Oral history of British science
Hoare, Tony (Part 5 of 15). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee’s home, Cambridge
Hoare, Charles Antony Richard, 1934- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 5: Remarks on: British Council role in visit to Russia; TH selecting subject but not location of placement; anecdote about others being sent to Leningrad; student Nicholas Slater, nephew of Boris Pasternak, being denied a visa; British Council briefing about Russia, security; accommodation in University skyscraper in the Lenin Hills; generous stipend; anecdote about impossibility of buying a cushion in Moscow; attachment to Chair of Probability department; TH realising limitations of mathematical knowledge and deciding to re-specialise in machine translation of language; [05:50] reading a book on measure theory. [06:35] Description of skyscraper of Moscow State University, teaching facilities, TH never seeing the Setun ternary computer. [08:45] Remarks on: tutor Sevastyanov and lecturers Dynkin and Kolmogorov; exchange students from other countries. [10:00] Remarks on social life: TH socialising with embassy staff, journalists and expatriates, communities that never mixed normally. [12:50] Remarks on Cold War and life in Russia: U2 spy plane shot down that year; anecdotes about not talking about Russian freinds and not naming them; never employing his interrogation skills; topics of conversations with Russians; Russian class structure, peasants; avoiding talking about politics. [19:00] Anecdote about being left of centre but taking offence to article in the 'New Statesman' whilst in Russia. Remarks on: changing interest from statistics to machine translation, with influence of NPL; things learnt in Russia. [20:45] Discussion about TH inventing Quick Sort: computer translation needing words sorted first; TH attempting to program Quicksort in Mercury Autocode; description of how Quick Sort works; [24:40] process of invention, idea coming to him whilst lying in room in Moscow, writing and publishing program in 1960s whilst working for Elliotts; story about being asked to write a program by Pat Shackleton at Elliott's using a Shell Sort, and suggesting a faster way; importance of Quicksort as computer memories grow; TH not expecting fame from technique; TH's academic ambitions leading him to publish method in the British computer journal, referred by Tony Brooker; implementations of Quicksort. [30:20] Remarks on starting at Elliotts: not wanting to be a perpetual student; many women in programming at Elliotts, including Jill his wife; TH implementing ALGOL60 in early 1960's.
Interview with computer scientist Sir Tony Hoare.