I was born in Colchester (yes, that means I'm an Essex man) and went to the Boy's High School there. I then went on to the Colchester Royal Grammar School, where I spent many happy hours with the glowing valves in the school radio station, Radio Lexden. At the Colchester Institute, I passed an A-level in Computer Science with a BASIC program for a Commodore PET. This helped me to go on to Westfield College, University of London (long since merged with Queen Mary College), where BASIC was frowned upon and the Coffee Bar became the best place to get advice on your Algol-68 programs. Westfield's refectory and science block, Queen's Building, have now been demolished and replaced by flats.
My first job was with the London Software Studio, which subsequently became part of Sapphire International. I spent a lot of time there working on a presentation graphics package called the Enhanced Personal Presentation System (EPPS — anybody remember using it?). It was mostly written in compiled BASIC, but I managed to sneak in quite a bit of 8086 assembler code, too. I moved on to Time Manager International where I actually learned something about business, as well as getting an introduction to making programs useable. The outcome was a program called TMI Key Results, written in Turbo Pascal. At INMOS (now part of SGS-Thomson), I worked on the transputer and Unix. Part of that work resulted in a hardware and software package that could run the X Windows server on a transputer-based graphics board (the B020) in an IBM-compatible PC. I then continued to work with transputers and Unix at Submetrix, where the goal was to build a sonar without letting salt water into the high-voltage parts.
I did some work towards a PhD at the University of the West of England. My research was in the field of metadata for image databases (in particular problems of user interface and usability) at the now-defunct Centre for Personal Information Management. I also did some teaching on the Human-Computer Interaction course (UQI120S2), mostly in the practical sessions.
Back in the commercial world, I joined Eurologic's software division (now a separate company called Elipsan), building a Linux-based network appliance for Storage Area Networks (SANs). Moving on from there, I worked for Hewlett-Packard, at the HP Labs in Stoke Gifford. The job (a one-year contract) involved looking after some HP Jornada handheld computers that belong to a wearable and mobile computing research project, Mobile Bristol. I also developed new hardware and software for the wearables, and went on to work for the University of Bristol to carry on with the project. After that research ended, I went to Hambrook to work for Adelix, once again using Linux. I worked for a while at Tektronix in Bristol, where I wrote C++ software for digital TV quality-control.
I'm now back at UWE, studying for a Masters degree in Robotics.
I used to drive a Suzuki SC100, which everybody referred to as the motorised roller-skate. I liked that little car, but sadly it's now "resting". Or should that be rusting... My next motor was a Lancia Y10, a Fila special edition with the funky bright-blue interior. After driving two unusual cars, I had a go with something mundane but practical, a VW Polo. However, the urge to get back to a K-class was just too strong, and I now have another Suzuki, this time the two-seater, convertible, turbocharged, fuel-injected Cappuccino. The Cappucino is a great little car, but it's not really a bubble-car; nor is it electric. For that, I have a CityCom City-El, which is pictured here.
I wrote my first BASIC program in 1978 on a Commodore PET 2001. Soon after this, I built a UK101 from a kit and learned 6502 assembler programming. I can still remember the 6502 opcodes, in hex, and I've been told that there's no cure. I have since written code on all sorts of machines, notably the Prime P750 and PDP-11/44 at Westfield, the IBM PC, the Atari ST, the INMOS transputer and Sun workstations. Most of it worked, too.
I've never quite made up my mind whether I should work on hardware or software, and most of my computing work has involved a bit of both. I put together an Acorn System One in 1979 (for my school electronics lab) and of course the UK101 in 1980. At Westfield, I built a Z80 project as part of my degree work, as well as several add-ons for the UK101. In later years, I've done transputer designs for Submetrix and even dabbled in analog electronics. For a while, I built wearable computers around the PICmicro chips. But nowadays, my microcontroller of choice is the Atmel AVR chip.
These are some of the technological things (apart from computers) that I get enthusiastic about: