Oral history of British science
Brooker, Tony (Part 13 of 14). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee's home, Thorpe-le-Soken
Brooker, Ralph Anthony, 1925- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 13: Comments on shock at student unrest from 1968: mainly peaceful but sometimes violent, intervention of Professor Barnard in students' fire making, occupation of computer room. Comments on being on SRC computer science committee: visiting Portsmouth and Glasgow Polytechnics, on committee with Antony Hoare. [06:15] Remarks on other duties placed on a professor, interruption of his research. Remarks on establishing artificial intelligence research at Essex by recruiting Pat Hayes [PH], Mike Brady [MB], now at Oxford, and Richard Bornat [RB]. Anecdote about RB's promotion. [11:02] Comments on TB's political views, House of Lords. [13:24] Comments on artificial intelligence [AI]: seeing it as a great challenge, early discussions on artificial intelligence at Cambridge, early chess programs.[15:35] Comments on editing AT's 'Can Machines Think?' article after his death for an Italian magazine and the Turing Test [22:44] Further comments on being enthused by artificial intelligence. Comments on RB and MB's work on pattern recognition [with reference to drawn examples][29:15] Comments on a student who was working on an AI program that answered questions based on a children's book. Remarks on appointment of John Lasky. Comments on the Lighthill Report into AI research. [34:23] Remarks on IP: political influence on TB, retired after TB, bright, started Essex maths department. Story about being on student discipline committee with IP. [39:14] Comments on compromises in university politics, with reference to dealing with delinquent students, senate working. Remarks on Essex University contrasted to the orderly nature of Manchester, with reference to a student with a Mohican hair cut. [42:28] Story about student occupation of computer room, KB and ex-army computer operator calming situation. [46:40] Remarks on some staff at Essex sympathising with students. Further comments on Lighthill Report: James Lighthill's death during a swim off Sark; report received unfavourably by PH, nicknaming it the Dark Vale Report; recommendation on pursuing achievable applications not blue sky thinking. [52:08] Further remarks on SRC and AI, a project of KB to computer control projectors. Remarks on other duties at Essex, such as outside committees. [55:55] Comments on meeting people from industry on SRC committee, such as Philip Hughes of Logica who was recruited by SD, allowing academia to keep up with developments such as Java. [59:54] Remarks on staff visiting industry while visiting students on placements, interchange between industry and academia, limited influence of industry on SRC, Philip Hughes, databases. Remarks on importance of databases and query languages. [1:05:06] Remarks on being dead of department interfering with research, also serving as Dean of Mathematical Studies, a student cheating in exams, heavy administrative duties, appointment to Pro vice Chancellor Services in 1976 until 1980. [1:09:47] Remarks on sabbatical at EURATOM in Italy, developing an interest in query languages, writing a book. Remarks on death of KB in car crash, continuing student unrest at Essex and later at the University of Kent at Canterbury. [1:14:13] Further remarks on KB's death, troubles finding a suitable replacement until appointment of Simon Lavington, who TB had originally wanted. Remarks on book TB wrote on query languages: published by McGraw-Hill; creating his own query language rather than paying attention to other developments; difficulties introducing new languages, with reference to an IBM colleague who wrote a better version of COBOL that was not taken up. [1:20:20] Remarks on arranging to retire early, with help of John Oliver, arranging to do Dean's job. Remarks on previous four years as Pro Vice Chancellor, university politics and governance. Story about a Parliamentary committee visit to investigate student unrest c1969, with reference to early support for Robert Mugabe. [1:26:05] Comments on time at EURATOM: worked on book; worked with Tasos Kontogiorgos a Greek research student, who also worked with Bell Labs, Lucent and Goldman Sachs; [1:32:32] squabbling between different nationalities; similar to scientific civil service; other work outside atomic energy. [1:34:44] Short comparison of sabbatical at EURATOM with IBM. Remarks on friends made through EURATOM. Remarks on differences of Manchester and Essex Universities: fixed term head of department, more committees, less staff student distinctions. [1:38:16] Comments on developing an interest in sailing at Essex to replace mountaineering when he had a family, story about a storm on a return voyage from Holland.
Life story interview with computer scientist Tony Brooker