The IT industry and the field of computing science is probably unique as being the only field of human endeavour which spans a single human lifetime. It is entirely possible that someone alive today could have met Alan Turing and his contemporaries, seen the development of commercial computing, the advent of 8bit home computing and the invention of the internet.
Television takes a close second place, followed by manned flight and the advent of the motor car, but information technology is unique in the rapidity of its development from scientific theory to omnipresent aspect of our lives in almost every dimension.
The UK’s pioneering role in the development of both computing science and information technology is underplayed both at home and abroad. It’s a very British characteristic not to boast about our achievements while being quite happy to poke fun at them.
The truth is that the UK’s pioneering work in computing science prior to and during the dark days of World War II has continued through the decades since, some of the early pioneers have become well known, yet the stories of others are no less inspiring and should be celebrated for their achievements.
The stories of British IT industry leaders are being captured by the Archives IT, a charity dedicated to recording the history of Britain’s immense wealth of pioneers and champions of the information age.
Archives IT is interviewing senators of the industry from the 1960s to the modern era, recording their stories of early life and upbringing, education, career, professional associations, achievements and their ultimate impact upon society.
Archives IT has already made rapid progress, interviewing such leaders as: Sir Anthony Cleaver (Chairman of IBM UK), Sir Peter Bonfield (ICL), Chris Curry (Acorn Computers), Dr David Potter CBE (Psion) and more recent leaders of our industry including Sir Robin Saxby (ARM), Dr Sue Black OBE (TechMums) and Dr Eben Upton CBE (Raspberry Pi). There are over two-hundred and fifty interview candidates of similar standing on the Archives IT list.
Interviews are recorded and transcribed to British Library standards, with an abstract, photos and links to important documents from the interviewee’s career. The interview recordings, transcripts, abstracts and other resources will be made available online to students, academics, businesses, professional bodies and others with an interest in understanding Britain’s immense contribution to the development of Information Technology through the stories of inspiring leaders.
The Archives IT website is currently in prototype at archivesit.org.uk and our focus in 2017 is to interview a further one hundred leaders of the British IT industry, both past and present. Follow us on Twitter @ArchivesIT and keep an eye out as the website develops with more interviews throughout this year.
Archives IT welcomes enquiries from organisations that are interested in partnering in this project and we particularly thank the BCS and The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists for their support in enabling us in our mission: Capturing the Past, Inspiring the Future.
Paul D Jagger FBCS CITP, Director of Archives