Andrew Booth: a forgotten computer pioneer

Andrew Booth
Andrew Booth

We are pleased to welcome Roger Johnson, former President of the British Computer Society, to talk about Andrew Booth, a forgotten computer pioneer. The meeting is on Thursday 30th March. This starts at 6.10pm in MP-0.10 in the Physical Sciences building. There will be light refreshments available from 5.30pm in the foyer outside the lecture theatre.

The event is free and open to everyone.


Andrew Booth (1918-2009) founded the Department of Numerical Automation at Birkbeck, later to become the Department of Computer Science. His main claims to fame were that he was the first person to connect a rotating storage device to a computer successfully (he tried to build a disk but ended up with the first operational drum store); he was the father of the UK’s first volume selling commercial computer (the ICT1200, which sold over 100 examples worldwide between 1957 and 1963); he was a pioneer in natural language processing; and, probably most notably, devised the Booth multiplier, in a teashop in central London, which is now used in billions of chips each year. He left Birkbeck in 1961 and emigrated to Canada, where he disappeared from Computing history but rose to become President of Lakehead University in northern Ontario, from 1972 to 1978.


Roger Johnson
Roger Johnson

Roger Johnson graduated from Aberystwyth University in 1969, with a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics. He started his PhD research in Aberystwyth but, when his supervisor Dr Peter King left Aberystwyth to take up the chair of Computing at Birkbeck College, he followed him and completed his PhD there. After some years in the IT industry, he returned to Birkbeck, where he was Dean of the Faculty of Social Science (of which the Computing Department is a part) from 1987 until his retirement in 2010.  He has served terms as President of the British Computer Society and President of the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies, as well holding the office of Honorary Secretary of the International Federation for Information Processing from 1994 to 2010.

2017 Turing Lecture

Dr Banavar Picture

The 2017 Turing Lecture will take place in London, Cardiff, Dublin and Belfast on 20-23 February 2017. In Aberystwyth, we are hosting a live-stream of the London event.

This meeting will be on Monday 20th February in MP-0.11 (Physics A), Physical Sciences Building, Aberystwyth University; view this on Open Street Map. The talk starts at 6.00pm.

The event is free and open to everyone.

The talk is designed to inspire the next generation of IT professionals and will explore the cognitive computing revolution. It will be delivered by Dr Banavar, VP of Cognitive Computing at IBM Research.

‘The talk is going to be about the cognitive computing era,’ says Dr Banavar, addressing the topic of his lecture. ‘Over the past few years,’ he explains, ‘we’ve witnessed the establishment of a new era in computing – the age of machine learning. And, as we move into this new age, the resulting technical, professional and societal changes will be profound.’

Rounding off his summary, Dr Banavar says: ‘It means having a very different relationship with machines. We’ll need to start getting used to having machines with us, to having natural interactions with them, and get used to the idea that they’ll be doing a lot of tasks in every part of our lives.’

For further information about the Turing Lecture, please see the BCS Website.

The Ways of the Wicked World: Five cases in computer ethics.

We are pleased to invite Olwen Morgan to present a talk entitled “The Ways of the Wicked World: Five cases in computer ethics.”

This meeting will be on Monday 6th February in Physics A, Physical Sciences Building, Aberystwyth University; view this on Open Street Map. The talk starts at 6.00pm.

The event is free and open to everyone.


Aimed at final year undergraduates as well as those preparing for periods in industry, this talk describes situations from the author’s career in which ethical professional decisions had to be made and acted on. The cases range from resisting pressure from sales staff to dealing with a probable industrial psychopath. Each case will be described and audience members given the opportunity to contribute their own perspectives on relevant ethical issues. The intention is to make budding professionals aware of the kinds of ethical issues that can arise in their work and to identify the issues to be weighed when an firm stand must be made.


A former Aberystwyth student, Olwen Morgan has been a BCS member since 1975 and was a founder member of the BCS Formal Aspects of Computing Science specialist group (BCS-FACS). She has been an independent consulting software engineer for over 30 years and has specialised in critical systems for most of that time. Her work has spanned the aerospace, nuclear, telecommunications, medical, railway, industrial safety and automotive sectors and she is the original author of the MISRA C coding guidelines for critical systems. In a career of over forty years she has worked on all stages of the systems engineering lifecycle covering specialities ranging from formal specification to technical translation. She has served on BCS committees and has represented BSI at international standards meetings both as Principal UK Expert and Head of Delegation.

Informal Social Event

BCS Mid Wales are coming to the end of another busy year of events. We have had 8 talks (including our most popular ever, Mark Baldwin, with around 250 attendees) and two very popular Show and Tell sessions.

We have decided to round off the year with an informal social event on Thursday 8th December from 7pm. This will be at Brynamlwg Bar, which is at Aberystwyth University. Entrance from the road at the top of the University – see Map. A warm welcome to everyone.

Decoding squeaks and whistles, the secrets of digital radio systems

We are pleased to invite Colin Sauze to talk about “Decoding squeaks and whistles, the secrets of digital radio systems.”

This meeting will be on Wednesday 7th December in Physics B, Physical Sciences Building, Aberystwyth University; view this on Open Street Map. The talk starts at 6.00pm. There will be refreshments available from 5.30pm in the Physics Foyer, outside Physics B.

Please secure your place by getting a free ticket on Eventbrite.

The event is free and open to everyone.

From wireless door bells and car key fobs to bluetooth/wifi to mobile phones, digital radio systems are key to much of our daily lives. Yet to most people they remain almost magic devices that transfer data through the air. This talk aims to demystify some of the principles
behind digital radio systems, reveal some of their history and show how you can listen to and decode their signals. There will also be a series of demonstrations using amateur radio equipment and software defined radio receivers.

Colin currently works as the Data Manager at the National Plant Phenomics Centre in IBERS. He studied for a PhD on power management in autonomous sailing robots at Aberystwyth between 2006 and 2011. After completing his PhD he worked as a postdoctoral robotic researcher and academic liaison officer for Software Alliance Wales in the Computer Science Department. Over the last two years he has developed an interest in amateur radio and is a fully licensed radio amateur.

So, what is this DevOps thing, anyway?

Craig Watson lifts the lid on one of technology’s most misunderstood buzzwords; a brave new world of cross-discipline collaboration and automation that is helping to break down walls between traditional development and operations silos, ushering in a plethora of new tools such as Docker, Terraform, CloudFormation, Fabric and Puppet and processes like stand-up meetings, retrospectives and a seismic shift into the public cloud, with Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud leading the way. Servers become cattle, networks become programmable, Chaos Monkeys reign supreme, developers deploy straight to production from their laptops, and everything JustWorks™ – no really!

BCS Mid-Wales Branch and the Department of Computer Science are pleased to invite Craig to Aberystwyth for this talk. The talk will begin at 6.30pm and there will be refreshments available from 6pm. The talk is in Physics B lecture theatre, in the Physics Building, Aberystwyth University. See location on Open Street Map.

The event is free and open to everyone – please book to ensure your place by visiting Eventbrite.


Craig Watson is an Aberystwyth University alumnus (Computer Science, 2010) currently a Senior Site Reliability Engineer at Bashton Ltd in Bristol, with experience spanning both large enterprises and smaller start-ups in central London. He has a keen interest in up-and-coming technologies, and has specific experience in the worlds of Agile, Cloud and DevOps practices and cultures, in particular Amazon Web Services and Puppet. Craig made his presenting début in November 2015 at PuppetCamp Stockholm, and attended PuppetConf and the Puppet Contributor Summit in San Francisco in 2014 and San Diego in 2016.

Robotics at Aberystwyth University and Cameras for ExoMars mission (including AGM)

We are pleased to invite three speakers from Aberystwyth University to talk about different aspects of Robotics and to talk about the Cameras to be used on the ExoMars mission. This will be on Monday 31st October at 6.30pm. The event will be in Physics Lecture Theatre A in the Physical Sciences Building, Aberystwyth University. View on Map.

  • Dr Mark Neal – Designing Control Systems for Sailing Robots

  • Dr Colin Sauze – Microtransat Challenge, the transatlantic race for autonomous boats

  • Dr Matt Gunn – Cameras for the ExoMars Rover mission.

The meeting will begin with a short Annual General Meeting for BCS Mid-Wales. That normally lasts up to 10 minutes. The talks will start immediately after that. We expect the event to run until 8pm.

There will be light refreshments available from 6pm in the Foyer of the Physical Sciences Building.

The event is free and everyone is welcome. Please share this event information with anyone who you think will be interested.

Mark Neal

Mark will describe some previous approaches we have taken to designing control systems for sailing robots that we have built, and discuss their relative merits and problems before going on to describe a new approach that exploits low power radio and low cost components to potentially result in a robust, low cost, low power distributed control system. None of the ideas are new, but the ease with which they can now be put into practice and low cost of the components makes the approach both viable and attractive.

Mark is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, Aberystwyth University.

Colin Sauze

The Microtransat Challenge is a Transatlantic race for autonomous boats, now entering its 7th year and 18th (unsuccessful) attempt. I will talk about some of these attempts and why crossing the Atlantic with a small autonomous boat is harder than it first appears.

Colin studied for a PhD on power management in autonomous sailing robots at Aberystwyth between 2006 and 2011 and ended up taking on the running of the Microtransat during this time. Since then I have worked as a Postdoc on autonomous vehicle power management, as an Academic Liaison Officer for Software Alliance Wales and most recently as Data Manager at the National Plant Phenomics Centre in IBERS.

Matt Gunn

ExoMars is a 2 part mission consisting of the 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli Entry Decent and landing Demonstrator and the 2020 ExoMars Rover. The talk will include a general overview of the mission including the events of last week and discussion of Aberystwyth University’s involvement in the remote sensing instruments including PanCam on the 2020 Rover mission.

Matt Gunn began working in the department of Physics in Aberystwyth University as a research technician in 2006 specialising in the development of completed of scientific instruments. He completed a PhD titled “Spectral imaging for Mars Exploration” under the supervision of Prof Dave Barnes at Aberystwyth University in 2013. He is now a lecturer in the department of Physics at Aberystwyth University, working in the pre-flight and inflight calibration of the remote sensing instruments on the ExoMars 2020 Rover mission.

Show & Tell – September 2016

The next event will be a Show & Tell, held with the Aberystwyth Computer Science Department. This will be on Friday 30th September, from 6.15pm. These have been very popular and offer short talks and the opportunity to see some exhibits of technical projects or interesting technical ideas.

The event is free and open to all. There will be some drinks and pizza at the break.

If you have something that you would like to show or tell us about at the event, please complete the form to give us some info. We can then make a selection from the different items we receive and plan the order.

If you would like to just come along and watch, please tell us using the eventbrite form at

Computers, Logic and Datacoms in the Broadcast Transmission Environment

We are pleased to invite Mark Edwards to talk to BCS Mid-Wales next Thursday, June 2nd. The event will start at 6pm, with light refreshments available from 5.30pm. The event will be held at Aberystwyth University. This will be in A14 in the Hugh Owen building. This is close to the entrance to the main campus.

This event is free and open to all.

We do ask that you reserve your free ticket by registering at:

Mark will be covering the use of early solid state logic for transmitter control, controlling multiple transmitters and the Radio Data System. He will cover early PCM programme distribution, through to the current NICAM system and the basic make up of modern DAB and DTV broadcasting and the delights of COFDM. He will also look at basic RF principles and the use of computer controlled test gear.

Mark works in transmitter engineering, working on a wide range of kit from 0.5W to 500KW and from LF to SHF. He is specialised in antennas and is now manager of a team of 11 people maintaining a wide portfolio of antennas across the south of the UK.

Video link to Karen Spärck Jones Lecture for 2016

Prof. Sasse, picture from BCS website, see link below.

BCS Mid-Wales Branch and the Department of Computer Science, Aberystwyth University, are providing a video link to the Karen Spärck Jones Lecture for 2016.

This year’s talk has the title “Mind the many skills gaps: why we keep creating unworkable security.” 

The event is held in London and we will be taking a live link to the session.

This is the 6th Karen Spärck Jones Lecture. It will be given by Prof. Sasse, who is the Professor of Human-Centred Technology at UCL and Director of the UK Research Institute in Science of Cyber Security (RISCS).

The session starts at 17.30 with light refreshements outside A14. The video link and talk starts at 18.00 and we expect the talk to continue until about 19.30.

This video link is free to attend. We do ask that you book your free place on EventbriteFor the avoidance of doubt - booking using the link to Eventbrite page is only for the video link event at Aberystwyth. It does not book you a place at the talk in London.

See the BCS Academy of Computing website for details of the talk.