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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.

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.

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.

Professor Peter Dobson OBE

Prof Peter Dobson OBE was born during WWII in Liskeard,  Cornwall and led a “net zero carbon existence” for his first 14 years without mains electricity or water. 

After Grammar school, he chose a GPO (General Post Office, now BT) scholarship to take him to university and worked alongside Tommy Flowers.  His broad career has covered a wide range of disciplines from physics and chemistry to materials science and engineering and bridged industry (Philips) and academia (Imperial College and Oxford).  Peter was responsible for creating and building The Begbroke Science Park for Oxford University.

Peter has successfully spun-off numerous companies. His latest, Oxford NanoSystems was formed in 2012. He is currently on the advisory board of several companies involved in nano-materials, healthcare and energy. He was awarded the OBE in 2013 in recognition of his contributions to science and engineering.

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.

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