Oral history of British science
Edwards, David (Dai) (Part 12 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.
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Computer Software; Electronics
Interviewee's home, Preston
Edwards, David B.G., 1928- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 12: Comments on being chairman of North West IEE committees on education and training, and electronics: visits to London, arranging lectures in Manchester. Comments on being external examiner, examining difficult PhD thesis. Remarks on PhD supervision, following example of FCW and TK's care to acknowledge contributions. [05:30] Comments on PhD students: Eric Dunstan's high standards and subsequent commercial success in USA. Further remarks on PhD supervision. Remarks on other activities impinging on research. [09:10] Comments on MU6: grant application with Frank Sumner [FS] and DM; disagreement with ICL so done in-house; aim to take advantage of integrated circuit developments to build a small MU5; simplification of design to take advantage of faster components; advantages of integrated circuits; [14:45] changes in instruction buffer design from MU5; incorporation of a microprocessor to set up bi-stables in new computer to enable testing and error checking; changes in operating system. [19:15] Remarks on personal role on project, leaving most detailed work to others. Remarks on MU6 team, role of technicians to do wiring. Remarks on poor relationship with ICL compared to previous projects, discussions with Italian firm over computer production. [22:50] Comments on career in 1980s: government's Alvey initiative to improve academia-industry connections; becoming dean of science, meetings; funding and staff cuts in university; Alvey initiative allowing computer science to acquire several new staff and more students; MSc courses. [29:25] Remarks on Alvey funding requirements, need to attract donations from industry. Remarks on new engineering technology building: collaborative effort between PH and DE, contributions of electrical engineering and computer science; opening of building by Princess Anne in 1988 on 40th anniversary of running of Baby computer; exhibition of Manchester computer history. [33:00] Story about anniversary Festschrift that was not published. Remarks on feelings about Manchester computing history at the time. [37:25] Comments on growing interest in AT, the extent of his and MN's work on Manchester computers. Comments on revisionism amongst historians of Manchester computing compared to SL's history: claims regarding MN's computer project. [43:10] Remarks on historians David Anderson and Jack Copeland [JC]: [short pause] communications with JC over a paper revising the history of Manchester computing. [45:30] Remarks on other department activities in 1980s: blow of DM's transfer to UMIST; John Gurd and Ian Watson's work on parallelism; INMOS transputer chip; EEC Esprit IT programme. [49:00] Remarks on early retirement, satisfaction of staying in same University for career. Reflections on the university over his 40 years there: rationing and smog as an undergraduate; disabled or foreign lecturers when he first started; larger scale of classes; campus development. [53:30] Reflections on the importance of the random access store and integrated circuit [pause for phone] on the development of computers, with reference to digital photography and music. Remarks on a student using Ferranti Mark 1 to type and print a thesis, which DE considered a scandalous waste of money. [58:30] Remarks on: being surprised at lack of acceptance of computers for a long time, initially having a low opinion of microcomputers, surprise at extent of integrated circuit development, not being in a position to predict future developments in computing. [1:03:10] Remarks on career highpoints: Atlas and it's many innovations, but being disappointed at its uptake; MU5 and MU6 significant but nothing compared to integrated circuit improvements. Remarks on gradual change in career as he became more senior with extra responsibilities, need to adapt to changes in technology. [1:08:00] Remarks on taking over as head of department from TK with a year of overlap, similar practice when DE retired and was replaced by John Gurd, duties of head of department. Comments on influential colleagues: TT in early years; PH, contact over several computer technologies; TB's work on computer software; students, such as David Aspinall, Michael Lanigan, Yao Chen; DM over work on Atlas. [1:15:00] Remarks on: personal influence of FCW on him; friendship with TK, with story about TK supporting him with an early career problem; working relationship with TK, with anecdote about TK's style of personnel management. [1:20:15] Remarks on smooth transition when he became head of department. Remarks on opposition to computers, expense of machines, entrenchment of analogue computing compared, needs of desperate users, difficulty of using machines. [1:24:30] Remarks on: rarely talking to general public about computers, except for TV broadcast; importance of demonstrating a use to capture public interest and importance of microprocessor; Apple Mac being his first personal computer in department used for word processing and finance.
Interview with computer scientist and electrical engineer David (Dai) Edwards.