Oral history of British science

Hopper, Andy (Part 5 of 7). An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Computer Hardware; Electronics

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's office, Cambridge

  • Interviewees

    Hopper, Andy, 1953- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: Comments on early multimedia networking systems developed by ORL in late 1980s: description of associated Pandora's Box equipment; not aiming at markets but predicting what world will want; chain leading from faster networks to multimedia networks. [04:25] Comments on ability to detect ways market will go: luck, financing and contexts; advantages of University as radar screen; advantages of links with, but not being part of, a big company for innovating. [08:50] Comments on location systems: his most highly cited paper; description of old small Acorn premises used by ORL, move to larger offices where they felt lost; AH suggesting Roy Watts invent a system to let staff know where they were; description of Active Badge system for locating staff; completing his first transatlantic flight using an early GPS system c.1989 and getting interested in location business; varied uses of technology; relationship of ORL with University. [16:32] Comments on Big Brother aspects of system: enthusiasm for technology at ORL because it was their development; mixed reactions and hacking around of system at Computer Lab; sale of technology at Xerox PARC and hostile reaction in the USA. [20:00] Remarks on: Ubisense company; reasons for high citations of his publications on location technology; importance of money as a facility in the research labs. Comments on business model, occasional lukewarm involvement with Olivetti leading to AH launching spin-off companies or open sourcing technology, rather than abandoning technology; AH evolving business model with his previous experience of spin-out companies, Virata, IPV, VNC desktop movement technology; output more than business model; [28:40] importance of navigating contexts; limitations of current university approach to commercial involvement. Remarks on: long term survival of ORL in people who worked there and spin-off companies; importance of AH's position in a number of different academic and business contexts. [32:18] Comments on government policies toward his work: 1980s Tories, less control but less money for universities; 1990s Labour more money, but more control over his activities; importance of BBC to Acorn, limited involvement of Kenneth Baker; most dramatic changes in last 10 years toward fuelling business, technology transfer; limitations of research council funding compared to Google funding. [36:30] Comments on differences of himself from other academics in high-tech field: most academics academic metric driven, few in industry; different route of himself; few people like him in early days, with reference to Orbis; differences between industry and academia; reasons for success in being in the right place at the right time.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Professor Andy Hopper CBE FREng FRS, Professor of Computer Technology at the University of Cambridge, co-founder of Acorn.

  • Related transcripts

    Professor Andy Hopper interviewed by Tom Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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