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Eric's less brief history
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Date

Domestic

Dance, music & song

Computer
related

1937

12 March: Born at 20 Third Avenue, Torquay, third son of Amy & Ray. Neighbour "What is it?", Mum "It's another boy", neighbour "What a shame". I was to be called "Jane". First memory is walking along to number 49 where Dad's mother "Nana" and sister Auntie Gwen lived. Mum says Nana was very bossy and tried to run our house.

My love of dance and music comes from Mum.

My scientific learning came from my Dad.

1940

4th November: Move to Yarborough Road, Lincoln

Memories of hearing a brass band passing the back of the house. I could hear them but couldn't see them, I cried for mum to open the gate but she couldn't hear because she was hoovering.

 

1941

3rd September: Move to a pair of cottages about 2 km out of Toft, Lincs. Loo down the garden, water from a well. When it ran dry we fetched buckets in a pram from Toft. They were declared unfit for habitation when we left, and demolished. Grandma (Mum's mum) and Auntie Hilda came to live with us when they were bombed out in Plymouth.

 

1942

19th November: Move to Northorpe, Lincs.
Started at Thurlby Primary School. When I was forced to stay at home because of eczema/asthma I secretly cycled to school, didn't want to miss it!

Memories of Sam Knipe (80 year old neighbour) playing concertina and Dad on piano. Sam said "Your Dad is the only one that can accord with me!" That's because Dad knew that his concertina could only play G and D!

 

1946

12th June: Move to 5 Beauchamp Road, Twickenham.
Move to Archdeacon Cambridge C of E Primary School. Dad was deputy head.

First holidays after the war were to Torquay (Dad's family) and Plymouth (mum's family in a flat while their house was rebuilt), miles of queues at Paddington, standing all the way, lots of soldiers. Later years we went by bus.

 

1948

Scholarship to Christ's Hospital (a posh private school) refused by Dad for socialist reasons. I starred in a local road safety film (the school was near a main road), I chased a ball into the road and according to the script was "obliterated".
September started at Thames Valley Co-Ed Grammar School, 1.5 miles cycle ride each way, always home for lunch except when Owen was in hospital.

 

1949

7th January: Move to 13 Albemarle Avenue, Twickenham. Dad walked two miles walk each way to primary school through Crane Park. I broke my right arm swinging on a rope over the river in Crane Park and falling off.

Went to Mum's folk dance club, given accordion and asked to play. It took me a year, I still crashed out occasionally. My maths teacher Mr Blandford played accordion for the school folk dancing, I observed his left hand and tried to copy it. Mum & dad bought me a Hohner Student V 48-bass.

I had my own shed, and bought lots of ex-defence bits of electronics on Edgware Road and Lisle Street to play with. Wireless kit (transmitter receiver TR1155), radar units (CRT VCR97 makes a persistent TV), navigation systems (analogue computers for computing latitude and longitude from direction and speed as part of bomb aiming), electric motors. Unlike transistors, it was mostly high voltage valves and stuff.

1953

GCE O levels. Failed English Literature, but OK on the others. The head (Mr Bligh) said I should take marks off my maths (100%) and move them to English Lit. Each of the 3 Foxley boys failed English Lit worse than the previous.

I could (and did) take the engine of our Morris 10 car apart onto the bench and re-assemble it. Only one nut left over.

More playing at Mum's club. People like Patrick Shuldham-Shaw and Lesley Nichols visited. I was able to sit in with visiting bands, Nan Fleming-Williams, Michael Bell, Don McBain, Otto Wood, ... Joan Somebody and Elsie Avril played accordion and orcan flute at EFDSS gigs.
Danced and played with Thames Valley Morris, looked after by their squire Dr Christopher Penton (chief psychologist to the War Department), who took me to see traditional players like Jinky Wells (Bampton) and William Kimber (Headington). He made me play in front of William Kimber who told me to "make it snappy". Chris also told me when I said "This way sounds better, why don't other people do it?" he said "Because they didn't think of it. You play it the way you think best."

Made a noughts and crosses game playing machine for the school fete. And then a Nim playing machine, much easier given binary arithmetic.

Fascinated at school finding out (and proving) that for all integer n the result of (3n+1)3, if you add the digits together always comes to one If the answer's more than 9 keep adding digits together. And lots of similar results.

1955

June/July: GCE A and S levels, pure maths, applied maths, physics, chemistry: good, maths only 98%. Years later someone I met from NPL Teddington said my name was still on the school honours board even thought it had changed to a girls' school.
November/December: I took various Oxbridge scholarship exams, and luckily failed the lot (or I would not have met Joy)!

 

1956


September: Started at Nottingham University. First and third years in Hugh Stewart Hall sharing with David Claxton (later a missionary in Congo, shot by a robber). My 3rd year room was over an archway. One day I was emptying a bucket of water out of the window (as you do) and a very wet and angry warden appeared. I'm the only graduate who went on to join the staff who was NOT invited back as a senior commonroom member. Second year was in digs on the Trowell Road with Joe (David) Pusey, son of a dustman, married Yona the daughter of an Oxford prof of theology,

Early September: With Thames Valley Morris to Ring Meeting at Abingdon. Foresters Morris were admitted to join the Ring under Ted Ward. I asked to join them.

First week at university I went to Folk Dance Society (with my accordion) met Joy (who wanted an accordionist)! But I had to get rid of boyfriend George first. And Joy's Mum was a good cook, and the home was "open house" to visitors and friends.

January-June: Worked at Paint Research Station, 8 Waldegrave Road, Teddington. Great fun, given a variety of jobs to do! "Plot a graph of the speed of sound in a film of paint against temperature", played with locally made electron microscope.

September at Nottingham University. Second week asked by Maths dept to make some electronic models of e.g. adders and UDEs for Alan Rose's computer logic course. They arranged for me to study the electronics degree too (I took two full degree courses at the same time) without examination.

1957

February: Brother Owen died, I had the phone call the day I got back from the Bristol show. Sad summer holiday at Helensburgh with Mum and Dad, I popped over to Edinburgh to see Joy. The Christmas afterwards was desperately sad.

The university folk dance society gave a Ukrainian cossack show at the Bristol Inter-University folk dance gathering.
I was president of Nottingham Folk Dance Society from 1957 to 1959 and organised the inter-university gathering at Nottingham in spring 1958. The band was lead by Kay Graham (fiddle), looked at me at one point and said "Who's leading this band?"

Joy and I went to various EFDSS courses and events. Met Bert Lloyd, Ken & Sybil Clark et al.

Summer vacation I did an apprenticeship at Ericssons Telephones Beeston, learning uniselector relay technology, then constructing a drum storage device for digital phone exchanges. I used ferrite mixed with araldite to coat the drum, bad idea, it ruined the heads if you screwed them in too far.

1959

5th July: Graduated with an upper second (out of 60 intake, no firsts, only me upper two, three lower two, a few thirds, passes included Alan Page) and got engaged to Joy, Eric-- "Will you marry me?". Joy-- "I'll think about it."

1959 Inter University gathering at Glasgow, I advised Jimmy Shand on tunes for the English dances, and joined in another hall with Jim McLeod's band, much livelier!

Started PhD to design, construct and use a computer to do logic (supervised by absent minded genius Alan Rose who had worked with Alan Turing, and funded by British Railways hoping for the logic of points/signals interlocking to be automated). One year to construct, one year using it, 6 months writing it up.

1960

Accidentally put on University payroll for helping out in calculating machine laboratories. It gave me two more years worth of pension.

Wedding at the Albert Hall with Rev George Sails.

Freds Folks first broadcast, leader Kevin, members me, Kath (drums, worked in Portland Building catering, always started the evening with a full bottle of whisky), with extras Stuart Woodhouse (bass, music teacher) and Sam Brown (guitar, police car maintenance, Lincoln, didn't like too many chord changes).
Regular broadcasts thereafter, all with Ken Clarke as MC and a guest. Guests included Tollerton Plough Play men (needed beer to get them talking, then they wouldn't stop), Rosemary Redpath, Isla Cameron, Steve Benbow ...
University Christian Society invited people like Sidney Carter, who came round to our house. "Change the songs any way you want, make it yours."

I was appointed to the Maths staff as a "Tutorial Assistant" in my second year, giving me 2 unexpected extra years of pensionable service. Duties were to supervise labs of hand calculating Brunsviga machines 2 afternoons a week for £325 a year, less pay than my grant had been.

1961

Summer: Attended EFDSS course at Barford, met McDouall parents, Joy's skirt didn't fit.

 

1962

1st May: Angus expected.
6th May : Angus started coming, but things slowed down, so Joy to hospital. I followed and slept in the nurses' home, and was called back in to hold a leg just before midnight.
7th May: Angus came 2am. I went back and immediately woke up Joy's parents and phoned mine!
July: PhD graduation. Also graduating was Miss UK in a see-through top and off-the-shoulder gown, plenty of papperazzi there.

 

Awarded PhD. In the viva the external examiner (logic Prof Smiley from Cambridge) asked a difficult question, "What would your computer do if ...?". The chairman saw my hesitation and immediately said "I'd have a nervous breakdown if I were you, what's the next question?". I was eternally grateful. Once the PhD was safely obtained I published a paper saying that special computers to do logic were a waste of time, you could do it on an ordinary computer.

1963

Chris McDouall came to Nottingham as a student, stayed with us, did a child study on Angus.

 

1964

27th January: Rory born at home.

Eric involved with the Manchester "Atlas" computer, many trips away e.g. to a course in London University who also had an Atlas, and to Manchester with Pitteway (of our Computing Centre) delivering and collecting punched paper tape and talks given at Nottingham.
Stripped out unwanted two EMIDEC computers at Boots on Station Street. Gave away the bits. Then Boots found it was rented not owned. Oh dear!

1965

24th July: Hamish born. Bang goes any plan for two kids, then a gap, then two more. Three's enough!

 

1967

Busy year!
May to June: Eric took Angus to school at Dunkirk, lunched with him, and took him home afterwards.
June 30th: Moved to Greenfield Street, bought for £3500 from Clare's family (not owned by her mum, but in trust by the children). The students helped us move in for a student squash the day after.
July 1st: Started director's job.

March: Appointed Director of University Computing Centre starting in July.
March - May Professor at Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna. We all lived there, plus Marion and visitors.
I soon became secretary of the national "Inter University Committee on Computing" involving regular meetings with our government funding body (the "Computer Board") in London and locally.

1968

On one trip visited aged Auntie Grace (age 80+) in Detroit (she walked me off my feet). Then (using a different airport in a different time zone, I nearly missed the plane) to relatives in Toronto (Air Canada inaugural jumbo on the way back).

First of a number of trips to USA, to see Internet prototype etc., called the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency, part of the USA DoD), NASA computing etc. Included some visits to Canada to see elderly relatives and Bruce Shawyer (ex-Nottingham).

1971

 

While I was playing for a children's dance show at Wollaton Park (MC Ken Clark) a stall-holder said "Can I bring my bass and play with you tomorrow?". It was Geoff Bocking, who then joined Freds Folks band, played bass in a procession with a schoolchild marching in front carrying the spike of the bass. I joined his singing group "Lazybones", in which I played bass.
? Kids started playing instruments.

New computing Centre building I helped design, new computer ICL 1906A at £1.2 million then.
I was secretary of the national Inter University Computing Committee, lots of London meetings with government officials. I organised the annual IUCC conference, invited speakers included Grace Hopper, Don Knuth, Dijkstra. Grace Hopper always had a piece of wire a foot long and explained "This is a nanosecond" at the speed of light, see diary.

1973

I discovered that large sums of money were disappearing from my account in the CCC. In those days computing centres were given special very generous funding from government to encourage the UK computing industry. I reported my losses to the government and was then hauled up before the VC and fired, "We don't wash our dirty linen in public." So he admitted that there was dirty linen. I was demoted from being a professorial director to an ordinary maths staff. The "firing" made the front page of the Times Higher Education with big photo of me, and the Guardian newspaper. It was a cause of great trauma for a while, but it gave me a life of great freedom since I could then do anything I wanted and this university couldn't prevent me or I would publish my story more widely. Hence a life of travel to help universities round the world doing whatever I wanted and taking as much leave as I wanted. Bless the university, I was away so much they eventually started to dock my pay when I was away, but kept paying my superannuation payments. What a life, I counted over 20 countries in the end, not being a tourist but living with students, experiencing the local culture, and helping developing countries in whatever way they wanted. Purposes of visits included helping set up new courses, writing software, improving computer performance, teaching the latest developments, handing out hundreds of millions of dollars for the World Bank, and I'm particularly proud of a US tour lecturing on music analysis.

1975

Took up pottery! I was winging in the band about being fired by the university, Geoff said "Don't take it out on us, take it out on a lump of clay." I loved it! Geoff left Nottingham (i/c 3D design at Mary Ward College now BGS) and moved to Ireland, so then I bought my own pottery kit and set it up in our stables.

Freds band played once a week all summer for several years at Butlins Skegness, 8pm to 10pm. One week the hall burnt down. One week Chris found his guitar case empty and had to borrow one from another band. MC usually Pete Gregory, several times Joy and Ken Clarke.

Worked in Tanzania for 3 months, my first trip outside western culture. A "must do before you die" action is to watch the full moon rise over the Indian ocean from the Tanzanian coast. Wonderful, strange shape at first because of the cooler air by the sea. Also Sudan (I was called out to Sudan to solve Elliott 803 problems in Khartoum University, the problem turned out to be white ants in the processor, I think looking back that the two UK staff there just wanted some English company for a while) and and to Cairo, Egypt and 1981 {computer networking to link their University ICL to the department Data General} and 1991 {lecturing on Z} and ...). See the Kilimanjaro story in the diary. On the way back I came via Nigeria (goat in the plane gangway from Lagos to Ibadan) and stayed with Dave & pregnant Louise Scott.

1983

 

Lecture tour of mid-west USA univeristies, honor lecturer in "Music Analysis and Classification".

And later a USA business trip to oil companies on computer performance.
Lots of teaching in London, 1 to 5 days courses on computer security, performance, etc, and at e.g. RAF Strike Command HQ, I guessed their password correctly.

1989

   

Another of my trips to Cairo, this one to sort out the performance of their new big ICL mainframe. You could see the problems as soon as you walked into the computer room, by the pattern of flashing lights. But it would be rude to tell them that!

1983

Joy met me in Oklahoma after I'd taught summer school in Victoria, Vancouver, and we stayed with Mahir and toured to southern USA in his car.

Hamish lead Freds Folks whenever I wasn't around.


July: Taught Summer School at Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada.

1985  

Visits to Kuwait and others. My book "Unix for SuperUsers" was in the top 10 in California for a while.

1988

 

First of many trips to China. Met off the plane "Welcome to China, we see that you are a cow".

1995

Caught boat to small island off Hong Kong. Found a morris team with no musician but a spare accordion!

Trip to China with Department of Trade and Industry. Never decline an invitation!

Later

Formally retired 1998, went half time for 2 years, then third time for 2 years and lastly quarter time for one year. Instead of walking (8 minutes) to my office on the local campus I cycled (10 minutes) to the new Jubilee campus for the last 2 years. Somewhere are photos of my 13 university offices.

Many trips to Malaysia (via ex-PhD Mohd Zin), Singapore (writing software for marking student work), Finland (ditto), China (first trip supposed to be setting up a microprocessor lab, but they had invited others to pay for a Software Engineering course, which I had to write on the spot, Chinese are all born capitalists! Then many trips for the World Bank, inspecting universities and suggesting how big a grant they get), Taiwan (on one trip I was a General in the army, they translated my software into Mandarin), India (via Joy, teaching and lots, always introduced as "the husband of the famous Kathak dancer Joy").

The other history page is here. This copy edited Monday 19-Aug-2019

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