Norman (Nobby) passed away in PA hospital on Sunday 24th January, aged 84.
In recent times he had suffered uncomplainingly with respiratory issues which left him vulnerable when he was hospitalized two weeks ago with pneumonia and diagnosed with Covid. Ann was able to be with him when he passed, and both his son Simon and daughter Emma were able to visit shortly before. He also leaves two other sons: Mark and Clive, and three grandchildren: Violet, Indie and Aaron.
Nobby initially joined the Mechanical Engineering Workshop team on the London Road site in 1967. He briefly left some years later to try his hand as a publican before returning to join the Optical Communications group under Phil Black. He was a mainstay of the process equipment engineering capability of the Optical Fibre group when I first worked with him in the early 80’s, part way through his long career spanning all the company name changes: ITT/STL/STC/BNR/NT/Nortel; eventually retiring at 65 in 2001. He actually wanted to stay on, but it was against company policy at the time.
He was key to the design and fabrication of the initial and subsequent generations of optical fiber draw towers and optical fibre preform fabrication lathes, along with their subsequent maintenance over the years, thus contributing meaningfully to the optical fibre technology evolved on site, from ‘bench’ R&D, through multiple prototype equipment variants, ultimately blossoming in commercial exploitation of specialty fibre types used in support of multiple opt electronics products out of Paignton, alongside mainstream communications fibre production on the West Road site (prior to sale to Pirelli).
Always with a friendly smile and keen to bring his drafting and engineering skills to bear, it was a privilege and a pleasure to have him as a member of my teams over the second half of his career, where I could rely on Nobby to bring the job through, alongside general maintenance of existing mechanical equipment. He was an accomplished ‘old school’ Draftsman (pre-CAD).
In his retirement, he worked with offenders as a ‘community service supervisor’, devising and supervising handy-craft rehabilitation projects.
In more recent years he has especially enjoyed working up at Duxford, with volunteer engineer teams, reconstructing and maintaining vintage aircraft at the Airfield Museum where his engineering workshop skills and experience obviously made him the perfect candidate; I know he contributed to resurrection of the Airspeed ‘Ambassador’ airliner, currently on display.
He also belonged to boules and choral groups.
Sincere commiserations to Norman’s friends and family.
Nobby was a great guy and one of the last of his kind. He was an outstanding intuitive technician who could design and fix anything mechanical. The success of the fibre groups in Harlow owes a lot to him. He was an inspiration in my early days at Harlow when were trying to make fibres from fluorides and other exotic glasses. One could always rely on him to be cheerful and optimistic and see the funny side of any circumstance.
“It’s all part of life’s rich pattern “ – Nobby’s comforting response when our experiments didn’t quite work out, despite his perfect realisation of what was intended by our imperfect specifications. For a young graduate (that’s a long time ago☹️), he was a great steadying influence, and then became a good friend and colleague. Nobby didn’t often complain, although during his extended spell installing the first optical fibre production facility at SEL Stuttgart, he did struggle with the limited availability of traditional English food: engineers arriving for commissioning tasks were required to take a stock of baked beans to keep him going. Sad times, but happy memories.
I echo all the comments about what a great person Nobby was to us younger engineers. His knowledge, capability and advice he made freely available to us all at STL, and he was a key enabler of all the fibre optic technology we developed together. As far as the baked beans are concerned, having transported them in the car to Stuttgart doing my stint commissioning equipment and processes, I wonder following Brexit whether we would be able to do so today? We spent many happy hours in the weeks at SEL in both work and leisure times. Visiting Munch Olympic stadium, watching a football game with Bayern Munich & Borussia Mönchengladbach, and Werner the SEL engineer showing us the night life! We even played a game against the cable engineers. We had been billeted by SEL at the rather grand sounding ‘Hotel Schloss Solitude’. Nobby was in ‘permanent’ residence and we other engineers travelled to do rotas with him during the installation phase. It was an old Schloss outside of Stuttgart in the countryside, where they locked the main door at about 9.30pm. I remember one night after a days trekking we got back later at night, Werner/Uli offered to launder Nobbys trousers which were by then sopping wet. Nobby whipped them off, they drove away before the door was open, then a rather sleepy, but startled, night porter opened the door to see his group of strange English guests, one trouserless, asking for entry! We were the talking point for days afterwards. Those were the days!
I remember Nobby with affection. I joined Phil Black’s team in 1979 with Garth Lamb working on the development of the Optical Fibre draw towers and the fibre coating technology. As a recent graduate, Nobby was the perfect support to channel my enthusiasm into reality. He had a fabulous temperament that enabled him to work with all sorts of characters. He had patience, knowledge and experience that enabled the team to succeed in its mechanical endeavours. I remember when we (Garth Lamb, Gordon Bolton and John (surname escapes me)) first started working on the towers to be sited in P building. We went through a draft assembly process (that Nobby insisted upon) with the towers horizontal. This enabled us to iron out any issues before we started lifting things into place vertically. There were numerous discussions over coffee which I hadn’t realised were very instrumental in planning the activities so that things ran smoothly. I learnt a lot about how to get things done with Nobby and the team, mostly in terms of people interactions. Nobby helped me with all of the mechanical design and fixings for the first UV Coating installations, all of which worked first time. Nobby worked with many craftsmen in the workshop, most of my work was delivered by Peter Swan. I had not realised until later in my career that things working first time was not always how it worked out! I remember Nobby showing unbelievable patience with a very impatient and driven graduate who wanted to shortcut the design process. They learnt mutual respect after the experience. As you have said, Nobby contributed greatly to the evolution of the technology which, in the case of UV coating process, was successfully transferred to West Road. It was also clear in the coffee sessions that Nobby was a caring individual who spoke about his family with affection. He did have a good sense of humour and I understand that Nobby provided some of the mechanical fixings that helped to stich me up in my pre wedding works stag session at the Gate in Sawbridegworth. Please send my wishes to Ann and the rest of the family at this sad time.
My recollections of Nobby were that he was always helpful, and knew his way around every mechanical assembly challenge, or workshop practice, you were likely to ask him about. When he was close to retirement we were in the throes of the last days of the components activity in Harlow. He and I spoke of the future, and what was being lost, but Nobby was characteristically optimistic… he showed me his blue-prints for a one eighth-scale steam engine for ride-on mini-tracks. His intention was to make this himself, over his retirement, and see it run on a track that one of his friends/acquaintances had locally. As always this was drawn-up plans (no need for CAD!), and his discussion included how he would tackle such things as the boiler manufacture (pressure-vessel), the hard steels used in running gear, and the optimal selection of materials for every part. In short a brief master-class in engineering from the ground-up. I have often wondered over the subsequent years if he ever built the engine(?). He was one of the central characters in my whole experience of the various incarnations of the Harlow labs, from 1984 through 2001. His anecdotes about his time as an apprentice, and his cheerful denigration of latter day training was a constant delight… and something I carried on to Cambridge with me. Often ruing that I could not turn to his expertise when work-shops there were in quandaries. He will be missed, but remembered fondly.
Nobby was a close friend and colleague at STL and made a very significant contribution to the optical fibre programme over several years.
I believe we met first in the late 60’s when I was working on photosensitive materials for copiers and radiography on behalf of SEL Nuremberg. Les Greatbatch and I were building test gear for SEL and needed Model Shop support frequently, which meant Nobby for much of the time.
On completion of that project Charlie Sandbank asked me to take on a challenge to find a way of making optical fibre based on silica glass to complement work already well advanced with the double crucible process in glasses which required lower processing temperatures. One of the first challenges was to pull fibres at the very high temperatures. Nobby joined me and together we built a rudimentary rig using oxy-hydrogen flames to soften silica rods and an ambitious drum winder capable of taking several km of silica fibre. We showed that long lengths of relatively uniform fibre could be produced on this kit, which was then used to produce liquid core fibres by generating a tubular silica fibre and leaving Robin Worthington the task of filling the tube with a suitable refractive index liquid. This type of fibre and plastic clad silica helped with measurement techniques.
The next phase of silica fibre development combined the expertise of John Irven, then in Eric Bush’s group studying vapour deposition, to create doped silica layers on the inside of high purity silica tubes, with our experience of making fibre. We realised that producing a solid rod from the tube before pulling would make the process more controlled, so Nobby and I began experimenting with an old lathe set up in a converted toilet between E and S blocks. We came up with a working solution and then recognised in conjunction with John and Paul Lighty, our consultant, that with slight adaptation the same kit could be used for both the coating and consolidation processes. Nobby was quickly tasked with construction of robust lathe systems and a new pulling tower to take the programme forward. Within months we had the first results outside the USA of a viable low loss fibre making process, and a world first patent.
I have given more detail than normal but wanted to stress that Nobby was an integral part of the team and his work played a crucial role in enabling STL to achieve a world class position in fibre development.
Subsequently the team grew quickly and took on the challenge of making research progress while setting up technology transfers to STC Optical Fibre Unit, SEL in Stuttgart and EOPD in Roanoke. Nobby was a key player in these transfers.
It was interesting that Gary mentioned his departure to be a publican. We regretted his going but welcomed him back when it did not work out, and he fitted back instantly into the wider group.
Nobby was a delight to work with, always positive with a ‘can do’ attitude, keen to learn and able to contribute over a wide spectrum for the benefit of the team.
He will not be forgotten.
Very sorry to hear about Brian Edwards passing. He was my boss for several years and I recall very well having meetings with him – they were scheduled and timed exactly – when your 15 minutes was up the meeting ended!
Brian had had many roles in STC and covered a large range of technologies
As Peter Selway has said he was absolutely invaluable in keeping the QCC going at a time when it was out of favour with the new management
I was honoured to take over as President of the organisation from him. Best wishes to all members.
Sad news. Brian was one of those scientists who was invariably helpful to us PR hacks (it will surprise you to learn that not all were!), not least when we launched the Hitchin-Stevenage 140 Mbits link, for which I made the film /Light Line/ with the assistance of many others including Alan Hartley-Smith. Brian was also a thoroughly nice guy. I went to see him a few years ago – when he was still in his own home – to talk about Alec Reeves of whom he had quite a few memories.
This getting old business has a lot of downsides!
Sad news about Brian Edwards. Over the past few years, I would occasionally find Brian, sitting on a wall in the sun on his constitutional walk up the road from his Care Home in Stansted; and I would stop for a while to chat.
Unfortunately, the current pandemic has restricted my dog-walking route, so I didn’t see him much last year.
I am pleased to say that I counted Brian as a friend as well as my occasional boss in several different roles relating to the Design and Application of VLSI Silicon Chips and their use in the different STC Divisions. Yes, he could be pedantic, but usually for the right reasons, and things got done!
I first met him at Mallinson House, before he took up residence at STL.
Brian eventually became my Mentor in later roles. I have great respect for him, and he helped me a great deal in progressing my career.
Our discussions would sometimes divert into chats about Motor Sport, where we had a joint interest. (His son Rob is now Chief Operating Officer for ‘Andretti Autosport’ in the USA).
Brian was instrumental in reviving and expanding the STL QCC after the demise of Nortel; and he will be sadly missed.
Sad news indeed. Brian was also my boss for a few years and as you say he could be pedantic at time but for all the good reasons. He certainly was one of the major motivators in getting the STL QCC going again and what a great success that has been. I’ve not seen him for some years now but understand his health deteriorated somewhat in recent times. I had no idea he was in a care home.
I am so sad to hear of Brian’s passing. Brian was as an important role model and mentor to me as a young engineer at STL and I counted him as friend. As several colleagues have alluded, Brian was always totally prepared for meetings having made it is business to find out the facts. He was also very thoughtful and considerate of others.
One small anecdote to add to the many; Brian and I along with some others set up a Windsurfing section at STL. The windsurfing boards and a trailer were funded by the company as part of the social facility for employees who were well looked after in these days. Each year we had to negotiate the fees paid to the Sailing club where we were based. Our contact at the sailing club was a tough and experienced negotiator having worked professionally as a fleet buyer and was intent to maximise revenue for the club. I was mostly a bystander in these games of chess, carefully prepared arguments and counter arguments exchanged back and forth until finally agreement was reached. This good tempered exchange was no doubt beyond that really needed but we were all caught up in the moment and I learned a lot about the art of negotiation from Brian which has served me well in life.
Very sad news indeed. I had the privilege of working alongside Brian in the early 1980’s in the STC Technical Directorate at Mallinson House, Southgate. We both reported to Bernie Mills when he was STC’s Technical Director. Brian was a man of seemingly limitless wisdom and near-infinite patience with far less experienced engineers like me. He taught me a great deal about a lot of things, and I regard my time spent with him and Bernie as the most developmental per unit time of my whole career. We stayed in touch of course – Brian never forgot people and never stopped caring!
Sir David Brown
Very sad news in these difficult times. My time at STL was so short, only ten years, but with the help of Brian STL we achieved great strides in IC technology cumulating with the STC Queen award in 1990. My relationship with the great man was more like I had as a school captain with my former head master, close but strict and formal. He did however let me into his passion of Go cart racing, even allowing my Son to drive his latest creation, armed with an engine with tuned exhaust, high lift cams etc. It has so much power it was too much for Andrew to handle. Brian was caring and very supportive to my son at this time, who eventually thought Landrovers are far safer bet. I do find it is so sad that these wonderful people like Brian are not with us anymore, but their great achievements will live on.
Fellow members – I am very sad following Brian’s death. As others have done, you reflect back over your history with someone you have known and respected so much. I reckon I have known Brian since the Autumn of 1965 when I joined STL right up until the present when Brian participated in our weekly Zoom ‘virtual coffee morning’ with a small group of STL friends. It is a privilege to have not just known him over those 55 years, but to have worked with him in our professional capacity, as well as being able to share his ‘extra-curricular’ activities and to be mutually supportive on personal issues too. I remember being introduced to him by Ken Matthews as we went off at lunchtimes to the centre of the STL universe – the canteen! That’s where friendships were forged and tough technical issues solved at the same time. Brian was one of those great people who was eminently trustworthy in the deepest meaning of that word. For me, if I had a problem be it professional or personal, then I knew Brian would listen and help if he could. Likewise, if Brian asked me a question or for help I would have no hesitation in responding positively because he was such a great person. With his passing my life is the poorer, but my memories are all the richer.
Gazing now down with a knowing smile,
Helping us all with his modest style.
When about to complement his scheme,
“Time is up” Brian’s eyes indeed will beam.
“Leave taking” adapted from Tolkien’s translation of medieval poem:
Ladies and lords, with beer and wines,
I thank you here and wish you well.
I bless you all a thousand times.
In all you do, may you excel.
As you go by, up hill, down dell,
Pray God help you in all you try.
Let all friends hear the tales you tell.
But as for me, I say goodbye.
Goodbye to you both tall and small,
Goodbye to you, men of all kinds.
Goodbye to you, good people all,
I thank you all a thousand times.
For every wish in all your minds.
My will to help will never die.
And pray relax your mental binds.
As now, at last, I say goodbye.
These are my memories of my oldest friend Steve.
Steve and I both spent our very early years in Upchurch, Kent, a village in North Kent on the outskirts of the Medway towns. We both attended Upchurch Infants school in the 1960s. Steve was a year older than me but the village was quite small at the time. Steve lived in Oak Lane and I lived in Chaffes lane. My first memory is of Steve’s mum giving me a tooty frootie at a young age.
When I was 7 or 8 my family moved to Lower Halstow. My brother went to Lower Halstow Infants school and being at the school transfer age I went to Barrow Grove in Sittingbourne. Steve had followed the usual path for those at Upchurch Infants and moved on to Hollywell School just outside the village. Our paths didn’t cross for some time. I passed the 11 plus and went to Borden Grammar School in Sittingbourne joining in form 1E. Much to my surprise I bumped into Steve who had entered Borden Grammar School in the same academic year joining in form 1X. I found out that Steve had moved on from Hollywell to the local secondary school Westlands. After only one year there he was declared to be “too bright” for the school and a result was sent on to Grammar school. After the first year at Borden Grammar, we were streamed and both ended up in form 2A and continued in the top class up the school. I can’t recall what O level choices Steve made. Remaining at Borden (no 6th form Colleges then), we both started A levels in the Lower Sixth Science doing the same subjects – Physics, Maths, and Chemistry (there weren’t that many to choose from). Steve will have had memories of our Maths teacher (and form teacher) Bob Sutton, Physics – John Hearn and John Macrae, and our Chemistry Teacher Bob Ladds. In our final year we gained the red tie as school prefects with Wally Weekes as our form master.
During our school days, Steve wasn’t my only friend nor I his. Our paths crossed often and we shared many common interests. During those teenage years I recall meddling with old valve radios to put them into service as amplifiers. We were both interested in electronics which at that time wasn’t taught at schools. Everyday Electronics was a popular magazine at the time and Steve built an electric bass guitar in his garage. Later, we ran a disco but were probably more interested in the electronics (and very dodgy/dangerous sound to light system we built) than the music.
Somehow, we both ended up at the same university – Royal Holloway College University of London at Egham. This wasn’t deliberate at all and I don’t recall how it came about. We both studied Physics and had fairly separate groups of friends – through the College was quite small (less than 2000) at that time so most people new all the others at least by sight. Steve will recall Pete Richardson and Steve Warr who were studying physics at the same time and another of my friends Meredydd Jones. In the first year Steve was resident in Williamson Hall which had the benefit of being on the campus and having a very limited kitchen (rare at RHC at that time) – so we often used to meet there at lunch between lectures consuming tinned soup, bread rolls taken at breakfast and broken biscuits bought from a local forerunner to pound shops in Egham. In out third year Steve met Louise, also studying at RHC and they became engaged. At that time Steve had acquired his first car a Morris Minor and Lesley Richardson (nee Riley) recalls Steve and Louise proudly driving around the campus.
We left RHC in 1980. Steve joined STL in Harlow and I went to Nottingham to do another year’s study in Electronics. We stayed in contact and a result of his good experience in his first job amongst my other applications I applied to STL as well. I was accepted (Steve must have put in a good word) and decided I’d join as well.
So, I started working for STL in Sept 1981 joining Industrial and Automotive products working for Stan Allen. Our group were based in building Z1 and the team included Steve Frankland, Andy Leftley, Terry Stock, Keith ??, Dave ?? and our lab tech. Tom (Gizzard) Bailey. I recall that our department number was R402 (I still have a few tools marked as such oops!), and that the big boss was Jon Bagley. At that time STC (of which STL was the research centre) was owned by ITT and we worked on R&D projects for all of the ITT companies from whom a Research levy was drawn. The projects I recall from the time were Automotive multiplex for SWF, Windscreen Wiper manufacturing fault detection, Vortex shedding flowmeters, Programmable pump controllers for Loewe. At some point we were re-organised within STL and became part of a larger team working on largely on defence products under Dr Phil Hargraves. A number of studies and research stuff was going on and one big project arose which was the GPS receiver project resulting eventually in the STR 2515 GPS Navigation System, the first PPS device outside of the USA. This was a really big project thought I must confess I can’t recall what part Steve played in it. Times were changing and STL/STC was now merged with ICL. The GPS Business was sold to Cossor and I went with it moving to the Pinnacles. The product was a success and was fitted to the C-130, C160, Nimrod, Tornado, Sea King and Merlin Aircraft.
After 5 or so years I got disenchanted with the culture at Cossor and put out the feelers to return to STL which had now become Nortel. I returned to join NSPAN led by Mel Sullivan once again working with Steve. Here I was working with John Durban, Jon Ackland, Rob Edwards, and many others offering mechanical, pcb, and product integrity support throughout Nortel.
At some point we all became part of Andy Matthew’s team and found ourselves as part of the Nortel Global High-Capacity Team (GCHT) working on the Photonic Switch Concept Incubation Vehicle (CIV) with Andy Bryant, Ian Wallis, Graham Hebenton and others.
Eventually the dotcom crash and Nortel’s over hype overcame the company and were all made redundant as part of the “Phase 5 Optimisation”. Eventually the Harlow site closed bringing to an end years of world class research and development. After a year or so of job-searching I left the area and moved to Sussex for a new job. I’m really bad at staying in touch but Steve persevered and we spoke sporadically on the phone or I occasionally visited.
I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Steve’s illness and passing. I’ll miss him.
Dave Swift Jan 21
Takis’ son, Nicholas, asked Gordon Henshall to announce the death of his father to the STL QCC.
This Gordon did, and many messages were sent to the site by colleagues, as well as some sent directly to Gordon. He then compiled all these messages in a booklet to pass onto Takis’ wife – the document amounted to 11 pages! The following is a summary of some of the individual and recurring comments made.
• Takis was my first manager and a great inspiration. His support and encouragement to take the leap – it’s always the ‘wrong’ time so just go for it – has been a mantra for me during my career both in Nortel and in the subsequent journey.
• He was a unique character who I shall miss immensely. He helped me so much during my time with the group and has remained a firm friend ever since, although I still smile about the time (just a few years ago) he asked me to review a presentation he was giving to Bangor – it was just 80 charts!
• A few days ago we were discussing the impact of the Covid-19 on universities, and according to our arrangement made in January 2020, he should be now in Bangor University.
• He was always encouraging and an inspiration, bringing out the best in the people he looked after.
• I was exchanging emails with Takis during the lockdown – he was caring and concerned about where we were, in London or Hong Kong.
• A great manager. A great man. A great loss.
• I remember him at the UCL and Cambridge campus events, being supportive to the young researchers, even whilst being amusingly critical of empty claims and any form of puffery.
• I worked with Takis for a large part of my career in the labs. He was always very stimulating to be around and we had lively discussions on many and varied topics. He was always very supportive of good research and was always interested in furthering our understanding of science.
• Energetic innovator, polymath, enthusiast, tease, magnanimous spirit, QCC Welcomer.
• I remember him leading some tutorials on DSP. He was a great teacher and presented it very clearly at the time, but I am afraid it left me with brain ache! I take some consolation from the fact that his office was notoriously untidy, and I have followed his example ever since!
• Takis was very good to me when I had to move departments and find a new role in the latter part of my career at STL. He offered me practical support and spent time discussing opportunities with me.
• He was a visionary and an inspiration, always prepared to spend time educating we components people on the more subtle points of optical communications. He played an important part in maintaining Harlow’s reputation in the field and in Nortel’s leadership in OC192.
• Missing you Takis, you are irreplaceable – may you rest in peace.
• I will never forget his sense of mischief and humour that brought a sparkle into many a meeting.
Alan Robison has compiled a history of Takis’ technical career, which can be accessed here.
This Obituary kindly copied with permission from the Department of Computer Science at Warwick University
It is with great sadness that we report that Professor Roland Wilson passed away on 19 November 2019. He joined the Department of Computer Science as Senior Lecturer in 1985, becoming Reader in 1992 and Professor in 1999, serving as Head of Department from 2006 to 2009, and retiring to Emeritus Professor in 2010.
Professor Wilson was one of the world’s foremost experts in image processing leading one of the UK’s largest image processing groups, at the University of Warwick. He conducted image processing research at an international level for more than 30 years, publishing over 130 papers, and supervising over 20 PhD students to completion. He was jointly awarded the 1985 Pattern Recognition Society medal for best paper in the journal Pattern Recognition.
Roland was renowned for his deep knowledge and understanding of signal and image processing and information theory and was one of the earliest proponents for the idea of multiscale image analysis, an idea common place in modern artificial neural networks. This led to some break-through works in image representations, including spatial/spatial-frequency representations such as the multi-resolution wavelet transform (MFT) for which he and his many PhD students were able to show to have numerous useful applications from image restoration, object detection, image segmentation and music transcription. Many of his ideas developed from interests in the working of the human visual system and further inspired by his long and fruitful collaboration with colleagues from the University of Linkoping, Sweden, Gösta Grunland and Hans Knutsson. This had begun during a visit to Linkoping in the early 1980s.
At Warwick, Roland taught probability theory, digital signal processing (with colleagues from Engineering) and neural computing for many years. Even up to this day, his neural computing course (which he first taught in the early 1990s, way before of the current fashions in machine learning) continues to be hugely popular. On it he showed students not only the mathematics and principles of artificial neural networks, but also how it is understood our brains perform computation for perception and how memory works. Roland had a great passion for this subject and a unique and profound understanding of it, having read widely in neuroscience and neurophysiology. Over the years, he has been an inspirational teacher to many hundreds of Warwick computer science graduates.
In 2006 Roland co-founded a University spin-out tech company (Warwick Warp) to apply his ideas on image analysis to the challenging problem of fingerprint matching. He used his knowledge and ingenuity to solve the problem of fast and accurate fingerprint matching and this led to a set of novel methods. These were later patented and a software implementation was bench-marked in 2010, ranking in the world’s top three commercial fingerprint matching solutions. The algorithm he devised are being used to this day for humanitarian work with the UNHCR and in a commercial setting for access-control at numerous construction sites in the UK. In 2010, he decided to take part-retirement and to focus more on commercial research, enjoying the challenge of the need to create practical solutions within the constraints of speed and data storage.
Roland was a wonderfully supportive father and grandfather and will be greatly missed by family, friends and colleagues. Our deep condolences are sent to his children Neil and Katy, and grandchildren, Robin, Sam, Charlie and Isla.
Colleagues and friends are invited to attend a celebration of Roland’s life at Cannon Hill Chapel, Canley Crematorium, Friday 13 December at 10:30am.
Following vacation experience in Dave Pitt’s sensor group as both school and university student, Jonathan joined STL full time in 1981 after graduating with a degree in physics from the University of Bristol. An early contribution with Takis Hadjifotiou in the optical system group was on the Coherent Reflectometer for STC Leeds. Subsequent projects included phase diversity and heterodyne techniques for coherent optical communications with Tony Davies, and the “Non-Intrusive Tap” with Richard Epworth and disparate members of the optical systems, fibre and components groups.
Jonathan went on to explore optical amplifiers with Nigel Jolley and Nigel Baker, optical filters and taps with Terry Bricheno, a fibre Mach-Zehnder Interferometer technique for measuring chirp with Ross Saunders and Ian Hardcastle, and long-haul soliton transmission.
Jonathan was an accomplished artist, winning a commission to travel to Malawi and create a collection of sketches of the people and the land, and continuing to paint after leaving STL. In the late 1990’s Jonathan moved to the West Coast of the USA, becoming Director of Optical Systems at Big Bear Networks, then Senior Principal Scientist at Finisar, and an editor for the IEEE P802.3cm 400 Gb/s over Multimode Fiber Task Force.
Jonathan was diagnosed with duodenal/pancreatic cancer in November 2018 and leaves a wife, Linda, and son, Adam. He will be sorely missed by those who knew him, not least for his inquisitiveness and enthusiasm, his innovative thinking, and his wry sense of humour.
Today, fibre-optic cables carry more than 95% of all digital data around the world, underpinning the Internet. In 1966, it was Kuen Charles Kao (Charlie to his colleagues) who proposed the use of optical fibres as a universal medium for communication, and calculated how it might be done. Given the rudimentary technology available at the time, it was a leap of imagination, bordering on science fiction. For this work, Kao won a share of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009.
Kao was born on 4 November 1933 into Shanghai high society, to an academic lawyer father and poet mother. Introverted and geeky, Kao was educated at home with his younger brother Timothy before going to French- and English-speaking schools. In 1953, he moved to England to study at Woolwich Polytechnic (now the University of Greenwich in London).
Graduating in electrical engineering in 1957, he joined Standard Telephones and Cables, part of the conglomerate International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT). There he met his wife, fellow engineer Gwen Mae-wan Wong. He turned down a lectureship at Loughborough Polytechnic, UK, to do an industrial PhD in the company’s research arm — the Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL) in Harlow, UK. Similar to Bell Labs in the United States (although less well funded), STL was a nursery for future academic and industrial leaders, heady with creativity, camaraderie and resourcefulness. Kao joined the group of Toni Karbowiak, working alongside another British telecommunications pioneer, Alec Reeves.
At the time, telecommunications used coaxial electronic cables or broadcast radio signals in the megahertz frequency range. Growing demand for information transfer meant moving to higher, microwave frequencies (gigahertz), with major research programmes set up around the world to find a way to guide signals from source to destination. The front-runner technology was hollow metal waveguides, pioneered in the 1950s by Harold Barlow, Kao’s external PhD supervisor at University College London. Costly and impractical, these metal tubes needed to be laid in straight lines. Karbowiak, a seasoned microwave engineer and former PhD student of Barlow, knew that new ideas were needed.
In the early 1960s, just as the laser came about, Karbowiak asked Kao to look at an optical analogue of a microwave waveguide. Optical signals have an even higher frequency (hundreds of terahertz), and so can carry more information. The idea of making a waveguide for the transmission of light over hundreds of kilometres was breathtaking. It meant shrinking the waveguide from a few centimetres across to something as thin as a human hair, just 100 or so micrometres wide. Glass was the most optically transparent material known, and had the advantages of being potentially flexible and resistant to lightning. But could it be made pure and clear enough? George Hockham, a talented young theorist, was assigned to help Kao.
They started pragmatically; given the power available from the earliest lasers of the time, the sensitivity of detectors, and the distance between UK telecommunications switching centres, they calculated that a signal could afford to lose only 20 decibels (a logarithmic measure of power) per kilometre travelled — equivalent to a 99% power loss after 1 km. This was an ambitious target: the best glasses at the time had losses some 1098 times greater, of around 1,000 dB km–1. Kao systematically analysed the absorption, reflection and scattering of different glasses, while Hockham did waveguide-dimension calculations. Their landmark 1966 paper concluded that the task, although difficult, was theoretically possible (K. C. Kao and G. A. Hockham Proc. Inst. Electr. Eng. 113, 1151–1158; 1966).
The paper went almost unnoticed, except at the research labs of the UK General Post Office (the telecommunications arm of which later became British Telecom, now BT) and the Ministry of Defence. Both organizations set up research programmes in this area, attracted by the idea of a lower-cost alternative to microwave waveguides.
But there was much scepticism — the gap between theory and practice was huge. To convince others, Kao measured the losses in the purest glasses he could find, now aided by Mervin Jones (Hockham left to start his own antenna-technology research group in 1967). They devised a complex and elegant set-up to measure very low values of loss in rods of fused silica glass about the length of a ruler. They published their results in 1969 (M. W. Jones and K. C. Kao J. Phys. E Sci. Instrum. 2, 331; 1969). The following year, Robert Maurer’s group at US firm Corning Glass broke the 20 dB km–1 limit in optical fibres of around 1 km long. Together with reports of the first continuous-wave room-temperature semiconductor laser in 1970, this convinced the doubters, sparking research efforts worldwide.
The optical fibre revolution had begun. Much of the work was done at STL and at the Post Office research labs in Britain, in fierce competition with Bell Labs and the US telecommunications firm AT&T. In 1977, the UK Post Office was the first to install optical fibres in its telecommunications network. The first transatlantic system followed in 1988.
From 1970 to 1974, Kao set up the electrical engineering department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), returning to STL in the holidays to keep abreast of research. In 1974, Kao went to work for ITT in the United States, where he rose to director of corporate research in 1985. In 1986, he returned to CUHK as its vice-chancellor, where, for nine years, he used his connections to strengthen the university’s research base and make it internationally competitive.
In the mid-2000s, Kao developed Alzheimer’s disease. He attended the 2009 Nobel award ceremony and celebrations afterwards, always bearing a smile, but his Nobel speech was read by his wife Gwen. He died in Hong Kong on 23 September.
Kao’s legacy is hard to overestimate. Today, his 1966 predictions have been exceeded by six orders of magnitude, with fibre losses of less than 0.15 dB km–1. Kao’s determination inspired those of us who worked at STL right up to its closure in 2009. The site, now a technology business hub, is named Kao Park in honour of its most famous resident.
Hecht, J. City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics (Oxford Univ. Press, 2004).Optical Fibre History, a website compiled by the late Richard Epworth.
A local paper’s tribute – http://www.thecomet.net/news/sir-charles-kao-fibre-optics-pioneer-dies-1-5708913
Here is a link to the tribute poster displayed at the QCC 2018 dinner.
Charles was both a friend and an inspiration. His infectious enthusiasm and understanding of the research process helped many of us back in the early uncertain days as fibre communication evolved and in other fields later as his interests and tasks widened.
Peter Scovell 9th May 1951 – 11th April 2018
Peter Scovell attended Leeds University, graduating in Physics in 1973 and with a PhD in Theoretical Physics in 1977. He joined STL as a Research Engineer and worked on semiconductor design and manufacture. He became Manager of Integrated Devices in 1985, and Manager of Systems Components in 1989.
In 1990 he moved to Ottawa, just before Nortel acquired STC, and managed the Advanced Technology Division of BNR, providing leadership to 2500 engineers. He then undertook several general management roles in Nortel’s components and wireless divisions, before assuming in 1996 the responsibility for Nortel’s fixed wireless portfolio, followed by Nortel’s global strategy in satellite wireless access.
In 1999 Peter left Nortel and joined COM DEV International as President of its wireless division, and in 2000 President and CEO of a photonics company. Later in the 2000s he headed up Newlyn Technologies, a company Peter had founded in 1999, which served clients throughout North America and Europe.
Peter held over 30 patents in the fields of semiconductor, photonics and wireless. He was a Member of the IEEE, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and a Chartered Engineer.
In April 2018 he died of a heart attack while on holiday in Antigua.
Pete Graves, based on information supplied by Verna Scovell
Thomas Meirion Jackson (aka Jackie or Tom) 1921 – 2018
Jackie was born in Dolgllau, Wales, and as a boy moved to Corwen. He left school at 16 and worked as a Junior in a solicitor’s office until he was conscripted into the RAF in 1940. After a period in London, Jackie was posted to TRE (later renamed RSRE) Malvern to work on Oboe, an aerial blind bomb targeting system, based on radio transponder technology. The lead researcher of Oboe was Alec Reeves who after WW2 joined STL in Enfield. Jackie had his personal Wellington bomber for testing the developing Oboe equipment, and stayed at TRE until he joined STL at Enfield in 1946.
Between 1948 and 1958 he developed multi-electrode cold cathode switching tubes for performing logic and memory functions. Once developed the devices were manufactured by STC Valve Division in Paignton until about 1970. The devices were used in the first UK commercial digital mainframe computer, LEO.
In 1958 Jackie and his team moved to the new Harlow site and began to develop millimetre wave reflex klystron tubes for long-haul waveguide communication systems. The frequency range of the klystrons was 20 to 120 GHz, and the design was transferred for manufacture at ITT Electron Tube Division in Easton, Pa. The klystrons were used as a pump for a parametric amplifier in the first UK satellite communication system built at Goonhilly Down, Cornwall, in the early 1960s.
Klystron development finished at STL in 1965 and Jackie’s area started work on developing computer-controlled micro-engraving for the precision adjustment of thin film circuits. The technology was transferred to STC Components in Paignton, where it was used until the mid 1980s.
Between 1968 and 1985 Jackie’s department worked on a range of technologies:
- Setting up an n-channel MOS processing facility in STL, and applying the process to the design and fabrication of a ‘cross point’ switching chip for PABX and a shift register for TXE4A. This was the first n-channel process in Europe and gave ITT and advantageous position in switching systems.
- Setting up a bipolar semiconductor processing facility at STL for the design and development of high performance transistors for STC Submarine Systems Division.
- Developing advanced semiconductor processing technology based on plasma processing. One of the key processes developed was the plasma etching of the aluminium metallization on silicon wafers, whereby channels 1 micron wide and 2 microns deep could etched with vertical walls. The process was licensed to an equipment company and was subsequently adopted by the major semiconductor companies.
- Setting up a design and processing facility for the selective etching of single crystal silicon to form micro-miniature pressure sensors and accelerometers.
- Development of a disc switch for ITT Relay Division, Harlow, leading to the manufacture of 20 million units in 1984.
Jackie retired in 1985 with 64 patents to his name, and his department, minus the semiconductor device processing which he had relinquished in 1982, was passed to Dr Peter Graves, forming the Advanced Materials Technology Department. The plasma process was developed into the unique pulsed plasma process which enabled novel materials to be deposited at room temperature. The process attracted government and SDI funding. Likewise the micro-machined silicon structures were developed into a novel vibrating pressure sensor, which was licensed to Druck, and an accelerometer capable of being used in ordinance.
Jackie was proud of his Welsh roots and was active in local Welsh-speaking clubs. His patriotism came to a head each year when Wales played England at rugby. His daughter recalled at his funeral that when Wales beat England she was given a 6d (2½p) coin, and he would telephone his friends to ask what they thought of the game! When England beat Wales, which they have done often of late, I would ring him to ask what he thought of the game; he would remain remarkably quiet!
Peter Graves, 20 May 2018
JOHN ANTHONY (TONY) WEEKS BUTCHER
March 2nd 1933 – February 6th 2018
Tony grew up in Totteridge, North London. In his teenage years at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Barnet, Tony decided he wanted to pursue a career in telecommunications. He was inspired by his father, Charles Butcher’s own experiences working at STC. After studying Electrical Engineering (with an emphasis on telecommunications) at Queen Mary College, University of London, Tony would join STC and go on to spend his entire 40 year career there.
Early on, at the Digital Systems Lab, Tony investigated the non-destructive reading of ferrite core stores, applicable to the early computers of that time. This led to the filing of his first patent. Later, in New Southgate, he worked on magnetic drum data recording techniques and co-authored an industry paper for the IEE Convention on recording techniques. He then went on to participate in the design of various aspects of electronic telephone exchanges under the auspices of a joint project with the Post Office Telecommunications (before it became BT). Not long after, he found himself working for Tommy Flowers (of Colossus fame at Bletchley Park).
Work on a number of military and civil telecommunication system studies in the UK, Europe and the USA would follow. In the 1980’s, Tony was part of the STC led team bidding for UK Mobile Phone contracts. At one stage, Tony worked for the STC led consortium behind the One-2-One franchise, which eventually became T-Mobile (UK). Subsequently, Tony became involved with the EU Funded Advanced Communication Equipment projects and then, finally, in his run up towards early retirement in 1995, Tony was mainly involved with European and world-wide telecommunication standards, culminating in his patent proposing changes to the MPEG and similar standards to counteract transmission delays in internet gaming systems.
Tony and Eirwen married on Midsummer’s Day, 1961 at St Andrew’s Church in Totteridge. In 1966, they would move to Stansted, where they raised their two sons, Jon and Matt.
Tony busied himself in retirement, volunteering his services for The Link village magazine, and maintaining the local church’s sound system. In retirement, Tony and Eirwen made several visits to the USA. They enjoyed walks around the local Stansted village, pub lunches and watching the rugby.
Rudolf August Heinecke (1935-2017)
Rudolf graduated in electrical engineering from the Staaliche Ingenieur Schule in Ulm and then in Physics from the Technischer Ingenieur Schule in Hannover in 1959. He then joined AEG-Telefunken in Ulm, where he worked on the processing of thin film integrated circuit technology. In 1966 he joined STL, attracted by reports from a former AEG colleague, Theo Rutgers, of exciting, groundbreaking work going on in the laboratories. He joined Jackie Jackson’s department and continued his work on developing thin film circuit technology.
About 1970 he started work on the use of plasmas in materials processing, and his first development was to etch channels in thin aluminium films of the type used in silicon chips. The results were remarkable as the channels were 1 micron wide and 2 microns deep, with vertical walls. This was a major advance in etching the aluminium metallization, as at the time the aluminium was wet-etched, resulting in poor definition and undercut channels.
Also in the 1970s, Rudolf developed a process for depositing aluminium-silicon alloys and silicon nitride onto silicon chips, the latter to passivate the chip from corrosive atmospheres. These developments and the plasma etching of aluminium were patented and licensed to equipment manufacturers. They are in use worldwide today in the semiconductor industry.
When Jackie retired in 1985, his department was transferred to my area and renamed Advanced Materials Technology. Soon after, Rudolf and David Carter developed a selective plasma etching process for single crystal quartz, whereby the central region of a quartz blank, 0.5 mm thick, could be etched to 16.7 microns in order to make a 100 MHz resonator.
Rudolf was aware that one of the limitations of the plasma deposition process he had developed was the need to heat the substrate onto which a material was being deposited. So he and Suresh Ojha came up with the concept of using very short pulses of high power radiofrequency energy, about 50 kW, synchronized with pulsed inputs of gases. Using this unique concept, equipment was designed and built by members of Rudolf’s team: Ian Llewellyn, Geoff Scarsbrook, Keith Sheach and Rab Chittick. Many materials were deposited using pulsed plasma, such as thin films of diamond, ablation resistant coatings for infrared missile windows, germanium phosphide-sulphide films and complex multilayer structures to reflect laser radiation. The latter was funded by the American Strategic Defense Initiative (aka Star Wars) programme intiated by President Reagen.
Around 1990, Rudolf took on a project on silicon microengineering that remained after the bulk of the work had been licensed to Druck Ltd. In 1992 Rudolf’s group transferred to John Leach’s department, but due to funding problems and lack of interest by Nortel in the work, the team started to disperse and Rudolf retired in 1996.
Rudolf was a great lateral thinker and invented new ways for processing materials. He energized members of his team to develop his concepts and to discover their own techniques to achieve world firsts. As a result of all his work and that of his team, Rudolf was awarded over 40 patents, and co-authored a number of scientific papers. He was presented with the prestigious STL Joe Evans Memorial Award for his exceptional creativity. He was well known and respected by his colleagues at STL, thirteen of whom attended his funeral on 14th November.
Now a couple of light-hearted stories about Rudolf’s command of English, which he spoke with a slight German accent that could be mistaken for an English dialect. On one occasion he and I were in a meeting with two German engineers from SEL Stuttgart. The meeting was conducted in English, but at one point the two engineers carried out a long conversation in German. When they finished, Rudolf said something in German to them. They were surprised at Rudolf’s command of their language. When he told them it was his mother tongue, they were most embarrassed, and didn’t break into German again!!
The other incident occurred at a conference he attended, where there was simultaneous translation from a speaker’s mother tongue into English. A German speaker launched into his talk, with the English translation over headphones. Suddenly the translation stopped, and after some time Rudolf called out in German “A verb, a verb, please a verb!” because the translator couldn’t continue the translation because the speaker hadn’t got to the verb at the end of a sentence!
Dr Peter Graves,
V2.0, 5th May 2018
A Tribute to Steve McManus
|Steve was a great, larger-than-life, character who was universally liked and respected. A genial gentle giant with a wide range of diverse interests and very remarkable skills, he made a hugely positive contribution to this world, from the bottom of the oceans to high in the air and everywhere else in between.|
Steve moved to STL from STC Paignton in at an early stage in his career, and although his initial background was as an electrical engineer the majority of his work, in true STL multi-disciplinary and flexible fashion, was in the mechanical and physical design of submerged plant for submarine networks.
In Duncan Gunn’s submarine group at STL and later at ASN Greenwich, after the sale of the submarine telecoms business to Alcatel, Steve developed and implemented innovative solutions for composite fibre-optic glanding and other key aspects of the practical implementation of optically-amplified submarine networks, the main arteries of the internet and arguably the most far-reaching application of Charles Kao’s pioneering work at STL two decades earlier.
But Steve was also interested and heavily involved in classic cars and vintage aircraft. His voluntary work at Duxford and later at Old Warden, especially after his early retirement in early 2000, made him a world expert on some aspects of WW2 aircraft restoration, particularly on Spitfires.
Although suffering from prostate cancer for many years, he always remained a warm and positive character with many ex-Harlow and ex-Greenwich friends and colleagues, particularly Sandra Gould, and will be remembered with great affection by all of us.
Richard Hinton 1930 – 2017
One of Richard’s first jobs was in a London bank. He subsequently moved to Harlow to work for Standard Telephone Company (STC) and later Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL), which became Nortel Networks until its closure in 2008.
Richards’s skills in electronic engineering were very much appreciated by all those he worked with. He was always very helpful and well liked by many members of staff. In a department mostly staffed by physics and chemistry people, his ability to design and make electronics equipment was extremely valuable. In particular, his ability to source items either from outside or very often from his large personal hoard of equipment and components was extremely valuable in those pioneering days. He was not one to throw anything away that might be useful in the future!
The sign coming into Harlow says “The home of Optical Fibre Communications”, which is a reference to the ground breaking, and internationally recognised, work on fibres, optical networks and semiconductor lasers at STL. Richard spent much time designing and building drive units for lasers; in those early days the lasers needed powering by very short pulses of very high currents, and they also needed cooling with liquid nitrogen at minus 196 degrees Celsius, a difficult overall requirement and one to which he responded with relish. In the early days of lasers they were very short lived. In fact we had to be very quick in making measurements to get the results before the devices died. Over the years Richard was at STL, the lasers and their lifetimes improved enormously, so much so that by the 1980s the company was installing the first transatlantic optical communications link, which met the required life of 25 years. Now such systems are everywhere and essential to the operation of the internet and all the benefits which the digital world has created. In skilfully supporting the scientists and engineers who made these breakthroughs, Richard played a very positive part in this great achievement.
Richard spent the later part of his life as a full time carer to his wife Sheila, who he was devoted to. It is fair to say his life effectively stopped when she died in early 2015. Richard died peacefully at Wensley House, Epping, Care Home on Sunday 7th May 2017 at 5.00 pm.
Antony (aka Tony) Harry Truelove, 1927 to 2017
Tony graduated in mathematics from the University of Cambridge and joined STL in the late 1940s. At STL Harlow he worked on infrared spectroscopy in the materials evaluation area, but in 1970 started work on integrated crystal filters for Quartz Crystal Division. In January 1971, Tony was one of the founding members of my Hybrids & Ceramics Department, and the object of his work was the integration of as many resonators on a single piece of quartz. In 1972 he was joined by the late Roger Williamson, and together they developed a triple pole resonator that involved complex mathematical analysis, and also developed a metal foil mask through which silver was deposited on the quartz. The result was a 6-pole channel filter comprising of two triple pole resonators in a single package, replacing a current design of 6 individually packaged resonators.
In the 1980s, after Roger had moved to another group, Tony worked with David Carter on a novel way of processing a quartz blank to achieve a 100MHz resonator. The latter would require a thickness of 16.7µm, which was too thin to be handled as an entity. So the idea was to selectively plasma etch the central region of a standard 500µm quartz blank to the required thickness, whilst monitoring its frequency during etching. The process was shown to be experimentally feasible, so David then scaled it up. Unfortunately the funding for the work ceased and with no other opportunities, Tony was regrettably made redundant in 1987.
In his spare time from STL, Tony was a keen chess and bridge player. He built a Mirror dinghy that he sailed on a reservoir near to his home in Chingford. After leaving STL, Tony and his wife moved to Suffolk where he became an enthusiastic gardener. He also found time to study geology at the Open University. In 2015 he was diagnosed Parkinson’s disease, from which he died on 8th April 2017.
Tony was a modest, gentle person and probably little known outside of the STL Materials Division, but he made a significant contribution in the field of quartz crystal devices.
Dr P.W. Graves (with additional information from Tony Hall)
24th June 2017
Eric was trained as a chemist and joined STL Enfield in its early days, working under Jack Wilson on developing the preparation of high purity single crystal silicone from gaseous silane.
When the Labs moved to Harlow, Jack took over the running of the Chemistry Laboratory and Eric was tasked with the commissioning of the newly delivered Van de Graff accelerator. With this equipment he investigated the effect of electron and X-ray radiation on components and plastics being, or potentially to be used, in telecommunication applications. When Jack left STL in the early 60s, Eric became head of the Chemistry Lab.
In the late 60s Eric took a position with ITT Europe, responsible for seeking out materials and processing problems in ITT’s factories. He then brought the problems back to STL to be investigated by funding small projects with the appropriate group of engineers. The projects were wide ranging, from improving the yield at the glass-sealing stage of Cerdip packaged ICs in Portugal, to investigating the by-products of an experimental closed-system fish farm for Flygt in Sweden. During this period, Eric was based at various locations in Harlow, and his secretary was Joyce Newcomb.
In January 1986 Eric retired and moved to the Welsh borders. Here he continued as an organist at his local church, and also playing the piano at which he was very accomplished. Eric died in March 2017, aged 91, but I have only just been informed of his passing.
Pete Graves (with additional inputs from Eric Bush and Joyce Newcomb).
SIR KENNETH CORFIELD
The following emails posted on the QCC listserver as an obituary to Kenneth Corfield
To STL QCC members
Sir Kenneth Corfield’s death on the 11th January at the age of 91 has been announced.Many will remember him as Chairman of STC at the time when STC was split off from the ITT sale to Alcatel and STC became a UK quoted company.
Ian Vance MBE FREng FIET.
President STL Quarter Century Club
Thanks for your message bringing news that I, at least, was quite unaware of. I last saw Ken when he and Lillian Archer – who died some years ago – came to my Alec Reeves Memorial Lecture at Imperial College (along with several other members of this list).
A quick search via Google reveals, extraordinary, no obituary or any other notice that I can discover. There has certainly been nothing in The Guardian, the paper I read daily. This doesn’t wholly surprise me since I have always believed that Ken was – to employ George Bush’s famous malapropism – somewhat misunderestimated. The acquisition of ICL was a hugely important move which, if correctly understood (within and without the two companies) and properly implemented could have led to the creation of Britain’s first true information technology business. That it didn’t do so reflected in part the fact that Ken’s understanding of where technology was moving was way ahead of most other people’s. But the ‘merger’ was also poorly handled on all sides – not least, I’m ashamed to say, on the PR front (though, in our defence, I believe those of us who had responsibility in that area were neither properly briefed or imaginatively directed). Mind you, one of the things I’m proudest of from those days is the interview I arranged between Ken and the late great Brian Redhead who elicited from him the best account of what he believed the merger to be about that I ever read or heard. I wish it had been more widely circulated.
STC HQ PR Manager 1975-85
Strange. I was thinking about him at the start of this year (for no known reason) and wondering if he was still with us. Sadly he was, but only just.
As David writes, a man ahead of his time, arguably by a decade or two. I can find no reference to his death and wikipedia, usually full of info you never thought you would need, does not have him either. A job for someone. Which suggests that there may not even be a memorial service for him?
The journal Amateur Photographer has just published an obituary, which may come as a surprise to those who might not have known of Corfield’s expertise and reputation in the world of photography – see: sir-kenneth-corfield-founder-of-last-successful-british-camera-range
It’s been interesting to read all the comments on Sir Ken, coupled to such a momentous time for STC. My memories include;
– prior to the ‘convergence’ of STC and ICL there was numerous discussions between ITT and DEC to create a world wide IT company. Shame they didn’t come off, it might have saved both companies! Especially since DEC had the basis of the Internet before anyone else. Instead the future was left to Google and Facebook.
– when Sir Ken was ousted, Lord Keith offered the job to Rob Wilmot of ICL (he with the yellow socks). He wanted a £1m to do it. No chance! As a result we had a dose of GEC management with the predictable consequences. Cost reduction, sell the valuables, fire the rest.
– ITT becomes a hotel chain and exits Telecoms. STL was too big for STC and ICL didn’t want/need us. Mike Watson of ICL, yes he used the tube, was offered the MD role of STL but turned it down. Shame. He was a good man, a very good brain and could have done great things with the skills in Harlow. Instead STL had to sell its bodies to balance the books. Mike? He was cast into the wilderness.
– Nortel with too much R&D and manufacturing buys an STC with more of the same. Lots of money is spent perfecting the past and buying second rate data companies instead of merging with Cisco. Instead Nortel follows the path of DEC.
There’s a good book called Accidental Empires that describes the evolution of Silicon Valley as a series of mistakes that turned out well but were unplanned. Old story now. The sequel should be about well intentioned, expensive but ultimately disastrous mergers. The list is endless and the lessons never learned.
There is an Interesting website about Ken’s early life and his involvement in cameras called The Corfield Story by Bev Parker
One of Kenneth Corfields design of cameras The Corfield Periflex Camera features in the BBC “History of The World” website.
A more detailed article on the design of Ken’s original Periflex camera can be found here.
He was appointed General Manager of the I.T.T. components group in 1968 and soon became Vice President and Director of I.T.T. Europe. In 1970 he became Managing Director of S.T.C. and in 1974 was elected Deputy Chairman to the Board of S.T.C., and appointed Senior Officer for I.T.T. U.K. He became Chairman and Chief Executive of S.T.C. in 1979. In 1980 he was awarded a Knighthood for his services to export.
Apart from Ken’ involvement in cameras and his years with STC, Ken was also heavily involved with the Engineering Council. He became the first Chairman at the council’s inauguration in November 1981, and their first meeting took place in the boardroom of STC House in Aldwych with George Heard of STC acting as secretary. Ken remained chairman until May 1985, and under his stewardship significant progress was made in implementing the Engineering Council’s vision “to advance education in, and to promote the science and practice of, engineering (including relevant technology) for the public benefit and thereby to promote industry and commerce in our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. You can read a detailed account of Ken’s activities in “An Engine for Change” – A Chronicle of The Engineering Council by Colin Chapman and Jack Levy.
Click here to see the obituary which appeared in The Telegraph on 6th February
To see a photograph of Kenneth Corfield’s obituary which appeared in The Times on 19th February, click here
ROGER JAMES WILLIAMSON (1947 – 2015)
Physicist, Inventor and Thespian
Roger Williamson graduated in Physics from UCL and joined STL in 1968. He worked on electromechanical channel filters under Albert Russen, and in 1972 he joined my Passives & Hybrids Dept to work on integrated crystal filters under Tony Truelove. The aim was to reduce the number of individual quartz resonators used in channel filters by integrating as many resonators on a single piece of quartz. Tony and Roger developed a triple pole resonator, involving some complex mathematics, and Quartz Crystal Division (QCD) then set the task of developing a control system to enable the resonators to achieve pre-set frequencies during the process of depositing the silver electrodes. Roger undertook this task with his usual enthusiasm, utilising his knowledge of electronics, and built an experimental system to control the deposition of the three pairs of resonators, and integrated it into a piece of production equipment. To achieve this he spent many weeks at QCD, and successfully demonstrated the system to QCD management and the STL group.
Another memory of Roger’s contribution to QCD at Leeds, concerned the metallisation of blocks of glass and the bonding of wafers of PZT (lead zirconate titanate) to it by soldering. The blocks of glass were to be used as glass delay lines, and after soldering on the PZT, the block was cut into a series of thin slices using a multiple-blade saw. Problems had arisen with the deposition of the metallisation on the glass block and subsequent soldering, and Roger was able to improve the process using his expertise gained from the bonding of PZT to electromechanical filters that he had worked on in his first days at STL.
In the early 1980s Roger worked in David Pitt’s group in my department, working on novel applications of fibre optics in industrial applications (David Pitt developed Oilcon, a system for detecting oil in water in ships’ bilge discharge, which is still in production in Holland).
Roger then transferred to a group on the systems side, but I have been unable to establish which one from colleagues – if anyone reading these notes is familiar with this work, perhaps they could add some details.
Outside of STL, Roger was a keen on the theatre and was a member of the Harlow Moot House Players, both as an actor and in set design. In later years he was a member of choirs in Harlow, Saffron Walden and Cambridge. He also was an accomplished sculptor in steel and wood.
In 2009 Roger was diagnosed with abdominal cancer for which he received many courses of chemotherapy, but the cancer invaded many organs, and after the last invasion he undertook no further treatment and died on 27th December 2015, aged 67.
Dr Peter Graves
I can’t really add a lot about Roger’s technical career except to say that he was incredibly helpful to me when, as a new young grad, I needed help with many aspects of crystallography. Roger also provided a lot of help to me when I was trying to do novel things with sputtered thin films. I learnt that he was someone who was willing to listen and help even though I was out of my depth for much of the time.
Much later on, when I was the VP for the Harlow site and suffering from the stress of all the rounds of redundancy, Roger was someone whose irrepressible good humour helped keep me sane and alive.
When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Roger displayed a calm acceptance and determination to carry on enjoying whatever life he had left (5 years amazingly), which I found truly admirable and inspiring. He was a really good friend right to the end.
(Reproduced from The Harlow Star, Thursday, December 10th, 2015)
Friends and family mourn community stalwart.
The community of Harlow has lost one of its most dedicated supporters following the death this week of former councillor Martin Lawn.
Mr Lawn, of Tye Green Village, died in Princess Alexandra Hospital on Tuesday following a short illness. He was 78.
A member of the Harlow Development Corporation and former leader of Harlow Council back in the 1970s, Mr Lawn also chaired the Harlow Hospitals Trust and was serving chairman of the Harlow Health Centres Trust.
Mr Lawn moved to Harlow in the early 1960s after hearing about the developing new town from resident John Moore.
The two men became great friends and Mr Moore, who also served as a Harlow councillor, was best man when Mr Lawn married local journalist Pat Roberts in 1974.
Mr Lawn had a long career with STL in Harlow, rising to technical director. He then went on to become finance director with the old Essex Family Health Services Authority. A former governor of Mark Hall school, he was also active in running the Harlow branch of the Woodcraft Folk children’s activities organisation, and in helping to run and maintain the Gibberd Garden.
“Martin was totally committed to the community of Harlow,” said his wife. “He was also a kind and loving husband, father and grandfather. We‘re all going to miss him so much.”
Friend and former colleague Mike Danvers said: “He was a towering figure who fought hard to establish many of the services we take for granted today.”
Mr Lawn is survived by wife Pat, sons Ben and Sam, granddaughter Nora Robin and brother Chris. His twin sister, Tessa, predeceased him.
Gordon Henshall, for STL QCC.
I shall miss Vi. You will miss Vi. We will all miss Vi. She was a part of the lives so many of us. It’s an honour to be asked by her partner Brian Prossor to say a few words.
Vi started off in Patents but I did not know her during that period of her working life and so can’t say much about that period in her life.
My main association was with/through the Quarter Century Club. I may have been its President but she made it quite clear in one of our early meetings, if not the first, that she ran it!! She offered-up a theme for each year based on a memorable event in STC/STL’s history. The Drawing office used to dread her coming around about August for models to be made – a light house one year when STC introduced the radio lighthouses – an Enigma keyboard another. You may remember these.
Malcolm Napier was also a key part of all this. Vi would tell him what she wanted in the way of a meal and Malcolm and Gordon Harris made it happen. I guess we all paid a penny or tuppance on our daily restaurant meals which eventually enabled a fantastic meal to be produced free of charge.
Ian Vance the current present President of the STL QCC says The only obvious detail that I would think might be appropriate is that we were all in awe of Vi’s extraordinary vitality. In this connection Richard Epworth says, My personal abiding memory of Vi will always be her wonderful laugh. I remember her partnering me at Badminton in a league match back in the ‘60s and her starting to laugh mid game. Our opponents were so confused it gained us several points
Dave Smith, President of the Components Chapter of the QCC says “She was always there to support and advise, particularly regarding our history. I will find it difficult, if not impossible to replace her. Vi has always been there and it seems unreal that she isn’t any more, she will be so sadly missed.
Vi was responsible for so many extra mural events at STL. Many of you were members of the Tuesday Club which moved location as existing ones closed-up. It started in the STL Pavilion; then moved to the Mayflower and then to the Harlow Museum. Always a selection of most unusual and interesting speakers, quizzes and always a raffle. Vi was great on Raffles. It was one of the few disagreements we ever had – selling a “strip” of tickets for £1 later £5. I pointed out that buying a strip did not increase one’s probability of winning just used more paper!!
She was such a thoughtful person, always remembered people’s birthdays and important anniversaries.
In recent years one of her projects was Shoe boxes. You’d go in her office in November time and the whole place would be full of boxes packed with toys, clothes and things for children.
Perhaps one of her most absorbing projects was the rebuilding of the Turing Bombe which is now on display at Bletchley Park and was, I believe, the one shown in the Enigma film. I do not have enough information to do it justice. Vi was involved with the Bombe rebuild before I even heard about it, and had already arranged, with the help of Gordon Harris, to obtain Nortel funding, also assistance from the model shop in producing some mechanical parts.
Vi arranged for a large table to be constructed in the basement of the conference centre, for manufacture of the many cableforms needed for the project.
I am aware that I will have left many areas of Vi life uncovered. Time is too short to include them all.
Vi – busy in her office.
We need now to be here for Brian. I remember when my wife died there was this big hole in my life. In a way I was fortunate I was still working and had responsibilities to my Division and so the treadmill of life kept me going. Brian is retired and much of his life was running Vi from one event to another. He’s going to miss her and it’s up to us to gang together/to work together to support him.
Brian Edwards (eulogy read at Vi’s funeral).
JOHN H. ALEXANDER (1938-2015)
John graduated in Metallurgy from Battersea Polytechnic and joined Henley Sterling’s plasma processing group at STL in 1962. He worked on the thermally enhanced plasma deposition of silicon compounds, carrying out pioneering work on the deposition of amorphous silicon and subsequently silicon nitride.
When ITT acquired Erie Electronics at Yarmouth in 1975, John became intimately involved with a development programme for processing ceramic multilayer capacitors using screen-printing. He developed new dielectric materials based on barium and lead zirconate-titanate, together with the addition of rare earth oxides, and presented the work at a conference in the USA. In the early 1980s John worked on ceramic capacitors for STC Submarine Systems Division (SSD), and spent some time at AVX (a capacitor manufacturing company) in Olean, NY, on their behalf. Alan Jeal (formerly of SSD) records that John’s advice and analysis was invaluable to SSD.
In 1986 John left STL to join the Ferro Corporation in Vista, California, to work on ceramic capacitor development – he was probably headhunted as a result of his paper – and subsequently moved to Colorado. He retired in 2003 and lived in Longmont, Colorado, where he enjoyed his passion for gardening. In 2014 he contracted oesophageal cancer, from which he died on 22nd January 2015.
Eric Bush & Pete Graves
Dennis Cooper-Jones OBE
Dennis died peacefully in Culm Valley Nursing Home on November 17th 2013.
He and Pam, his wife for 64 years who sadly died in April, lived in Plymtree for almost 30 years following his retirement. During this period he was always active and wanted to put as much as he could back into the community. This included acting as the Vice Chairman of the Governors of Plymtree C of E School for ten years and Chairman of the Plymtree Branch of the Conservative Association for eight years. Dennis also Chaired or Vice Chaired the Plymtree Country Fayre and Horseshow for a similar period. He was an active member of Probus, serving as a speaker organiser and Chairman and for eleven years he acted as Treasurer of the Plymtree and District Gardening Club.
Dennis was born in 1924 at St. Peter Port, Guernsey the eldest son of a dental surgeon. Educated at Haberdashers Aske’s School, then in Hampstead he went on to complete a B.Sc. In Electrical Engineering at London University before seeing wartime service as a Wireless Officer, Special Branch RNVR. After the war he joined Standard Telephones and Cables as an electronic engineer, with whom he worked for 42 years. He travelled extensively in his various roles, yet found the time to write two Business Books, still in publication, and many articles for technical publications and lectures. He was appointed an OBE in 1984.
Apart from his family and fly fishing, Dennis’ great passion was for his garden, which he designed and planted over many years and enjoyed opening up to the village.
Dennis will be greatly missed. Someone always friendly, helpful, interested and supportive, to everyone he came across.
George played a key and major role in STC becoming the supplier of the Rapier radar antenna. The sequence was as follows, in the early 1970s George got a contract from RSRE Malvern for research on the performance of small phased array antennas ( until then the analysis was simplified by assuming that phased arrays consisted of several hundred individual radiators, so called infinite arrays).
George tackled the more complex problem where the number was much smaller. I recall the array that was built to validate this work with a 25 element array, a heavy block of brass that lived in Z1 for many years. Now, George was an Isle of Man TT racer and one of the people that did the race timing was George Hall who was also at RSRE but he was the Project Manager for the Rapier project as a whole, the two of them knew each other quite well. One day George Hall arrives in my office in Z1 and explains how totally dissatisfied he is with the “ bit of bent tin” that Decca had for an antenna on the Rapier radar ( and he probably told me, as he did frequently, that the Queen deserved something better as he always saw the MoD project manager role as having a strong dotted line to the palace) He said he knew that George had done this work on small phased arrays and he (and HMQ) wanted one like it on Rapier. We got the study contract. George did some brilliant analysis and computer modelling, Ian McClymont and Ray Thomas made and tested a lot of hardware, George interpreted the measurements, a lot of others chipped in ideas and it resulted in a brilliant and profitable product for STC Paignton.
I will really miss my old friend.
Having joined R673 at STL in 1962 I soon got to know George as R673 was part of Len Lewin?s empire which included Tony Karbowiak’s section where I believe George initially worked. When I moved from STL to Queen Mary College in 1980 I was delighted to find that George was a regular visitor to QMC Electronic Engineering Department (having gained his PhD there) and we would chat about the good old days at STL before ITT became dominant. Curiously, the last time I saw George was a few years ago in Barclays Bank in Bishops Stortford where George had retained his account many years after moving out of the area.
Henley F. Sterling (1919-2012)
Self-taught engineer and born inventor.
I recently learnt from his son Derek that Henley died in December 2012, in a nursing home in Bexhill-on-Sea. I have been in touch with some of his former colleagues at STL, and the following is a compilation of all our memories of him.
Henley was born in London and as a child showed a flair for experimentation. He told me that he burnt the counterpane on his bed with sodium he had electrolysed using the DC mains supplied to his home, and blew off the cast iron surround of the fireplace in his bedroom with black powder he prepared from readily available chemicals! When he left school at 14 or 15 he worked for a chemical company making cosmetics and perfumes, as he could not continue with further education due to family circumstances. When WW2 was declared he joined the RAF and was trained as a Radar Engineer on the CHL (Chain Home Low) system. He was posted to radar stations at Swingate on the cliffs at Dover, experimental units in the UK and West Africa (on the way his ship was torpedoed and he was one of the few survivors). He ended up in Europe after D-day with a unit detecting the launching of V2s from mobile sites by triangulation, so Typhoon fighters could be scrambled to destroy the sites.
After WW2 he joined the newly formed STL at Enfield and was involved with initial work on silicon made from silane and the single crystal growth of silicon. Later he applied the RF expertise gained in the RAF to developing, with Reg Warren, a method of melting conducting materials without contamination in a water-cooled crucible – the so-called silver boat process. The molten metal was micro-levitated by the RF power in a coil around the silver boat, and the metal could be zone-refined by passing the boat through the coil. The process was initially used to purify and grow single crystal silicon, although his manager Jack Wilson had forbad him using any of the stock of silane-silicon! Later he applied the silver boat process to melting refractory metals and compounds, e.g. tungsten (mpt 3422oC) and zirconium diboride (mpt 3246oC). For his work in this area, he received an award from ITT.
In the early 1960s, Henley applied his RF techniques to the plasma deposition of amorphous silicon, silicon oxide and silicon nitride. He built up a world-leading team, which included John Alexander, Dick Swann, Sadie Hughes and Rab Chittick. The processes the team developed were applied to semiconductor processing, e.g. the passivation of devices with silicon nitride.
Henley then threw his energies to developing new materials and processes for electrolytic capacitors, and their failure mechanisms, with a team including Dick Humphries, Sadie Hughes and Miles Drake, managed by Eric Bush.
Henley was a front-line scientist with boundless enthusiasm and had numerous patents; he did not seek to be a manager, but became a Chief Principal Research Engineer until he retired in 1984. In retirement he spent his time researching his family history, finding ancestors who were Huguenots and goldsmiths in London, between 1770 and 1750.
Many people owe Henley a great deal, and he had quite an influence on the development of their careers and hence their lives. Regrettably none of his former colleagues were aware of his death a year ago and so were unable to pay their last respects at his funeral – only six family members were present.
Dr Peter Graves
4th December 2013
Bessie Hodgson Nov. 2012
Bessie Hodgson died on the 11th. November 2012 at the age of 95. She was one of the select band of women who put in over forty years service with the company.
On her retirement in 1977 after 43 years, Dr. S.G.Foord recording this exceptional achievement wrote:-
Bessie started her marathon stint with ITT at North Woolwich where she joined the raw material inspection at the tender age of 17. When I joined two years later (1936) my first indication of her presence was a series of bumps and thumps emanating from an adjacent laboratory where textile materials used in cable making were being tortured according to specification.
During the war Bessie carried on stoically under rather trying conditions when a man on the roof kept advising everyone to take cover. Fortunately the only occasion when this would have proved profitable was one night when the glass roof fell in on an empty lab.
Towards the end of the war Bessie changed her vocation to become secretary to the head of the lab. She had no difficulty in surviving the inevitable quips about secretaries who don’t type and performed sterling service in this job for a number of years.
In 1946 she was one of a group of 17 Woolwich lab personnel who transferred to STL soon after it started at Enfield and accepted the rigours of the ten-week cold spell in 1947 when everyone on arrival in the morning spent the first 15 minutes dangling their legs in a floor duct carrying the hot water service pipes.
On the departure of her boss to seek his fortune at the Post Office Dollis Hill labs I had the good fortune to inherit her. It was not long before I realised we were missing out on a good laboratory assistant and Bessie was returned to lab work which she has carried out with great success ever since.
During 1948-53 she performed much of the detailed experimental work involved in developing a manufacturing process for synthetic piezoelectric crystals which were of considerable strategic importance at that time. She persevered with this work throughout in spite of an allergic effect created by one of the chemicals involved of which she was one of the first recorded victims.
At the time of her retirement she was working on optical coupled relays in the materials components group.
She retired to Derbyshire where she was an active and highly regarded member of the community and the local church. Her service was held at Holbrook Moor Methodist Church near Belper, Derbyshire followed by cremation.
John Stagg Oct. 2011
was only 62 when he died on 20th October, less than a month after a diagnosis of myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. After studying physics at the University of Oxford, acquiring an MA and a DPhil, he joined the Philips research laboratory near Redhill in Surrey, where he developed skills in the technology of both compound semiconductors and the Si/SiO2 interface. In the former aspect he worked on both AlGaAs/GaAs and InGaP/GaAs lasers with various colleagues there and was sole author on a paper describing measurement of hole diffusion lengths in photocurrent measurements. His work on the Si/SiO2 interface, included contributions to the study of the drift mobilities of Na & K in SiO2 films.
In the early eighties John was recruited by STC Technology to strengthen the department which was developing semiconductor lasers for optical fibre systems. The layers in these structures contained indium, gallium, phosphorus and arsenic as well as dopants. They were initially grown by deposition from molten indium, but a newer deposition technique (MOVPE) from the gas phase was expected to give better control of composition and thickness. In MOVPE the raw materials are transported into the reaction chamber in separate streams of hydrogen and John was asked to create instruments to monitor the concentrations in each hydrogen stream. The impressive result was an instrument known jocularly within the department as a Staggometer, which worked by instantaneous measurements of the velocity of sound in each gas stream. (The velocity of sound is greatest in pure hydrogen and is lower when other substances are present.) Later versions of these instruments are now known by the name Epison and they can be found throughout the world in MOVPE equipment for depositing layers of complex compound semiconductors.
The takeover by Nortel led to the closure of the laser department Subsequently John worked on the planar waveguide project. Further shrinkage of work in Harlow resulted in John moving to a research position at Imperial College for a few years before his retirement. Outside work, John was a great lover of classical music and an extremely good pianist and organist.
Mike Wright- November 14th 1946 – November 10th 2009
Mike Wright got there the hard way, achieved through numerous evening classes and City & Guilds and HNC qualifications and distinctions, over 8 years. His first job was with Cossor Electronics in 1963, but in 1966 he was recruited by STL to work on GaAsP Light Emitting Diodes. Mike made STL’s first visible LED. After a couple of years he transferred to the Transmission lab, initially working for Brian Edwards, and later for John Weston. There he worked on various electronic communications systems including: Mallard, and a 800 MBit/s short range coaxial system for ITT FACE in Italy. In 1972 he was awarded the Cossor Award for being the most successful engineering student at Harlow College.
In 1974 Mike began what would become a lifetime’s involvement with Optical Fibre Communication. Initially his role solely involved the electronic parts of the systems. Later years would see him responsible for a group developing complete state of the art fibre transmission systems. Mike’s early projects were the first experimental 2 and 34 MBit/s optical fibre systems.
Fibre systems research and development became more and more important, and by 1975 much of STL was devoted to the single task of developing and installing the famous 140 MBit/s Hitchin to Stevenage Field Demonstration System. For many years a photo of him was on display at the London Science Museum, together with some of the equipment. Mikes contribution involved working with the hierarchy of multiplexers, designing terminal & repeater units, installing them and maintaining them in the field. In a laboratory of competitive prima donnas, Mikes unruffled approach, and attention to detail always brought calm and reason.
In 1979, he joined Derek Gardner in Peter Radley’s division to work as Principal Engineer leading a challenging new project on optical fibre undersea transmission systems: Systems that would cross the deepest oceans. Mike was responsible for the system configuration & the electronics. After working on the UK-Belgium un-repeated link, his next project was the world’s first transoceanic fibre system between the UK and the USA: TAT-8.
Next, working for Jeff Farrington, Mike had responsibility for a succession of challenging projects, providing Integrated Circuits for a whole series of subsequent transatlantic fibre systems TAT-9, NL16, and TAT-12 in 1993. Later he returned to more esoteric projects and managed the development of the ground-breaking experimental 20 GB/s Soliton optical transmission system in 1994.
Mike Wright took temporary responsibility for the Optical, Systems group when Division Manager Mike Scott departed in 1995. When Garry Adams arrived to take over, he found that Mike had gone to great lengths to make the transition as easy as possible. It soon became clear to Garry that he needed a ‘right hand man’ who knew the ropes and could free him from much of the day to day running of the group whilst he managed the increasing Nortel politics. So Mikes role then became managing the background operation, freeing Garry’s other managers to do their technical management roles unhindered, for which they had good reason to be grateful. A large part of the huge impact that the Harlow Optical group made within Nortel, can be traced to Mike’s smooth running of the background operation during this time. His attention to detail was always impressive, he always had all the information you could ever want on some giant Excel spreadsheet.
In 1999 Mike was Project Manager for the state of the art 80 Gb/s, 80 kilometres long Soliton transmission demonstration that was exhibited in Geneva, to demonstrate Nortel’s prowess in ultra-high speed optical transmission technology. This was an exceedingly ambitious project; Just 9 months to design the system, build a fully working prototype, and then ship it to Switzerland, where it had to work perfectly in front of all of Nortel’s biggest customers and critics. There were pressures of a silly schedule, impossibly advanced and untried technology, and a tangle of very bright and disparate individuals from throughout the optics lab in Harlow. Mike was consistently a nice guy, a gentle leader, who kept a sense of humour and perspective through the peaks and troughs of the project. Although its success was not certain, his relaxed and supportive manner was crucial in shepherding the team to a common goal and eventual success against all the odds. Mike was one of those managers that engineers said they enjoyed working for, because he trusted them to do the technical job without interfering. No-one has ever heard a bad word spoken against Mike. In a long career spanning forty years, he made very few enemies and many many friends.
Sadly Mike fell ill shortly before the group’s closure in 2004. He lived his remaining years with remarkable courage and dignity, keeping his dry sense of humour and never for once complaining. I am proud to have known him and miss him.
Richard Epworth, November 23rd, 2009
From The Times: March 9, 2009
Charles Sandbank: electronics engineer
Charles Sandbank had a telling influence on the way we listen and watch radio, television and cinema. He was a world leader in the research and development of electronics, telecommunications and digital broadcasting.
Charles Peter Sandbank was born in Vienna in 1939. His family moved to England where he attended Bromley Grammar School in Kent. After graduating in physics at London University and specialising in electronic engineering for a postgraduate diploma at Imperial College, he began work as a production engineer. Soon his career began to turn to the future of electronic engineering; first, in 1955-60, as a development engineer with the Brimar Valve Company.
In 1960 he moved to the STC company’s transistor division where he developed some of the first semiconductor integrated circuits to be produced in Europe. Four years later he became head of the Electron Devices Laboratory at Standard Telecommunications Laboratories and, in 1968, became manager of the STL Communications Systems Division. He was responsible for the team that pioneered the use of optical fibres for communications and, in 1976, built the world’s first wideband digital optical fibre communication system.
Sandbank’s reputation for high-level original thinking helped to land him the post of Head of Research and Development with BBC Engineering in 1978. Colleagues recall how he proved a breath of fresh air. “Call me Charlie,” he insisted when referred to as “sir”. He exploited Nicam stereo sound for television, which became the world’s first digital broadcasting system, and realised the potential of high-definition television. He became the first chair of the European Broadcasting Union’s high definition TV committee that looked into the possibilities of achieving worldwide standards.
By 1984 Sandbank had become BBC deputy director of engineering. His gregarious personality and enthusiasm for projects was vital for persuading politicians and organisations to invest in new technologies, and he developed the digital audio broadcast system, DAB.
After leaving the BBC in 1993 Sandbank became a consultant for what was then the Department of Trade and Industry, advising on radio frequency bands and their standardisation. He also became, in 2001, a founding co-chairman of the European Digital Cinema Forum, lobbying government-backed bodies, including the UK Film Council, to invest in electronic digital projectors for cinemas.
Between 1982 and 1989 he was the Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in the Principles of Information Systems Design at the University of Bradford. In 2004 Bradford awarded him an honorary doctorate of engineering.
Sandbank’s engaging personality made him a much sought-after public speaker, and his web of contacts was such that his golden anniversary celebrations in 2005 required four parties.
He is survived by his wife, Audrey, two daughters and a son.
Charles Sandbank, electronics engineer, was born on August 14, 1931. He died after a brain hemorrhage on December 15, 2008, aged 77
Chris Carter was one of the original Bombe rebuild team members and took the initiative on the remaking of all the cableforms. He was instrumental in researching and procuring the correct type of wire and the correct laying up and fitting of the cableforms.
This work was done in the basement of the Conference Centre, largely on his hands and knees, on a custom made 14 foot table. Pictures of the completed Bombe give some idea of the total work involved.
On Chris’ 80th birthday (having sadly suffered a recent stroke) he was presented with a birthday cake in the form of a Bombe Drum.
Chris Carter passed away aged 81 on 25th November 2008 after a long illness. His service was held at Barham Crematorium near Canterbury.