Oral history of British science

Hoare, Tony (Part 14 of 15). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Computer Software

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Cambridge

  • Interviewees

    Hoare, Charles Antony Richard, 1934- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    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.

  • Description

    Interview with computer scientist Sir Tony Hoare.

  • Related transcripts

    Professor Sir Tony Hoare interviewed by Dr Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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