Rodney Hornstein started work as a programmer at IBM during his vacations in 1958 and worked there, off and on, until 1962. He joined LEO computers programming the LEO ranges and later selling them and becoming director of marketing. He lived through the turmoil of first the merger of English Electric and LEO (EEL), shielded by his boss from the turbulence. He was also shielded when EEL merged with Marconi Computers. The big bang was the formation of ICL in 1968. He lived through the often brutal years of the Jeff Cross era from 1972 to 1977 but lost faith and his natural optimism when ICL began to implode into confusion in 1979.
Rodney then spent seven years outside the IT industry but did encounter Sir Arnold Weinstock head of GEC. He was headhunted to run an ICL spin off, DAP, which he had re-engineered from a £30,000 production cost to about $5,000 and sold it into the US and UK markets. He ran Alphameric, as CEO for 5 years, chairman for 4 years, building a profitable company from a near wreck. By 1999 he became an angel investor often acting as chairman of the board. His normal optimism about technology is being tested about the current developments in AI, but he heads an AI start up with a different approach.
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.
It was scoring 100 per cent on a computer aptitude test at NCR that attracted a restless young David Tebbutt to computing in 1965. The industry proved rich in opportunity, taking him from programming, systems analysis and training, through project and data processing management, to business and technology writing and editing.
At NCR, David’s first machine, had 2.4k bytes of memory for working data, the program and running all peripherals. As the technology developed he helped a wide range of companies implement their IT systems. In 1975 he joined ICL as a leadership skills trainer, a role which took him to diverse assignments in Trinidad, Nigeria and Poland.
David had always enjoyed writing but his family and teachers discouraged him from taking it up professionally, believing it was not a good career choice. The chance to prove them wrong came with the emerging world of personal computers.
For Personal Computer World, David reviewed launch models of breakthrough devices such as the IBM PC and Osborne 1 and interviewed industry luminaries including Steve Jobs. As editor, he covered a seminal period, spanning the development of the industry from kit microcomputers to the IBM PC via Tandy TRS-80 and Commodore Pet.
Unable to resist the pull back into the IT industry, in 1981 David co-founded Caxton Software, where he published and developed PC business productivity applications such as BrainStorm, a program he had developed to organise his own work while at PCW. It is still on sale in the US.
David has long been interested in environmental issues, inspired by books such as E F Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful. He worked on an ambitious sustainability initiative at the Science Museum from 2003-2006, and was launch editor of Blue & Green Tomorrow magazine in 2010.
As a writer, David has also covered topics such as ageing, leisure and happiness. He is currently ghost-writing a book about the future. But he doesn’t believe in the “singularity — the idea that AI will eventually control us.
Christine Arrowsmith has had a prolific career as a computer programmer and systems analyst at the forefront of early computing for businesses.
She developed a career as a freelance systems analyst, as well as being employed by several early adopters of office technology and iconic firms such as ICL and F International.
Since retirement in 1997, she’s continued to pursue her passion as a member of the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, the Computer Conservation Society, and manning the Baby exhibit – the first computer to store and run a program – at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.
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.
Geoff Squire OBE spent 50 years in the UK IT industry, from machine code to $Bn companies. Geoff learnt arithmetic and the value of pounds, shillings and pence at an early age doing sums upside down over his father’s shoulder. University was never an option but interest in numbers led on to jobs in programming and thence to growing roles in ICL.
He is perhaps most famous for establishing Oracle in the UK with an opportunistic pitch to Larry Ellison. Subsequently Geoff led Veritas to a Y2K $75Bn market cap. In recent years Geoff has focused, with his wife Fiona, on their grant giving charity and he serves as Chairman of Give as You Live Ltd, a technology company dedicated to raising money for UK charities.
Nic Birtles left university after a boring year for more exciting work in the emerging IT industry. He programmed a LEO machine; successor to the first business computer. Like many who led the growth of the 20th century industry, he soon moved into sales and thence senior management with some of the iconic names of the early industry, including Burroughs in Canada and then ComShare, selling its computer power over telephone lines.
He was headhunted by Ingres, the innovative relational database competitor to Oracle. He was in Silicon Valley for the dotcom boom and bust. Since 2002, Nic has held a portfolio of non-executive roles with growth companies, most recently fundraising for an innovative aircraft design from Aeralis. Nic is a Past Master of the City of London IT Livery Company (WCIT) , where he actively supports their charitable initiatives.
Michael Tobin is a serial technology entrepreneur, writer and philanthropist. He has a multitude of awards including an OBE for services to the digital economy in 2014. He thinks that giving back to society is incredibly important and the more success we have the more we need to remember that that success isn’t permanent and the luck we have had to achieve it needs to be recycled back into the community