Oral history of British science
Hoare, Tony (Part 14 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 14: Comments on Oxford: undergraduate degree; importance of getting computer scientists into colleges; setting up joint degree with engineering and various masters degrees to take advantage of government funding; small size of department; infiltration of computing into university, Oxford system, splitting staff between colleges; challenges of introducing academic computer science into Oxford, staffing arrangements, homogeneity of staff, integration with mathematics; lecturers producing textbooks, TH editing series of monographs for Prentice Hall. [07:10] Remarks on Oxford approach to computer science: mathematical approach to computer science; rapid change in computer science; industrial experienced graduate students; changing way people think about programming; anecdote about effectiveness of common methods in specification exercises. [11:00] Remarks on formal methods: foundations made in Oxford; Zed specification language; David May and CSP, influential in development of INMOS Transputer and Occam language. [12:55] Comments on: Transputer, microprocessor developed in Britain in 1980s, managed by David May; description of benefits of communicating process computer architecture, scalability; relationship between CSP and transputer; inspiring design, TH working with Bill Roscoe to improve CSP, leading to a book; value of CSP in automatic checking tool used by university and INMOS; Queen's award for university and INMOS; anecdote about later INMOS floating point bug. [17:50] Comments on specification languages. [19:30] Remarks on: reception of TH ideas; Royal Society, importance of electing new members, few computing FRS's other than Tom Kilburn and Maurice Wilkes; importance of fellows in establishing subject; competition between computer scientists, difficulties of applying for funding due to politicians not understanding subject, competition over conference papers, need to state impact; [25:30] respectability of computer science compared to other subjects; difficulties applying for joint programs with other science departments, value of computer scientists to programming for other subjects; changing position of computer science over course of career. [28:20] Remarks on Royal Society: duties, committees, discussion meetings, electing prize winners; journals; government committees; duties of officers; distinguished lectures, such as Croonian Lecture; value of FRS to TH and in marking progress of computer science. [32:25] Comments on how TH became a professor at Oxford: death of Christopher Strachey; anecdote about lengthy wait before TH appointed; arrangements and inducements for appointing professors. [36:30] Remarks on three children: differences in school in Belfast and Oxford; sending youngest son to Malvern College school, eldest son and daughter to secondary modern school; hands-off parenting; Tom studying engineering, Joanna studying philosophy at Edinburgh; death of youngest son Matthew from Leukaemia; grandchildren, marriage of son to Sikh programmer, resolve of initial family difficulties. [41:00] Remarks on life in Oxford: collegiate social life, Wolfson college; flow of famous lecturers such as Kofi Annan and Mikhail Gorbachev; music and theatre; countryside. [43:35] Remarks on: Oxford Computer since TH retirement, head Bill Roscoe's expansion, Georg Gottlob; position of women in computer science today, causes of situation; decision to retire, Microsoft offer; TH impressed by sabbatical at Microsoft, able to make ideas widely used; [49:40] Cambridge professor Roger Needham setting up research division and asking TH to join; limited powers of a professor approaching retirement to command funding, SRC refusal of grant; anecdote about missing out on share options at Microsoft.
Interview with computer scientist Sir Tony Hoare.