Oral history of British science
Hopper, Andy (Part 5 of 7). An Oral History of British Science
The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »
Computer Hardware; Electronics
Interviewee's office, Cambridge
Hopper, Andy, 1953- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
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.
Life story interview with Professor Andy Hopper CBE FREng FRS, Professor of Computer Technology at the University of Cambridge, co-founder of Acorn.