Oral history of British science
Hopper, Andy (Part 7 of 7). An Oral History of British Science
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Computer Hardware; Electronics
Interviewee's office, Cambridge
Hopper, Andy, 1953- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 7: Remarks on recent topics of discussion at RS: stance on proposed funding cuts; stance on global warming; 350th anniversary. Comments on climate change: difficult to express things in an appropriate way to public and media; position of RS over issue; formation of views over time; need for RS to address audience whose favourite programme is 'Top Gear' rather than just specialists; AH worried over global warming impact in developing world and convinced computing can make a difference; [05:43] AH engineering outlook driving him to different solutions to other scientists in RS. Comments on relations between scientists and the media and public: improvements in science journalists in recent years; many science stories in media due to spending review, with reference to 'The Today Programme' coverage of medical physics, but little exposure of engineering stories. [10:00] Comments on status of science and engineering: comparison of John Browne, head of Royal Academy of Engineering [RAEng], with astronomer head of RS; comparison of RS with RAEng, on which AH has served on council and finds easy to relate to. Remarks on membership benefits of RS and RAEng: pleasantly surprised by membership, but not expecting it; [15:26] concern over media and the public over climate change, due to relative time scales of politics and climate change, scope for getting computing right over time; public not understanding issues of risk and not trusting experts, with reference to use of internet for research. [19:24] Remarks on: discussion with FRS's, Mick Jagger fund-raiser at RS, admiring Martin Rees; arrangements for choosing of new members, many meetings required; AH wife providing a view into working of science, RS providing a broader view of scientists and how science-political processes work; AH reviewing a government department and getting to know workings of department. [25:40] Remarks on: positions on Technology Strategy Board; becoming trustee and deputy president of Institution of Engineering and Technology [IET], and its activities in publishing, producing position papers and maintaining world wide membership; roles of vice president and president of IET; AH loosing an election to Cambridge University Council in 1989. [30:11] Comments on views on intellectual property and patenting: varied importance in different areas; important in allowing small entity grow; misuse of patents; little place in university for patents; different roles of patents in business; AH only ever filing one patent himself; limited applicability of patents to software, with reference to VNC; importance of open source, but as a way of introducing technology. [37:05] Comments on future: not expecting much change in some respects; AH not feeling the need to posture as technology is starting to change world; slow pace of change from industry. Remarks on change in context around him over his career, reference back to Maurice Wilkes and David Wheeler work on Cambridge Ring, role of academia as thinking ahead of industry; change in position of PhD's on projects; maturing field of computing; growing experience of AH over career. [43:30] Comments on awards: taking family to ceremonies; processes and committees not always recognising deserving people; awards arriving at different times in his career; nominating others. Comments on career: things following on rather than being driven; companies doing well but could have done better and taken him different places; family anchoring him to Cambridge; circumstances of career guiding it. [49:00] Comments on taking part in British Library Oral History Project: difficulty seeing aggregate view of project; doubts over what impact of project will be.
Life story interview with Professor Andy Hopper CBE FREng FRS, Professor of Computer Technology at the University of Cambridge, co-founder of Acorn.