Tom Kilburn

Tom Kilburn Interviewed by Ken Howarth (1982) for the North West Sound Archive.

(Notes from Ken Howarth)
The interview was recorded on Monday 1st March 1982. I kept a diary in those days and the entry reads:

“In the afternoon I drove over to Urmston to see Prof Tom Kilburn. I spent the afternoon with him tape-recording his important reminiscences on his work on the 1st computer with a stored memory.

He is an aloof man, set in his ways, and an engineer, now sadly living on his own in a detached bungalow in Urmston. He is not a naturally talkative man, quite reserved really but immediate. He cannot think himself as a historic figure, but he is, and I am only too aware of my weaknesses (lack of knowledge) in the interview. I was restricted by time and also Prof Kilburn’s own expediency as to which questions he was prepared to answer!”

Notes: I would add he saw the sense of what I was doing and the need to record and as the interview testifies we got on well. His reservation about answering questions is influenced, as far as I can work, to the Second World World War secrecy culture which lingered on after the war. His house was fitted with old-type Wylex plugs and I had to re-wire the plug on the Revox before I could start recording. I brought the plug away with me and for many years it hung above my desk or was on my desk, to remind me of the occasion and when maybe I was getting above myself, to bring me down to earth! It’s not every day you record someone who should be remembered in the same breath as Alan Turing. As far as I know there is no plaque or other reverence to Tom, or Freddie Williams maybe there should be

“Tom Kilburn” recounted a Story.

‘For a while we wondered what the computer could be used for in any practical sense. In fact one of our assistants left saying he couldn’t see a future in computers.’

That’s got to be the quote of the century!

This and other interesting CD’s are available directly from the North West Sound Archive.