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.

Abstract

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.

Biography

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.