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Tim Johnson

Tim Johnson is perhaps best known to those in IT as the co-founder of Ovum, one of the foremost analysts of the industry, that subsumed another familiar name, Holway, and still produces reports, now as part of Datamonitor. 

Tim describes himself as a researcher, a role he has been carrying out since becoming a science correspondent in 1963, producing material on key technologies, markets and issues in various media, through the nationals press and his own brands like Ovum, Point Topic, and Look Multimedia.? His pioneering work includes some of the first publications on packet switching, expert systems, video cassettes and the use and applications for data communications across 17 European countries.?

Tim comes from a line of ancestors involved in technology and media and his father wrote a report recommending the installation of a computer in the design department of Roll Royce in 1953. 

A man wearing a white shirt smiling at the camera. He is sat on a tall-backed black office chair

Robin Christopherson

Robin Christopherson is Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet, the pioneering UK charity that aims to make the power of digital technology available to everyone, regardless of ability or age.  He was brought up to believe that blindness need not be a barrier in life. Both his parents had demanding jobs despite being partially blind, setting a strong example to their three visually impaired children.

As his condition worsened, Robin learned to adapt, moving gradually closer to the front of the class at school. At Cambridge University an early talking laptop running DOS helped his engineering studies.  Robin took inspiration from Prof Stephen Hawking, who overcame physical disability to provide profound scientific insights by nudging a switch

He co-founded AbilityNet in 1996, specialising in adaptive and assistive technology, helping people gain qualifications and design software that is easy to use for all.  It has centres all over country, but has never received government funding, although many of its services are free.

Upcoming advances in adaptive and assistive technology that he lists include smartphones that help people find keys, shoes, or a dog’s harness, check clothes are suitably colour co-coordinated and use lidar to bleep when it is time to move forward in a queue. AI-enabled biometric authorisation will obviate the need to remember passwords and there is huge potential in smart glasses and headsets, he says.

David Thorpe

David Thorpe overcame a (slightly) wayward youth and the lack of a maths O level to become a local authority accountant and COO of EDS in the EMEA region.  He made his mark in the IT when he headed the implementation of a new computer system for a London Borough.

He eschewed the opportunity to be employee number three at Capita but moved to Honeywell Information Systems working on large-scale implementations in the public sector. This drew him to the attention of EDS, the outsourcing company, and he rose quickly as the public sector in the UK turned to outsourcing its IT.

For the past 20 years he has chaired or directed 20 companies, often in the IT sector.  David’s fascinating career story covers key issues and developments in the industry, including the role of IT and outsourcing in the public sector, the rise of IT’s role in business transformation and the contrasting cultures of industry leaders. 

Dr Angus Cheong

In the early 2000s, Angus Cheong saw the potential to use real-time structured and unstructured data analysis to improve the quality of insight from data mining. Angus was a lecturer focused on developing techniques to take public opinion research beyond conventional surveys and polling and after 13 years in academe, he left university life to set up a consultancy focused on data analysis for industry and government using advanced techniques such as AI and machine learning. 

In 2017, this became uMax Data Technology. Angus is still the company’s chief executive, and the business now has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore and clients across Asia. He calls their approach “DiVo” (data in value out) in contrast to many previous “GiGo” systems (garbage in, garbage out).  

Larry Benjamin

Larry Benjamin is a consultant ophthalmic surgeon with a passion to exploit IT for surgery and administration in health.

He says previous resistance to the use of IT among staff is largely overcome among younger people who are IT savvy. Data capture and analysis has, however, have a long way to go.

He has worked with Orbis, the international charity working to make eye care available everywhere. His father was Alan Benjamin OBE a leading member of the UK computer industry from the 1960s.

Sir Bill Thomas

Sir Bill Thomas spent 25 years working in diverse roles in Systems Designers, SD-Scicon and their acquirer, Electronic Data Systems. The British companies merged into and, some would say, transformed the US giant, EDS, and Bill eventually ran the EMEA operation and then oversaw its transition into Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services.  Bill was determined in his youth to study Mathematics and work in Defence, inspired by his father’s service career.  He combined an active passion for sport with doing enough at school to get started on his career plan and had early roles in mathematical modelling and signal processing, first in Marconi and then SD. 

Within EDS, Bill applied his skills to business management and achieved a notable success in a ground-breaking transformation deal with Rolls Royce.  Building on that success he was involved in developing the EDS business model, then managing a large part of the company, becoming the first British member of the Executive Committee.  Since 2009 Bill has pursued a portfolio career as chair and NED in tech and other businesses and charitable bodies.  He was an advisor to the Labour party in opposition on defence procurement and small businesses.  He was knighted in the 2020 New Year Honours list. 

Catherine Ross

Dr Catherine Ross has been a decade working on the extensive archives of the Met Office and is a mine of information on its history, role and contributions to many aspects of our nation and individuals . Amongst that is the use of and impact of technology. Catherine traces the use of pre-digital IT back to the employment of the Victorian telegraph to transmit readings and broadcast predictions and storm warnings. Between then and the invention of the stored program digital computer, Dr Ross charts the use of other technologies, including “computors” and the early vision of how armies of people with mechanical calculators might have presaged the use of super computing.

The Met Office was one of the first users of digital computers as we know them in 1951, running its programs on the Leo at Cadby Hall. Its first own computer was a Ferranti Mercury. The Met Office’s ever more sophisticated numerical modelling of the atmosphere has created a continually expanding demand for computing power. That has made it one of the most demanding users of processing power, leading it to use larger and larger supercomputers from Control Data, Cray and IBM. 

Chris Little

Chris Little is in his 50th year of applying IT to numerical weather prediction at the Met Office.  He has been involved in many of the most important developments in weather and climate modelling over that time and is still there working on international collaboration projects.   Chris has programmed some of the most powerful supercomputers of their days and instigated the use of a wide range of graphic devices for forecasters and researchers. He spent three years at the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (based in Reading) that extended weather forecasting beyond a few days with the application of the first Cray supercomputer.