Iain Johnston and Chris Hurst

Iain Johnston and Chris Hurst are the top team of Blackwired, which brings a military philosophy to defending nations and enterprises against threats from the Dark Web. Chris brings a lifelong interest in computers and lessons learned as CSIO in BT, while Iain contributes the experience of a military career more recently applied to Cyber.

In this interview they describe the fundamentals of the Dark Web and the activities within its industrial complex before moving on to illustrate its significance to the critical activities of commerce and Government. The interview illustrates, with examples, the potency of the threat from the Dark Web and what the emerging industry of cyber countermeasures can do to protect us all.

Mandy Chessell CBE II

In her second interview for Archives of IT, Mandy talks about the interests she developed in the later stages of her career with IBM. That includes AI technology and wider issues of women in the industry and management styles. She has been appointed as the president of the Institute of Engineering Design for a two year term and reflects on the importance of product design in engineering. Although Mandy refers to her post IBM life as “retirement”, she has set up a new business to focus on the application of the Egeria project for open industry standards in metadata and talks about its significance in a world of increasing data-dependent operations in most aspects of our lives.

Dr. A. Michael Noll

Dr Noll has been active in the Internet and Computing industries for over 60 years and a theme of this conversation is that there is nothing new under the sun. Michael is an entertaining speaker and a great communicator: I am indebted for his kind and clear explanation that his birthplace of “Nork, New Jersey” is not be linguistically confused with our town of “New-Ark on Trent.”

He started his career with an incisive paper in 1961 about the opportunities and dangers that computers might bring and has seen much of it come to pass. Michael’s career has spanned a huge range of technologies and it is fascinating to see that many big ideas were conceived in the very early days of commercial computing but had to wait to realise their potential. Michael, for his PhD, built a haptic or force-feedback device (and patented the concept) 50 years ago and still has a vision of how more could (and will) be done with the technology. He can cite at lease two false starts to the realisation of what we now know as the Internet, to which he made his own contributions as well as being an acute observer of its potential and use.

Michael is an outstanding scholar, Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, an enthusiast for the Arts, including his own role in them, and a world-renowned pioneer of Digital Computer Art.

Malcolm Penn

Malcolm Penn could have been a rock star but turned out a market researcher, analyst and authority on the electronics industry.

R&B music subsidised his electronic engineering degree sandwich course of four years with Vickers Aircraft in Weybridge and Wisley, where he worked on the VC10 programme, testing one plane almost to destruction, and Venner Electronics in south west London. He spent 14 years with ITT Semiconductors and ITT Europe, where he learned his trade in chip design, product marketing,  manufacturing and as a chip user.

He set up the US market research company Dataquest in Europe, before forming his own market research company, Future Horizons, to explain what the numbers mean. He has trenchant views on Intel and ARM, which are well worth hearing.

Sean Coutts

As a boy, Sean Coutts enjoyed designing and building things, and dreamed of becoming an architect. Instead, as co-founder and director of technology at Graphium technologies, he is creating a company which transforms unstructured research data into visual insight.

After studying materials science at university, and a few years working in accounting and project management, Sean went back to university to do an MSc in computer science. Then, keen to found his own business, he signed up for Entrepreneur course at the Alacrity Foundation — an organisation set up to support talented young graduates turn their ideas into commercial reality.

Since completing the course, Graphium has raised £250,000 seed funding — enough to last 18 months to two years without making any sales, “but we hope to start selling by mid-2022.” Alacrity has a stake along with the founders, who have 13 per cent each.  Sean hopes Graphium will eventually be acquired. “That would be our preferred route,” he says. “It fits with our values as a company — we are more interested in the process than creating a Microsoft or a Google.”

He sees himself as serial entrepreneur. “This is the first time, but none of us wants it to be the last.”