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Bob Spence

Bob Spence's story

From the unlikely beginning of a schoolboy hobby of telephone exchange construction and an External degree from London University (a survival course), my doctoral work at Imperial College led in 1959 to my first published paper in IEE Proceedings Part C: something about synchronized oscillators which I doubt altered the course of history one iota.  

Although I did know which end of a soldering iron was the hot one my published work on circuit design in the early ‘60s was quite theoretic.  However, while part of a group comprising Dennis Gabor and Colin Cherry (and therefore mindful that there was more to communication than circuits), my attention was grabbed, around 1968, by the potential of interactive computer graphics. 

This led, a few publications and many years later, to the first commercial interactive-graphic CAD system for circuit design.  Along the way my group was, I believe, the first to put a calculator on an interactive screen, around 1973: a film of this innovation, presented as part of a paper at a circuits conference in California, caused immediate laughter (being totally unexpected) followed by applause.  

Prompted by interactive graphics my interest quickly turned to human-computer interaction and has been the topic of much of my published work  (much of it coauthored with psychologists) from 1970 to the present.  During the 1980s some work on the design of mass-produced products also hit the scientific literature and did, I think, alter the course of history to some extent.

Publications have largely been made possible, of course, through collaborations with many very talented people within my research groups.  Published papers have been accompanied by a few books, all of them written because, if one writes a book, one comes away, certainly not richer, but with the feeling that one might be beginning to understand the subject.