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Tom Thomson

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Full name
Tom Thomson


Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote, Spain and Congleton, UK.

5th November


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Music, song, singing, gaelic poetry, computers, databases, declarative languages, mathematics, natural languages and linguistics, science fiction and fantasy, walking, scrambling.

Educated in state schools, learning French, German, Latin (for exams) and some Italian and Russian (not for exams), then studied maths at Oxford University, worked briefly as a graduate assistant at the Rutherford High Energy Laboratory where I learned Fortran and Falan and wrote code for an Orion II computer (for just 6 weeks during the summer after finishing my degree at Oxford), researched mathematical logic and set theory at Bristol University (where I was allowed, in my spare time, to play with the Universitys IBM 1620 and its Elliot computers, and could attend the lectures on Algol given to physics research students although I wasnt doing physics). I drifted fairly accidentally into computer science when English Electrics Nelson Research Labs wanted someone who knew some formal semantics and syntax to do computer language work; I was just finishing writing up my work on the semantics of infinitary logical calculi, and neither NRL nor I had a clue how far apart these two fields were, so I ended up working there and learnt a whole new game (my previous computer experience was limited to writing ad hoc programs in assembler and/or Fortran.) Then back to academia, at UEA - information retrieval research, lecturing on programming (for research students, we didnt provide a 1st degree course in computing), and doing some programming on molecular geometry and other odd bits. Thats where I first became interested in organizing data for searching. Academia didnt pay enough, so off to CTL to work on their shiny new OS and learn about hardware (while I was there I designed a new assembly langage for the same instruction set, which amused some people, but after I left they implemented it and threw away the old assembler, because it made development easier), and from there to ICL in Scotland to work on data communications - front end processors and network gear - which found me doing quite a bit of maths, mostly queuing theory but also this newfangled relational theory coming out of IBM and other things, designing and implementing a language to facilitate configuring FEP software, and designing and implementing a tool to cope with several people working on the same module of code at the same time; then on to ICL in England to take over mainframe data comms software (a come and rescue call) then take charge of architecture and programme management for all datacomms and interworking and get involved in all sorts of advanced technology bits and pieces (logic programming, functional languages, file system and database design, process languages, and so on) and take responsability for resolving disputes when two ICL products from different parts of the company couldnt work correctly together, before moving to another ICL site and working on fifth generation systems, working out how to build a relational database system (with no SQL - after all, it was relational and SQL isnt) to run as a massively parallel database on a distributed graph reduction engine, designing extensions to Hope to make Hope+ (now known as Hope - the additions took firm root) into a feasible systems programming language. And then on to various pan-European projects collaborating with all sorts of wild and wooly academics and industrialists from all over Europe and trying to get everyone to sing from the same sheet, and dropping our relational principles and porting Ingres and Oracle OPS (Oracle were paranoid about IP, which was amusing) onto the parallel system. At that time I got involved in evaluating academic research proposals submitted by uk universities to the UK Science Research Council. After ICL stopped doing that sort of research project I spent the most of next 3 years working at Harlequin (the CEO had been trying to recruit me for about 10 years, so it seemed the natural place to go after ICL) mostly working on a complete nightmare one of whose components was an OODBMS, but a few weeks now and again working for the Commission of the European Communities (evaluation of R&D proposals submitted in funding bids and making appropriate recommendations). From there to LinkGuard, trying to put together a 42TB database (42 servers, each running SQL Server 2000) to map the internet; and when that was euthanased by the bursting of the internet bubble I moved on to Neos, to look at the databases, which the Ops Director knew were a mess, and quickly fix them; I ended up staying for 7 years because they kept on giving me extra responsibilities, and although the databases certainly improved they never did get properly fixed because I - and everyone else - was too busy solving bigger problems). Left there in July 2009 after getting a new team in Beirut up to speed doing all the development and most of the other technical work, and resolved never again to work more than four months in any one year - I had to promise my wife that or be nagged continually for the rest of my life; she was fed up with only seeing me now and again (and I havent worked at all since then, cant find the time - unless something really interesting crops up).  Along the way I acquired a few professional qualifications: FEANI European Engineer, Chartered Mathematician, Chartered Engineer, Chartered IT practitioner,Fellow of IMA, Fellow of IET, Member of BCS. Masters degrees from Oxford and Bristol Universities. Thesis (for Bristol): The Semantics of Infinitary Languages. I published a few research papers, mostly about database stuff, some in the ICL Technical Journal and others as Manchester University technical reports, but only because my employer pressured me to publish (Im too lazy to do much of that). And acquired patents on algorithms for deadlock detection in distributed database systems for ICL because the same employer who wanted me to publish wouldnt let me publish my article on that until I had patent applications in the system.  But I never acquired a single vendor certification and Im quite proud of that, perverse as it may seem.


Relational Database. Operating systems. Data communication, distributed systems, networking. Language design. Team building. Development and release


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