could take out for a very small fee, partly because Norman, with Philip Radcliffe, an elderly music Fellow, organised weekly meetings called 'Chats about Recorded Music'; E.M. Forster would participate as well; I remember him listening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and recalling what he had written about it in 'Howards End'; good environment as new doors to be opened - too many; there were a limited number of hours in the week and I came to appreciate Dadie Rylands only much later, though lots of my friends did then, as the Marlowe Society were making decisive recordings at the time; on friends - Alan Robiette and I ended up sharing part of a house when we became research students, and we both played cricket; Mike Stevens was another mathematician [of my year] who went off to Canada; he was a dynamic pianist who lived life to the full; I knew John Dunn then although he came a year later; of my year Alan Robiette is the closest; when Routledge was not confirmed, John Williamson moved from Christ's to King's to become Director of Studies; he was a very different character; by then he already had three children and lived in a large house in Hills Road; I got to know the family well; I found his mathematics, which was functional analysis, relatively easy by comparison with that of Philip Hall, who was another Fellow of King's; I attended Philip's Part 3 lectures but did not find them easy; I was obviously cut out to be an analyst rather than an algebraist; Trinity still had Swinnerton-Dyer, and probably half the people that lectured me were at Trinity; my cousin Frank Adams, whom I've mentioned, came back as a Research Fellow there; he later moved to Trinity Hall; I wasn't particularly influenced by Trinity, there were a lot of lectures, but supervisions were arranged within the College and there was a lot of work to do for these; there were mathematics societies and I would go to talks in the evenings if I was interested in the subject, but there was no sense in which I was attached to a particular college group.
  8. 46:33:02 I had started at Part 2 so only had to do three years of the four year [Mathematical Tripos] course; I was accepted to do the Diploma in Computer Science in the year 1961-2 but did well enough in my finals [Part 3] to be selected to do research in mathematics; I then did a Ph.D. after which I went off to work for IBM; Margaret Grimshaw was my Ph.D. supervisor, a Fellow of Newnham, and an exceptionally nice lady, but she did very little to drive my mathematical research; I looked to John Williamson who was working in this general area; he had too many Ph.D. students so although I had a problem, I attacked it rather fitfully; I also did a lot of undergraduate supervision, up to fifteen hours a week at one time; it was actually rather irresponsible; John needed supervisors and I did it rather well; he took the view, quite rightly, that I was either supervising or playing squash, and a mixture was better than squash alone; I was all right for money as grants in those days were good; my grandfather had died and left me a legacy though it did not come for some years
  9. 51:06:04 I needed a change of career as at that stage, although I had finished my Ph.D., I had not published anything; also I did not have any academic drive, and did not think there was a future for me in mathematics. I went to the Defence Operational Analysis Establishment who play war games; I also met Dr Hugh ApSimon, who had an algebra Ph.D. from Oxford and was a senior academic computer scientist at IBM Hursley; both of these environments offered interesting grounded problems that I was convinced would engage my brain in a way that research in mathematics had never done; King's came to the rescue and made the decision for me; at a dinner I sat next to Philip Noel-Baker, who asked what would be the productive element if I worked for the DOAE, and whether I would be happy with that thought; so I went to IBM; I joined IBM in February 1967 when there were high expectations about the amount of time their staff would put in; they were a paternalistic employer, and having looked at my background decided that I should be recruited to IBM Government Branch, which ran large scientific machines where my background would enable me to talk to customers; they sent me to the Rutherford Laboratory on the Chilton-Harwell site where I made lots of good friends; there is a story that IBM employees at that period had to wear white shirts and suits; not quite true, as the manager always warned us of a visit a day in advance so that one could dress correctly; I was there for nearly two years, though moved to [AERE] Harwell about half way through; by the middle of 1968 was working long hours, doing very interesting work; the more I learnt about computing the more I realized you only saw the IBM pitch; sometimes you knew that you would have taken other design decisions; having met Hugh ApSimon I was aware that there was a subject, computer science, evolving beyond my horizon, which was a bit unsatisfactory; at the time I had an Australian girlfriend, Anne Howie, and she was still completing a Ph.D. in zoology in Cambridge, so I did go back to Cambridge from time to time; I kept contact with the Computer Lab so knew there was another side to computing that I had no exposure to or experience of.
  10. 56:16:20 In 1961 when I had thought of doing the Diploma, Alan Turing was not talked about in King's; probably among the Fellowship, people like A.E. Ingham, a senior King's mathematician, would have remembered him; I think it was a hard subject to discuss because of his ending; there was also Maurice Wilkes in Cambridge at that time, and the Cambridge initiative to build computers was very much in competition with Manchester where Turing had been; Turing was also at the National Physical Laboratory, and these were the three locations in the UK principally connected with the emergence of computing; I did not come across Wilkes as an undergraduate or in 1961 when I went to find out about the Diploma; Eric Mutch, who was then the Deputy Director of the Mathematical Laboratory, was responsible for organising admission to the Diploma, and I spoke with him; I did not know of Wilkes's existence until 1968 when I was at Harwell; I think John Williamson had been talking with Roger Needham, Wilkes's deputy at that stage, about me as someone who might be better suited to an academic career in computing; John Williamson then told me that there was the possibility of a job in the Computer Lab; he had just got a Chair at York so suggested I could Direct Studies in maths at King's too; another disastrous career move, but I was attracted to both, and it seemed a reasonable combination; however the Mathematical Laboratory said I would need references; did not want to ask any of my senior advisors at IBM as my career there was going quite well; the customer came to mind and I picked the one I knew best, for whom I had done some useful work; I knew nothing about his background - this was John Burren the physicist at Rutherford, and it seemed to me that a half smile crossed his face when I asked him; what he didn't tell me was that he had shared a flat with Roger Needham as a graduate student in Cambridge; not only did he write me a good reference but it hit the right spot; IBM were sorry to see me go and gave me three years of academic absence on the correct assumption that it would not have been a final career decision; I was employed by King's without a Fellowship as Director of Studies, but lived in College.
    Second Part
  11. 0:09:07 I did not have a Fellowship at King's when I returned but was offered Direction of Studies, and also had a job at the Computer Laboratory as Senior Assistant in Research; paid at the same level as an assistant lecturer with no guarantee of tenure or commitment on either side, but a chance to work in a fascinating environment; the lab knew they were going to have to buy a new mainframe computer; they built Titan themselves, a prototype Atlas 2 machine, but technology was moving so fast and there was no way they could keep up using home built machines; naturally at that time they would be looking at IBM kit, so in some sense I was the purchaser of the future; I lived in King's, in free accommodation, in the Keynes Building [only just completed]; my friend Alan Robiette was then a teaching Fellow in Corpus Christi as was another old friend from King's, Haroon Ahmed; they suggested that as Corpus was short of mathematicians I should take a Fellowship there; King's heard the rumour and made me a Fellow in 1969; by then Edmund Leach was Provost; I soon found myself on College committees, including the Council, and made very good friends there.
  12. 4:50:24 I got to know Oliver Zangwill quite well as he lived on the same staircase; I had hitch-hiked at least 100,000 miles by the time I first had a car just before I went to IBM and I would therefore pick up hitch-hikers; after a squash match, coming back from Hertfordshire, I saw a slightly dishevelled figure in the headlights; I picked up young Barry whom it became clear was on the run from an approved school, Kneesworth House; I took him to Cambridge and asked where he was going to stay; he did not want to go to the police station, which fuelled my suspicions; I let him sleep in my sitting room; next morning I contacted Gill Macfarlane who told me to take him back to Kneesworth House, which I did; about a year later Zangwill knocked on my door as Barry was again on the run and in his rooms; we decided to route him back through friends he had made while on the run; Zangwill had found him waiting outside my rooms and had entertained him until I returned [Oliver was Professor of Experimental Psychology, so an expert witness to Barry's state of mind - "rather disturbed"]. Experience of Edmund Leach on the Council; his antagonism towards Bob Young; Adrian Wood's warning of a Leach outburst.
  13. 14:15:21 When I joined the Computer Lab in 1968 I was working with one particular computing language called Snobol4, which was based on a different model of computation from the classic lambda calculus model; for text processing applications this gave completely different dimensions from a language like Fortran, which was good at doing sums but no good for character strings and character manipulation; there had been a number of earlier languages - Snobol1 to 3 - based on Markov algorithms; by Snobol4 it was a hotchpotch of all known ideas in computing, so had functional programming embedded in it; it had been developed by a group including Ralph Grisbold, who had moved from Bell Labs to the University of Arizona at Tucson; he provided a portable implementation in the form of a macro-processed specification; it was a lot of work to implement it, and this was the first job I did in the Computer Lab; I liked Snobol4; we provided an implementation for Titan and it worked well, and was soon installed on the Atlas2 at the CAD centre; as a technical trick the thing that I am proudest of in all my computing career was porting the Snobol implementation from the Atlas2 back to the Atlas1 at Chilton, where I had worked when I was with IBM; we ported it in binary; the operating systems of the two machines were quite different, so I took the specification of the Atlas1 operating system, generated a version symbolically on the Atlas2, then dropped it into memory with a large patch area where we could fix bugs; there were only three bugs; I worked with Eric Thomas, who had done the Cambridge Diploma before going off to work at the Chilton Atlas, and was very well disposed to Cambridge; we had finished by lunchtime; Snobol gave great service there, because at Cambridge we had plenty of other language support, but Chilton had nothing for text manipulation, so [Snobol4] was very widely used there.
  14. 19:37:01 Snobol had no relationship to BCPL, which was a minimalist language in the lambda calculus tradition; I shared an office with Martin Richards who developed it; BCPL was the language that led to B at Bell Labs, which was followed rapidly by C[; when the Lab purchased an IBM mainframe in the early 70s I was the natural person to help Martin port BCPL to the IBM 370 architecture]. I first thought that what [Alan Macfarlane was] doing with historical data was inherently interesting when I saw your card index in King's in 1973; you showed a set of cards relating to a particular village family; I was surprised that from early demographic records one could get such a dense coverage of family relationships and lives; I was interested as I like practical problems; thought it would be a little-computer-project, also I had begun to get interested in database management systems; the language side was interesting because the languages we were working with at that time did not have good support for text processing, or like Snobol, were a bit of a mess; two things to be addressed - managing this very large set of data and finding languages that would support social scientists; I really enjoyed the problem, and in terms of career development I was very lucky to have access to an excellent undergraduate, Tim King, who just as we were beginning to formulate the project was finishing his degree; we had interest from IBM who had a prototype relational DBMS called PRTV [Peterlee relational test vehicle], which was under development at the IBM Scientific Centre at Peterlee; we set up a joint project; no one had experience of using relational databases for such a complex set of character string data - about 13,000,000 English words - an awful lot of date for the time; also it was from a wide variety of parish sources, and the problem of telling the story and extracting information without damaging the nature of the data is something that really intrigued me; I remember insisting that whatever was done we should retain access to the original text of the records; it would have been possible to encapsulate snippets onto punch cards, but that would not lead to the greatest benefit; right from the start we aimed to put the records in, abstract the natural language meaning by marking the records to say what was meant but retaining the word structure; with the benefit of hindsight that was obviously right, but at the time it looked slightly ambitious given the size of the data.
  15. 28:05:19 Charles Jardine [a former King's Maths student] who worked on the mark-up and query languages was clever, zany, highly innovative; as far as I can tell totally unambitious, but intrigued by problem solving; I always found him a delight to work with because he repeatedly made you laugh; Tim was not laid back but brought enormous abilities; he had sufficient competence and confidence as a programmer to say that PRTV was not working as it ideally might; we had an architectural model derived from PRTV that we really liked, namely the use of relational algebra as the basic language representation; PRTV was one of a number of prototype relational database management systems in the mid-1970's. The relational model had been spun off from a paper, an intellectual idea developed by Ted Codd in 1970; the amount of software required to drive the model is vast; by the mid-1970's there was a system called Ingres at Berkeley, developed by Michael Stonebraker, also an IBM project System R being developed at the San Jose Lab, as well as PRTV; both Ingres and System R were developing around a language called SQL, which was related to the relational calculus, essentially a record by record model for analysing relational data; PRTV had gone instead to a relational algebra model that allows you to write queries in terms of whole relations, that is all of the records satisfying particular constraints or in a particular format; for technical reasons, if you have got a large number of updates and you are going to have to manage concurrency control, a relational calculus approach is preferable; the great beauty of our problem in its matching with PRTV is that we were interested in setting up a database that was the model of the records describing Earls Colne, then exploring the database to derive the model of what Earls Colne might have been like; the great beauty of this is that there is no update, fundamentally a read-only database; for our purposes a relational algebra model was far more suitable. The way in which they had set up the implementation of relational algebra was to use recursive calls down a tree representing the parsing of a relational expression; for various reasons this is not nice, because it interferes with natural concurrency flow during evaluation; Tim had the idea that we should retain relational algebra, exploit the parse tree in a rather similar way, but instead of doing recursive calls from the top of the tree we should set up an active co-routine structure and allow the data to flow as it naturally wished to; that is what we did; it meant reengineering the whole of PRTV, which we duly did in BCPL; Martin Richards and I devised the co-routine structure and wrote a paper in 'Software Practice and Experience'; we have a research student currently working on similar problems and he has developed extensions to Java; out of curiosity I showed him this 1979 paper and the resonance with what he is doing now is surprisingly close; I think the computer science that came out of the project was real and good; quite recently I went to Cardiff for the 25th anniversary of the British National Conference on Databases; I found that there on the list of the issues that would be discussed in the review of twenty-five years of British computing was CODD, the Co-routine Driven Database that Tim developed, and CHIPS, the Cambridge Historical Information Processing System that was the rather over-elaborate high level language that we designed to support queries to this database; so we certainly made a mark on the community; there was a later paper describing the database implementation on top of the co-routine support; it taught me a lot about things like how you get grants; it made me publish something at last; it was excellent experience in terms of introducing database technology into the Lab; the fact that there was national level profile for the work pushed the Lab towards database, which previously they had no experience of; once again I go back to the fact that the work is driven by the data - the inherent interest in that made us all excited; Jessica King and Sarah Harrison's work on the data quality and preparation sides.
  16. 40:32:11 Later on [1998] came Tim Mills, who wanted to do a Ph.D. in information retrieval, a phenomenal developer of code; he wanted to take existing retrieval engines and generalize them, retaining the architecture of the engine, the matching functions, the evaluation, and the use of feedback support, but applying them to collections of data that were other than text documents, e.g. images, photos, which might contain annotations as well; I was interested in that aspect although I had not kept up with the basic literature on information retrieval; Keith van Rijsbergen had worked with me as a Ph.D. student much earlier, had gone to Glasgow and had become a leader in the mathematical end of information retrieval and the processing that went along with it; I knew what Keith was up to and had enough programming sense to know that Tim Mills and I would get on fine; that was the case, and he submitted two months short of his three years as a Ph.D. student; as one of the things that he did, he needed a test data set to study, so we took the original Earls Colne data and provided an IR context within a Web site; that was not the original purpose of Tim's Ph.D. but it was proof by example that what he had done worked. Keith van Rijsbergen did work on probabilistic retrieval when he came back to the Computer Laboratory as a Royal Society Research Fellow; it helped to make his reputation; Martin Porter, who was a former Ph.D. student with Karen Spärck Jones, worked as a Research Assistant on Keith's Royal Society project; I wasn't close enough to their work to comment in detail; I met Martin professionally later in the mid-1980's; my former girlfriend, Anne Howie, was associated with setting up a Chinese-English paleontological thesaurus [actually the baby of a colleague of Anne's at Monash University outside Melbourne, Pat Rich]; I got involved because the Cambridge end, which was responsible for dealing with the printing of the English side, was supported by the Literary and Linguistic Computing Centre; for various reasons things were not going well, and Martin Porter came and helped me then; we ended up publishing it; both Charles Jardine and Martin Porter are very clever, but neither is at all ambitious.
  17. 49:10:00 In the 1970's the Cambridge Ring was just happening; we had a relational database engine that operated by taking a parse tree and deploying the individual nodes to locations that were supported by co-routine activations and communicated with one another; this allowed the natural data flow to control the concurrency, rather than having it imposed by recursive call from the top of the parse tree; Tim had the very smart idea that since we had this architecture, there was no reason why the node representations should even be in the same processor; if you had something like the Cambridge Ring you could do your parse, generate a parse tree and then activate the nodes at different machines in the processor bank, allowing them to communicate through the Ring; in the same way as when I got Snobol to work straight away, we deployed it on the Ring and it evaluated quite a complex relational expression without any trouble; it was a validation both of the Cambridge Ring and of the co-routine structure that we had been using; IBM's original model would not have had a cat in hell's chance of making sense of what was going on because it was too complicated; one of the other things that was happening was that the Cambridge Distributed System was being developed in the 1970's; this was the software exploitation of the Cambridge Ring communication technology and the processor bank computational model that went along with it; lots of people had one, it wasn't just us, but everyone who had one suddenly found that they could do interesting and original things. The screen editing system goes back to the efforts that we made to mark the natural language structure of the records and the entities in the records that carried meaning at application level; there was a particular group within the Computer Laboratory, led by Charles Lang, which had a lot of experience with the PDP11 system, and we developed an interactive text editor, first on the PDP7 then on the PDP11, for extending the text documents with diacritical marks; I think other people were doing this but arguably we were among the first - some of that work certainly anticipated SGML and therefore XML, so I could say it is all our fault.
  18. 53:53:00 I took one consulting job only; I have always valued my time and have always had enough money to live on; the exception was when I bought a new house in 1977, a three-hundred year old thatched cottage in Knapwell, west of Cambridge, which needed a lot of work done on it; the consulting job was implementing BCPL on a Siemens processor, which was quite like an IBM machine but with a completely different operating system, in the EU in Luxemburg; in three weeks I earned a third of my annual salary and paid for all the building work. My wife Jean3's contribution to my career has been enormous; she came to the Lab in 1985; she had worked very much in these areas of concurrency and distribution; she did a Ph.D. as a member of staff at Hatfield Polytechnic; she knew all about the theory and the practice, and she programmed and made things happen in the world that took off in the 1970's; by the 1980's she had made her reputation in that area; embarrassingly enough I was on the Lab interviewing panel that appointed her, though I did not know her before that; early on we started working together as we have similar areas of interest; I discovered to my shock that she would almost always rather write a paper than write code; I had regarded the paper as something one wrote when one had run out of ideas; the result of meeting Jean was that we started writing papers together; we had research students that had begun to form a group; Jean encouraged them to write and their reputation spread; we were quite early into distributed event-based systems, also federated application management and the access control structures that are needed to support it; these ideas have become more and more important; all of these things are driven by technology revolution to some extent; in the 1980's we were developing distributed database management systems, absolutely miserable to work with because moving data from one place to another was a total labour; all of this was made redundant by the comms revolution; suddenly there was no trouble in getting data moving from A to B; there are still concurrency and consistency issues, but you were not bothered by the slowness of the technology; we were exploiting the new model early and it has stood us in good stead, and we have run a happy group since 1988; Jean had never liked my thatched cottage, and in 2003 we moved to Blythburgh as our second home; the option of autonomy was no longer there, so we got married.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 2: Footnote 3: Footnote 4:

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Oct 2018. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page