This page is about me. There is another page for folks who go in for ancestral stuff.
Click on the small pictures to see larger versions.
Part of the school photograph (Forest School, London, E17) for 1954. That's me, aged 10, in the middle. I was already considered a bit geeky by by peers because I liked maths and hated soccer — having discovered that you can do maths without getting cold, muddy, wet, and bruised all over. Here are some reminiscences.
My interest in computers emerged early. The picture shows my first attempt at building one, probably around 1958. It evaluated definite integrals to two decimal digits on a good day. My second computer was intended to solve second-order differential equations but it never got finished. Thus I learned the "second-system effect" at an early age (see Chapter 5 of The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.).
Mechanical systems became boring after a while, so I switched to electronics. If there seem to be rather too many inductors, it is because I was experimenting with saturable reactors, an ancient and outdated technique for amplifying AC using a DC control signal.
The monster at rear left is the famous Williamson amplifier, designed in 1947. This particular instance was built by my uncle in about 1955. On the right is a powewr supply, consisting of a rather hefty looking transformer, a twin diode value (tube) to rectify its output, and a choke (inductor) and capacitor to smooth the resulting mess. The diode eventually developed a leak and fluoresced spectacularly before blowing up.
I obtained my bachelor's degree, in mathematics, from Queens' College, Cambridge. The photo shows the Mathematical Bridge that joins the two parts of Queens'. It's a nice picture but, alas, I didn't take it. The apostrophe in Queens' comes after the 's' because several queens were involved in founding the college.
Although I was supposed to be studying (or "reading", as they say in Cambridge) mathematics, I devoted far too much of my time to other activities, including theatre and film. I ran the Film Society (which watched films) for a year and the Film Unit (which tried to make films) for two years.
One of the last movies I worked on was The Sea Change directed by Carey (son of Rex) Harrison with Larry (son of Roy) Boulting doing the lighting and Francis (son of Lord) Plowden as the gopher. I operated the camera, which was a 16mm Auricon with a 10:1 Angenieux zoom lens. A 10:1 zoom seemed rather exotic in 1964, but is commonplace now.
In the summer of 1964, I worked on the lighting for Cymbeline at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall.
Between 1963 and 1978, I used a variety of computers, some of which look pretty weird nowadays. This is EDSAC 2, child of EDSAC, the first stored-program computer ever built. Both were built under the direction of Maurice Wilkes at Cambridge and, as an undergraduate, I took Wilkes's course and wrote a sorting program for EDSAC 2. It was hard to get time on EDSAC 2 because Fred Hoyle always seemed to be doing astrophysics calculations with it.
After graduating, I was invited to the Cardiff Commonwealth Arts Festival by Bill Harpe. My job was Administrative Director of the Film Festival. The Director was Harley Jones (on my right in the photo) who was working with John Grierson at that time.
During the festival, I got to have lunch with Prince Philip — and a few hundred other people. We were given strict instructions not to contradict dukes, however fatuous their remarks. When I did, his entourage cringed and paled, but Phil seemed to be rather pleased to be corrected for once.
My second job involved using a noisy Monroe calculator to analyse the results of a pattern classification program (this was 1966 — nowadays it would be called a "neural network"). Using a calculator to analyse computer output was boring and stupid, so I wrote a program to do it instead, and so became a programmer (you didn't need certification back then).
The program that I wrote ran on an IBM 7094, several tons of machinery with 32K words of memory. We used the 7094 at IBM's Newman Street office in London; I don't know where the one in the picture is. It was hard to get time on the 7094 because Fred Hoyle always seemed to be doing astrophysics calculations with it (presumably, EDSAC 2 had become too slow for him).
By 1966, we had low-resolution (64 x 64 x 4 bit) images and one of the first Calcomp plotters, but no software to create images. I wrote a program that rendered each pixel as a squiggly line and used it to produce the first computer image of myself.
1967 was my year of wandering. Here I am on the after-deck of the Castel Felice, leaving Papeete en route for Panama in 1967. Small world note: 20 years laters, I rented a room from the erstwhile purser of the Castel Felice in his home town, Galaxidi, in Greece.
I worked for ICL for a time, adding further confusion to their George 3 operating system. What other company would name its OS after a mad king? We ran tests on an ICL 1907, similar to the one shown here.
In 1969, I serendipitously drifted into electronic music. In fact, I had been interested in electronic music since my teens, when I listened to a series of radio programs given by Tristram Cary (1925-2008, RIP) and talked my parents into buying me a tape-recorder.
By a series of coincidences, I ended up at Electronic Music Studios. Peter Zinovieff owned the studio and (small world!) Tristram Cary was on the board of directors — as was I, briefly. I wrote a music synthesis program called MUSYS.
In 1971, I needed a new typewriter. The Olivetti Praxis seemed the only sensible choice. I had the silly fraction keys changed to useful ASCII symbols. Unfortunately, it was stolen: one of the big losses of my life. Green-eyed Beauty
I wrote a book about Pascal, first published in 1978. The second edition, shown here, appeared in 1984. It sold zillions of copies and was translated into eight languages. Thank you, Addison-Wesley!
More book covers.
- An early, dot-matrix printer (just visible at far left)
- Twin 640Kb disk drives (hidden under computer, but see photo below)
- Ithaca Intersystems computer with Z80 microprocessor and 128Kb RAM
- Matrox 513 x 512 Graphics monitor showing a rotating hypercube
- Diablo daisy-wheel printer
- ASCII 80 x 25 Monitor connnected to serial port
The software was Gary Kildall's DOS (before Bill Gate's took it and ruined it). The most remarkable piece of software was a Pascal compiler, which was complete and error free though rather slow. I wrote my own LISP system in assembly language, and designed my own Greek fonts so that I could print mathematics on the dot-matrix printer. Those were the days!
Here is André Cusson's audio/video studio. There is an EMS VCS-3 hiding behind the mixer on the left. Beyond that is an early video synthesizer, also built by EMS. You don't hear much about "late" video synthesizers, probably because we now call the field "computer graphics". Front right is a classic Fender-Rhodes — a piano made of amplified tuning forks.
MUSYS (see above) evolved into Mouse, the subject of a Byte article in 1979, and Mouse eventually became a book, published by the late and lamented Petrocelli Publishers in 1983.
More book covers.
I gave up movies and, some years later, switched to 35mm photography. The photo at right shows me with my Canon A-1. I used an Olympus IS-1 for a while; it was great for travelling. Then, I sold both cameras and bought a Canon Rebel 2000 with a 28-135mm USM zoom with image stabilizer. A few years ago, I switched to digital photography with a Canon XTi. In 2010, I upgraded to a T2i (aka 550D). The T2i shoots HD video as well, so I'm back to making movies again.
Some time during the late 1980s, I started to appreciate the dangers of growing fat and lazy. So, a couple of times a week, you would have found me at the Somerled Billiard Academy working out with a snooker cue. (In June 2000, sadly, the Academy closed down after almost 50 years of continuous operation.)
A snooker lesson from Alain Robidoux.
My present job involves research, teaching, and administration. Of these, I think I am best at teaching, although research is sometimes more fun. This photo shows me in my office in Concordia's Hall building during one of my overweight periods — late 1980s?
Another book, this one on Ric Holt's language Turing, came out in 1995. It didn't sell as well as the Pascal book, but Turing was not as popular as Pasal.
More book covers.
Participated in Spencer Tunick's "installation", May 2001.
Promotion to Full Professor, 2004. ("Full of what?", as Elaine Newman used to say.)
Spouting rubbish at CUSEC 2006.
Accepting the first President's Award for Teaching Excellence in July 2007: here's a rather inaccurate article about the event.
Answering a question at CUSEC 2008.
Talking about our new project at C3S2E, Montreal, May 2008.
... and Bostich of Nortec has one, too.
Surf the web or grind the pepper? A nice picture by a nice guy — David Boroditsky. June, 2013.
Old information is approximate; I know I won something, but the details are a bit hazy.
- Kayaking Thorpeness Meare Regatta, 1957.
- Sailing 15ft Class, Aldeburgh Yacht Club Regatta, 1960.
- Mathematics Forest School Mathematics Prize, 1961.
- Electronic Music 1,000,000 lire prize for my work on Musys, Radio Milano, 1972.
- Photography Colour prints, private competition organized by Dimitri Vouliouris, 1985.
- Teaching 1 Engineering and Computer Science Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, 1998.
- Teaching 2 Concordia University President's Award for Teaching Excellence, 2007.