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Posted on November 30th, 2010 by Steve Cassidy

Farewell to Sir Maurice Wilkes: the UK’s father of computing

Sir Maurice Wilkes Sir Maurice Wilkes, the British forefather of the Stored Program computer, has died at the age of 97.

I attended one of his last speeches (read about my mind-blowing evening with £2.5bn worth of British computing talent) and was spellbound. Here was someone who looked carefully at what the Americans were doing in the 1940s and turned their largely military development efforts into a scientific and business tool, laying the ground for the development undertaken by such unlikely private-sector pioneers as Lyon’s Tea Houses.

Very few people can legitimately deliver a verdict on our entire industry, from digital watches through to Google Earth, the way that Wilkes can – when I met him in 2008, he thought it had “all turned out rather well”. He reminded us just how important the British are in an industry which can seem vast, indifferent and unstoppable.

The kind of philosophical chutzpah that Wilkes and his team showed in building their machine, in post-war Britain, is a very long way from the passive consumer approach found in today’s population of Tweeting, Facebooking trivia-junkies. I can’t help wondering where the next game-changing pioneer will come from, and if they see as much progress as Wilkes, what they will think of this business come the year 2071.

(Photo: Copyright Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge. Reproduced by permission.)

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27 Responses to “ Farewell to Sir Maurice Wilkes: the UK’s father of computing ”

  1. Andrew A. Sailer Says:
    December 13th, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I’ll gear this review to 2 types of people: current Zune owners who are considering an upgrade, and people trying to decide between a Zune and an iPod. (There are other players worth considering out there, like the Sony Walkman X, but I hope this gives you enough info to make an informed decision of the Zune vs players other than the iPod line as well.)

     
  2. Steve Cassidy Says:
    December 13th, 2010 at 10:42 am

    In the spirit of the current “online wars”, and given that this nasty little spammer has decided to attach his irrelevant trash to an article about one of the founders of computing, I feel it’s only polite to tell the Cambridge Computer Lab that his back-trace IP address is 123.165.145.31 which seems to be somewhere very deep inside China indeed, and invite them to discover as much as they can about this particular source.

     
  3. Catering Bern Says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 8:11 am

    The sort of philosophical chutzpah that Wilkes and his group demonstrated in building their machine, in post-war Britain, is an extremely long path from the detached shopper approach discovered in today’s populace of Tweeting,

     
  4. asdas Says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 10:39 am

    You may never have heard of him, but it is largely thanks to his genius that you are reading this on your computer

     
  5. Marco Kuster Says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 10:40 am

    I learned that He likened new technology devices such as cameras and microphones to parts of the human body and his views often landed him in heated debates with other scientists.

     
  6. Martina Says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Some of first programming language ….when computer science started growing up : Asembly, Pascal, C, C++ etc… Maurice is one personality that i really like him Feuerlöscher Schweiz

     
  7. Gloopy Says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 12:43 am

    He studied at St Johns College where i was working today and he was a well repspected scientist

     
  8. James William Says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 9:35 am

    He was a man with outstanding contribution to technology world, especially as builder and designer of EDSAC. May he rest in peace

     
  9. leo Says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    The sort of many philosophical chutzpah that Wilkes and his group demonstrated in home building their machine, in post-war Britain…

     
  10. Rohit sharma Says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    i am completely agreed he is great personality. Lots of people think that we can think these things easily, but that time thinking such a things. Hats off

     
  11. dofus Says:
    September 22nd, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    such a great loss. I found incredible the fact that he was still in bussiness, so to say, at over 90 years, attending speeches etc. crazy!

     
  12. garcinia cambogia formula Says:
    September 23rd, 2013 at 2:54 am

    He was awarded the Faraday Medal by the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1981. The Maurice Wilkes Award, awarded annually for an outstanding contribution to computer architecture made by a young computer scientist or engineer, is named after him. In 1986, he returned to England, and became a member of Olivetti’s Research Strategy Board

     
  13. Martha Says:
    September 23rd, 2013 at 7:08 am

    It’s a shame that we always got to see awkard news coming from the show-bizz-era, but we never learn about real personalities that influenced our modern history (or our tech history). I’m talking about men like Sir Maurice Wilkes, a Fellow of the Royal Society who has seen and influenced us a lot in his 97 years of life on this Earth. Rest in peace maestro!

     
  14. AR AG Says:
    September 23rd, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    What About Alan Turing: Is he really the father of computing?

     
  15. don juan Says:
    September 23rd, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    nice info.. reading here

     
  16. Nick Says:
    September 24th, 2013 at 11:21 am

    A great article for a great man. RIP even 3 years later.

     
  17. Thomas Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    What an accomplished life, Sir Wilkes got to contribute something valuable to society and live until 97.

     
  18. Stephanie Says:
    September 27th, 2013 at 3:15 am

    It is good to see many commenting on this article, he contributing a lot to our society! RIP!!!

     
  19. SureshRaman Says:
    October 1st, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Done great research in computing

     
  20. Kirsten Says:
    November 10th, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    if they had more people like him, we’d be far now …

     
  21. kadın sitesi Says:
    November 16th, 2013 at 9:57 am

    such a great loss. I found incredible the fact that he was still in bussiness, so to say, at over 90 years, attending speeches etc.

     
  22. Hasan Says:
    December 14th, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Sir Maurice Wilkes, the British forefather’s loss is a great loss for the Computer Industry. Will miss him always. :(

     
  23. harga mobil Says:
    December 15th, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    What About Alan Turing: Is he really the father of computing?

     
  24. Velan Perintä Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Farewell to this guy he gave many people a lot of reason to learn and to make everything easy.

     
  25. WebJrs Says:
    February 8th, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Such a loss, but he will always be remembered, because we always use what he helped created… computers!

     
  26. Saran Says:
    February 16th, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    An excellent article for an excellent man. RIP even 4 years later.

     
  27. game pc murah Says:
    April 20th, 2014 at 4:23 am

    The sort of philosophical chutzpah that Wilkes and his group demonstrated in building their machine, in post-war Britain, is an extremely long path from the detached shopper approach discovered in today’s populace of Tweeting,

     

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