Oral history of British science
Hoare, Tony (Part 6 of 15). 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 »
Interviewee’s home, Cambridge
Hoare, Charles Antony Richard, 1934- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 6: Remarks on working for Elliot Brothers: based in Boreham Wood, living in Barnet; description of Elliott's factory; TH's career path from programmer to chief engineer to researcher. Remarks on duties as a programmer: writing device routines, writing a language based on ALGOL 60 for new computer; TH attending ALGOL 60 course in Brighton, after which they decided to just implement ALGOL 60; [04:30] use of recursion in compiler; definition of compiler, value of using recursion within compiler; processes of implementing a language, guidance from 'Communications of the ACM', limitations of small memory sizes. [08:20] Remarks on: using Elliott 803 and designing Elliott 503; feeding in programs on paper tape; compatibility of 503 and 803; limited contact with customers apart from programming courses; freedom in programming work; end users in industry, engineering, research and universities; low cost of Elliott computers, limited capabilities compared to modern computers; [13:25] public perceptions of computers, anecdote about Iann Barron of INMOS predicting how common computers would become; TH scepticism over development rate of computers; £900 salary, boasted by knowledge of Russian; good job market. [17:40] Remarks on: working environment at Elliotts, office arrangements; career prospects in computer industry; promotions. [20:00] Story about an operating system project that failed: overdue project, reducing specification, slow speed of completed version, informing customers, project doomed due to limitations of main memory, problem of store thrashing, setting challenge of how should one write an operating system. [25:50] Comments on developing an operating system: plans to develop new ALGOL compiler and symbolic assembly language; purpose of operating system to manage peripherals and enable multiple programs to run at once; changing development to improving software incrementally; TH management role, putting programmers in direct contact with customers. [30:40] Description of TH's varied daily duties as a manager: customer and sales support, communicating with staff, visiting factory; techniques for managing programmers; lunching arrangements, social drinking. [34:40] Description of TH's duties as a programmer: writing code, testing, documenting, thinking outside work, talking to other staff; [37:20] practicalities of programming; computer reliability; seeing work make a difference.
Interview with computer scientist Sir Tony Hoare.