Main image: Students from Cantebury school in Gran Canaria hold their winning designs as part of the AIT digital photography competition
It’s that time of year when we reflect on the past 12 months at Archives of IT (AIT). And 2023 has been an exciting year where we have continued to interview and interact with the leading people associated with the UK IT and Telecommunications industry and create engaging content for primary schools.
Have a read of what we’ve been up to and click on the links to our interviews, lesson plans, articles, blogs, in-depth features, special reports and YouTube playlists. We look forward to bringing you more in 2024!
Human-Computer Interaction Project
We interviewed Dr Elisabetta Mori about her work on the AIT-commissioned Human-Computer Interaction Project. The project set out to review our archival content and create new interviews to compile an in-depth written report and video examining the development of human computer interaction over the past 75 years. We published her latest interviews in January 2023 with Professor Harold Thimbleby and Professor Alan Newell.
Schools’ World Cup Competition Winners from 100 entries
We also started the year by announcing our Schools’ World Cup Competition Winners to design a logo for the 2026 edition Fifa World Cup to be held in Canada, the US and Mexico and win a Wacom Pen Tablet.
Working on the First Computers: Interview with John Wallace
Our Director, Tom Abram interviewed John Wallace, former Head of Group IT at NatWest bank who 60 years ago worked with Ferranti on a ground-breaking Pegasus computer to automate the UK’s first branch bank.
Ellie Coyte – Young Entrepreneur Interview
We also published an interview with Ellie Coyte, a young IT entrepreneur who at just 33 co-founded Haelu, a tech start-up creating software solutions for health and social care.
AIT launches free digital classroom resources
Archives of IT launched a set of five, free digital classroom resources for primary school teachers. The five resources are the first in a series to be delivered by AIT over the next two years and will aid teachers in delivering the computer science curriculum for Key Stages 1 and 2.
Our February theme took the inspiration from our interview with Ellie Coyte as we focused on some extraordinary young entrepreneurs in our archive such as Andy Ayim – owner of Angel Investing School, Sean Coutts – Director of Graphium Technology and Stephanie Bazeley – Joint Founder of Team Junkfish Games, that the UK tech continues to build successful new enterprises through this next generation of innovators. Watch our playlist.
AIT Trustees create video on charity’s importance
Our trustees, including founder Roger Graham, created a short video introduction to the Archive and its purpose and importance, in the words of our founder and trustees.
As part of AIT’s current project to tell the story of Human-Computer Interaction in Britain and its impact on society (1948-2023), Dr Elisabetta Mori interviewed Gilbert Cockton and Dianne Murray, both of whom have worked on the study of HCI from its inception in the 1970s.
Schools’ Digital Photography Competition launched
We launched a new schools’ digital photography competition where we asked primary school teachers to follow activities on our new Digital Photography resources and encourage KS1 students to create digitally enhanced images, with the best entries winning a set of five digital cameras and memory cards for their school.
Lifetime careers in tech
Our theme for March was Lifetime Careers in Tech, the catalyst for which was our recent interview with Brian McBride whose illustrious career – spanning 50 years in executive and advisory roles in key technology and commercial – saw him hired by Jeff Bezos in 2006 to be CEO of Amazon in the UK and elected President of the CBI in 2022. We also created a playlist of clips on our YouTube channel.
As part of AIT’s current project to tell the story of Human-Computer Interaction in Britain and its impact on society (1948-2023), Dr Elisabetta Mori created a series of new interviews, the latest were with Professor Ernest Edmonds and Professor Alan Dix.
We were also delighted to say a big “thank you” to Sir Robin Saxby and his wife Patti for their most generous donation of £25,000 that will enable us to continue our development of educational materials for use in Primary Schools. We started that work thanks to a similar donation from Geoff Squire OBE.
Call for papers for AIT Forum on the Histories of the Internet
We announced a call for papers for the AIT Forum on the Histories of the Internet to be held at the Livery Hall of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists in Central London and online on 9 January 2024.
Tech for Good Theme
In April we focused on how scientists, technologists and medics in our archives talk about how they’ve used computing data and communications in medicine to understand more about biology and develop new diagnostic methods, treatments and devices, which have made a real difference to people’s lives. Watch the playlist on our YouTube Channel.
Death of Dr Yorick Wilks
Yorick Wilks was a British computer scientist who has contributed to a wide range of academic fields, including philosophy, artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, natural language processing, and machine translation. We signposted readers to our our Trustee, Bill Dutton’s co-authored “in memory” piece on the Oxford Internet Institute website and our interview with him from 2019.
Our May theme was The Development of AI
To make some sense of the current debate on the benefits and risks of AI and its rapid advancements we published a feature drawing insight from eight interviews that AIT had conducted between 2019 and 2023 and created an AI playlist on YouTube. They included our latest interview with Dr Andrew Rogoyski, Director of Innovation and Partnerships at the Surrey Institute for People-Centred AI. Dr Rogoyski tried to sign the recent open letter by tech leaders that called for a temporary halt on AI advancements and says the debate about artificial general intelligence should be taken very seriously.
LEO National Lottery Heritage Fund Event
Our director, Tom Abram, writes about a celebration event he attended to mark the end of a National Lottery Heritage Fund project to capture and tell the story of Lyons Electronic Office, the first business computer.
The Met Office and Supercomputers
Our June theme, The Met Office and Supercomputers saw AIT collaborate with the UK’s national weather service to bring our audience a timeline of the history of the Met Office and its use of computers and supercomputers, a feature which looked at the background to supercomputers and the comments made in our interviews as well as a playlist on our YouTube channel.
Discovery of Rolls-Royce design document – a report
AIT reported on the discovery of a Rolls-Royce design document from 1953 that argued the case for the company to begin using computers. The document was first revealed in November 2022 when AIT interviewed Tim Johnson, an eminent technology researcher, writer and publisher (founder of the market-leading Ovum). Tim found the report in the files of his late father Christopher L Johnson. His father, who died in 1994, co-authored the report and went on to become a hydraulics engineer for Rolls-Royce where he spent all his working life from 1938 to 1975.
75th anniversary of Manchester Baby
We reported how on Monday 21 June 1948, the first stored program computer in the world ran its first job. Built in Manchester by a team lead by Sir FC Williams and Tom Kilburn its purpose was to test the new Williams tubes developed for random-access storage to replace serial-access delay lines. Nicknamed the “Baby” it had a 32×32 bit word with keyboard input and it ran a 52 minute factoring program.
Winners of Schools’ Digital Photography Competition announced
Students from Canterbury School in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria (pictured in the main image) and Arthur Bugler Primary in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex have won digital cameras in the Archives of IT (AIT) schools’ digital photography competition for their creations. The digital photography competition, launched earlier this year, ran alongside the first of a series of five new lesson plans focusing on technology, one of which was photography.
Early use of computers
Our July theme was inspired by the discovery of an original Rolls-Royce research document from 1953 that set out the argument for the company to acquire a computer as part of its design strategy. This led us to highlight other such stories of early computer use from our archive and make a playlist on YouTube that included John Wallace using a Ferranti Pegasus to automate the first UK bank in the early ‘60s and Geoff Henderson who used punch cards on an IBM 357 to track expensive slabs of steel at the Steel Company of Wales.
Makers and Machines exhibition
We visited the Makers and Machines: creativity in the computer age exhibition at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, which interweaves the story of historic computers with the stories of three pioneering coders with roots in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands and many more local students, scientists and artists. These included Kathleen Booth, originally from Stourbridge, who was a programming pioneer and invented the first assembly language. Kathleen and her husband Andrew designed the Hollerith Electronic Computer (HEC), which was built in 1951 and one of the oldest surviving electronic computers in the world.
Registration open for AIT Forum on the Histories of the Internet
Registration opened for the Archives of IT Forum on the Histories of the Internet to take place at the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists’ headquarters in Central London.
AIT was proud to be the recipient of Most Valued Social & Industrial Heritage Organisation UK as part of the Acquisitions International Non-Profit Awards 2023. The judges were impressed with how AIT created social history from its interviews and thus helped to inform the public and researchers about the individuals and organisations in information technology and their impact on our daily lives. As well this they liked the way we provide teachers with lesson plans and activities that inspire young students at schools.
We published our interview with British physicist and professor of quantum optics and senior research investigator at Imperial College London, Sir Peter Knight in full in July. Sir Peter chairs the National Quantum Technology Programme Strategy Advisory Board and shared with us his views on progress with and prospects for the practical application of Quantum Technology.
We also interviewed Richard Hopkins, a distinguished Engineer at IBM and Fellow of the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. He is an authority on Hybrid Cloud, AI and Quantum computing and in our interview preview tells us how industry needs to get ready to exploit Quantum and offers a pragmatic and positive view on the role of AI in business.
In August we focused on the work we do at Archives of IT. This has included sharing on our social media platforms an introduction to some of our trustees, team, and interviewees, such as Dame Stephanie Shirley, Dr Rebecca Harding and tech success stories such as Acorn Computers and Arm, which you can read about here and watch our playlist on YouTube. As well as this we profiled our educational offer for teachers and their primary school students.
Tickets for AIT’s Forum on the Histories of the Internet go on sale
Registration opened for tickets for the Archives of IT Forum on the Histories of the Internet to take place on 9 January 2024 at the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists’ (WCIT) headquarters in Central London.
Our interview with Sir Peter Knight formed the basis of a feature in The Quantum Insider, a Canadian publisher on the quantum technology industry. It was published on 18 August in its Insights section and written by James Dargan.
Human-Computer Interaction report published
In September we published our Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) project, From Punch Cards to Brain Computer Interfaces: 75 Years of Human Computer Interaction and its Impact on Society. It covers 75 years of our interaction with computers and describes how HCI evolved from the early years of computing in the late 1940s, when the subject was dominated by a small number of mainframes, to today’s Graphical User Interfaces and other interactive technology. The resulting long-read report was compiled by reviewing our archive of interviews produced since 2015 and conducting six new interviews between late 2022 and early 2023 of which we have created a HCI Playlist on our YouTube channel. We also wrote an introductory feature summarising the report that covers the key points.
AIT has been working with the family of Dennis Blackwell to curate his extraordinary story and collection as a key figure in the British computer industry for more than 50 years.
We also interviewed Julia Sutcliffe, who was appointed Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Business and Trade earlier this year. Julia’s career is an inspiration for young people to aspire to a career in STEM and she gives a personal assessment of the UK’s strengths in AI and ability to harness it for benefit.
Our interview with Rodney Hornstein covers his career, which began in 1958 as a programmer at IBM and has worked for LEO, ICL and many other IT companies as CEO and chairman, and became an angel investor in 1999. We also get insigts from the industry from our interview with Alan Burkitt-Grey has more than 30 years’ experience as a tech journalist who worked as a news editor and deputy editor on Computing during the rise of the microcomputer and the advent of the personal computer.
AIT Presentation at BCS Fortran Specialist Group AGM
Our Communications Manager, Adrian Murphy gave a presentation at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, Fortran Specialist Group’s AGM. The presentation, at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in London, focused on the importance of AIT as a charity preserving the social history of the IT industry and was also a way of forging connections with the group. As a result, we are now going to work on a new interview that will offer personal stories on the development of this important programming language over the past 65 years.
Tommy Flowers’ Blue Plaque
English Heritage recognised Tommy Flowers, designer of Colossus the world’s first programmable, electronic, digital computer, with a blue plaque and we searched our archive to discover one of our interviewees, Prof Peter Dobson, had worked with the great man.
Stories of the Internet Feature
Our theme for Octobre was Stories of the Internet and looking back through our interviews, we have been able to uncover the fascinating story of the internet from packet switching, the first international network connection through to the first commercial uses, academic departments and responses to societal impacts such as online security. Watch our playlist over on YouTube.
AIT Forum receives funding from BSHS
Archives of IT has been awarded a £500 grant as part of the British Society for the History of Science. Founded in 1947, the BSHS is Britain’s largest learned society devoted to the history of science, technology and medicine. The funds will be used to make our upcoming event – The AIT Forum on the Histories of the Internet to take place on 9 January 2024 – more widely accessible.
Human-Computer Interaction Video
To follow on from our publication of a special report on the history of HCI entitled From Punch Cards to Brain Computer Interfaces: 75 Years of Human-Computer Interaction and its Impact on Society the author of the report, Dr Elisabetta Mori, made a short video that introduces her work in the words of the eminent academics she interviewed.
Going Mobile Exhibition
Going Mobile exhibition explores 40 years of mobile phone technology 70 mobile phones are on display at the exhibition for the first time and Mobile Phone Museum Founder, Ben Wood A new pop-up exhibition, Going Mobile, was launched at the weekend at PK Porthcurno, Museum of Global Communications, in collaboration with the Mobile Phone Museum, and we interviwed its founder, Ben Wood, who told us how it illustrated the 40-year history of the technology and its connection to the Victorian telegraph. Curated by PK Porthcurno, Going Mobile displays more than 70 phones and objects selected from the Mobile Phone Museum’s unique collection of 2,700 devices for the first time.
Sir Robin Saxby School Visit
Engineer and founding CEO of Arm, Sir Robin Saxby, visited Little Thurrock Primary School in Grays, Essex on 21 November to inspire Year 6 students on the potential of careers in STEM. The visit follows the generous support and funding from Sir Robin to enable AIT to create new lesson plans to make learning about technology more engaging for primary school students.
Evolving and Exploiting Packet Switched Networks
Edward Smith, Chris Miller and Jim Norton wrote a blog for AIT on their upcoming panel at our Forum on the Histories of the Internet focusing on the Innovation and Implementation – Successes and Failures chaired by Robin Mansell.
Quantum Computing – November theme
One of AIT’s aims is to inspire the future of technology and what better way to do that than to investigate Quantum Computing, a fast growing field that is garnering huge amounts of funding and research. Earlier this year we interviewed leading Quantum thinkers, Sir Peter Knight and Richard Hopkins, who both gave insights into the technology and its potential for areas such as the internet and health, and also its challenges to online security. To get the latest view of the current developments in Quantum Computing, AIT will attended the UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase in London on 2 November and we have created a Quantum playlist on YouTube, which will be followed by the publication of a special feature in December.
AI Safety Summit
On 1 November we reported on the UK’s first AI Safety Summit as 28 Countries and the EU agreed substantial risks may arise from potential intentional misuse or unintended issues of control of frontier AI, with particular concern caused by cybersecurity, biotechnology and disinformation risks.
AIT’s special report on AI and new interview with Dr Gopi Katragadda In May we published a special report: Eight thought leaders give their views on where AI is taking us. We have now added to that list with the interview of AI technology leader Dr Gopi Katragadda who became the President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology in October 2023. Watch our AI playlist.
As the year draws to an end the AIT team is busy making the final preparations for the Forum on the Histories of the Internet in Central London and Online. Why not join us on 9 January 2024?
We wish all our supporters a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!