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Dennis Blackwell

Dennis Blackwell was a key figure in the British computer industry for over 50 years, in a career that spanned and contributed to some of the most important commercial initiatives of the period. He worked for the UK flagship manufacturer, ICL, and its forbears for 25 of those, starting with English Electric in 1959 and contributed to industry institutions including the British Computer Society (now known as BCS) and the Worshipful Company of information Technologists.

John Wallace

John Wallace helped automate the first branch of what was to become NatWest and led IT functions in the bank at the cutting edge for over 30 years. John joined National Provincial in 1951 after leaving school at the first opportunity, with a clutch of “pretty miserable O levels” and learned the trade stoking the boiler and taking spare cash to the Post Office accompanied by a colleague and a truncheon. Ten years later he was one of four staff working with Ferranti on a Pegasus serving five branches in London, After taking charge of systems development in the merger with NatWest in 1968, John ran subsidiary organisations providing services including archiving and payroll back to banks and other businesses as well as developing new products and introducing new technologies. Amongst his many firsts he includes the implementation of the world’s largest DB2 system, which uniquely provided the bank with a totally integrated view of each customer’s relationship with NatWest. John gave up banking 28 years ago as head of Group IT. Since them he has held multiple positions, including Chairman of CIO Connect. One of his most challenging roles was Honorary Treasurer of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, which earned him a standing ovation at his last Court meeting.

Ron Weeden

Ron Weeden spent over 30 years working in the IT industry on calculator and desktop computer technology. He got into the calculator business when they were mechanical devices and computers were in their infancy and ended his formal career at HP in the late 90s, by then a global leader in PC’s and workstations.

Tech was only part of his life story though which started in 1932 when Tunbridge Wells was a traffic free haven and a boy could fill his leisure time on long cycle trips around Kent; the only entertainment available in a penniless upbringing. Ron describes himself as a loner, intensely curious and a polymath: which contributed to his many achievements and on which he touches (as well as the evolution of computing) in this snapshot of a fascinating life.

Grammar school saw him into an early career as a civil servant aged 16, followed by an unusual National Service experience, and a few short-term jobs in the 50s while pursuing his varied intellectual interests. In 1961 Ron found his way to Muldivo, a supplier of calculators, which led him to be employee Number 1 in Wang UK, and thence on to the rapidly developing HP in 1969. Ron has been a member of the BCS and ACM since 1968 and continues to be active in the profession.

This interview only scratches the surface and Ron’s full biography would be entertaining and engaging on many levels.

Anthony Hodson

Anthony Hodson comes from a distinguished academic and professional background and was one of four sons who all gained Eton Scholarships.  Fascinated by technology, Anthony broke from the main stream of Eton/Oxford to go into the nascent digital computing industry.

He started his 46-year career in IT as a mathematician in the aviation division of Elliott Brothers where he used an early minicomputer, the Elliott 803 and worked in the UK and the USA for the company.

He carried out field research on mainframe-based distributed business systems for the Diebold Research Programme.  He worked for Sperry Gyroscope and was in the thick of ICL as its mainframe business collapsed.  He championed the X.500 Directory standard there and in his own consultancy.

Anthony has supported charitable activities through the Mercers’ Company and Gresham College.

Ann Moffatt

Ann Moffatt found “sums” easy as a child at school in post war London and would have gone to Oxbridge had it not been a time when the boys in the family had first call on education.  Nevertheless, by reading every book she could find, she got a job in IT and went on to defy the male stereotype of the industry: combining a friendly manner with incisive expertise that commanded respect at the highest levels.

Ann was Dame Stephanie Shirley’s first lieutenant at Freelance Programmers before being headhunted to Australia, to sort out a mega-project gone wrong.  She is a Fellow of both the Australian Computer Society and the British Computer Society. In 2002, Ann was inducted into the Australian ICT Hall of Fame and in 2011, into the Pearcey Hall of Fame, for lifetime achievement in the ICT industries. The University of Southern Queensland awarded her an Honorary Doctorate, in May 2006 and Microsoft list her as one of 12 Australian Innovators.

Peter Morgan MBE

Peter Morgan MBE joined IBM as a new graduate in 1959, when transistors were just replacing vacuum tubes, and stayed for 30 years, leaving as Director of the UK subsidiary.  In this interview, he talks about the benefits the US company brought to British customers, IBM vs ICL and why the US is more successful at growing IT giants.  After leaving IBM, he became Director General of the Institute of Directors and has been chair of or a board member of many companies, six of which are in the IT sector.

He was a master of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. As a youth, he aspired to succeed and cites the Cambridge tutorial approach to studying History and National Service as key development activities.

Cyril Hilsum CBE

Cyril Hilsum is a British physicist and material scientist, who carried out research on infra-red devices and semi-conductors, and played a key role in the development of flat-panel liquid crystal displays. He was awarded numerous prizes from several institutions: he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and an honorary member of the American National Academy of Engineering. He was awarded the Max Born Prize in 1987 and the Faraday Medal in 1988. He was awarded the CBE in 1990 for services to the Electrical and Electronics Industry. In 2007 he was awarded the Royal Society’s Royal Medal for his many outstanding contributions and for continuing to use his prodigious talents on behalf of industry, government and academia to this day

Sir Desmond Pitcher

Sir Desmond Pitcher has worked on all sides of the IT industry. He has implemented computer systems for Sperry Univac and became a senior executive. In 1974/5 he delivered the Faraday lecture series for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in which he predicted many of the developments of the IT industry. He has run the computerised switching systems for the telecommunications company Plessey when it was developing and building System X. He has introduced computerisation in large organisations including Littlewoods, the football pools and retailing company based on Merseyside. He later chaired the Merseyside Development Corporation.