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" 50 years of Computing - A Cambridge Perspective"

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About the Series

A series of specially-commissioned 50-minute lectures to celebrate the first 50 years of Wolfson College. In the series, eleven distinguished members of the college reflect on developments in their fields of expertise in the half-century since Wolfson was founded.

About the Lecture

When Wolfson was founded computers were large, expensive machines only used by a privileged few. In this the College’s 50th anniversary year we are surrounded by computers, most of which are seen as essential, everyday consumer items. Dr Herbert will tell the story of how Cambridge has contributed to the evolution of the computer from the mainframe to the cloud and offer a view on what the next 50 years might hold.

To take us back to 1965 Dr Herbert hopes to be able to demonstrate a working Elliott minicomputer from the mid 1960s – the kind of machine on which he first learned to program in 1970. The size of two chest freezers, weighing over 300kg and costing the equivalent of £200,000 at present day prices, the 903 has a tiny fraction of the memory and computing power of a modern Raspberry Pi computer.

About the Lecturer

Andrew Herbert started his research career in the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory. Working with Roger Needham, a notable early Fellow and benefactor of the College, Andrew had the privilege of working on many seminal developments in computer operating systems and networks. Leaving the university for industry, he founded his own company, subsequently acquired by Citrix Systems, a major American software vendor, which still retains a significant presence in Cambridge. In 2001 Andrew rejoined Roger Needham who by then had started the Microsoft research laboratory in Cambridge. Taking over the directorship of the laboratory on Roger’s untimely death, Andrew’s role extended to become Chairman for all the Microsoft research laboratories and advanced technology centres in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, with additional responsibility for technology strategy and policy engagement with governments and industry partners.

Taking retirement from Microsoft is 2013, Andrew keeps himself busy with restoring and reconstructing historical computers. In particular he is leading a project to reconstruct the Cambridge EDSAC computer of 1949, the first computer to be built as a computing service to users and the first computer with a practical programming system. With an equal passion for aviation, he is also restoring a 1930’s Supermarine Walrus seaplane and flies his own 1953 RAF de Havilland Chipmunk trainer.

In his time, Andrew has been an Ordinary Fellow, a Senior Member and an Extraordinary Fellow of Wolfson. He is presently the youngest Emeritus Fellow.

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This talk is part of the Wolfson @ 50: Fiftieth Anniversary Lecture Series series.

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