Chris Malcolm's Informal CV


Those who want the official formal CV can find it via the usual channels. This informal CV has the unofficial interesting bits which are omitted from the official CV.

Born in 1942, I can remember being bombed by Hitler, and was so scared I forgot about my siren suit and gas mask. I tried studying philosophy at Edinburgh University in the early 1960s, but in my youthful naivete failed to recognise that the number of staff members of the philosophy department with theology degrees was a warning that we would not mix well. (Nothing against theology per se, some of my best friends, etc..) At the time I knew nothing of computers, and would have loved to get involved with AI and computers if I'd known about them, but I was too soon for CS and AI to have become topics of undergraduate study here, or most other universities.

[The precursor of the AI dept started in 1963 purely as a small post-graduate research group, with an Elliot 4100 computer. Undergraduate teaching in AI did not start until 1974. Computer Science offered its first course, CS1, in 1965, using time on Glasgow's KDF9 and a local PDP8.]

I migrated to London in search of employment and became a computer programmer. My first acquaintance with computers was studying the machine code manuals for the ICL 1900 series. I was astounded, and hooked. I remember thinking ``You could get these things to do anything!''. Like many interested in computers at the time, got myself a computer programming job where you could play with the computer in its idle time.

While living in London I became an enthusiast for Grey Walter's programme of synthetic biological research via robots, and built a version of his turtle using the then new transistors instead of GW's valves for its ``brain''.

Once I had established saleable skills as a programmer, I decided Edinburgh was a much nicer place to live than London, and returned here. We Edinburgensians are very fortunate that the local weather has prevented our lovely city from being spoilt by overpopulation.

I ended up with ICL's Scottish programming centre in Dalkeith, near Edinburgh programming operating systems for small computers (1973-81). I became familiar enough with computer hardware and electronics to build my own home computer (Nascom II), interface it to a cheap string-and-stepper-motor robot arm (Armdroid), and build a robot controller for it. I was also sufficiently interested in AI to read the odd textbook, follow Donald Michie's column in the trade weekly ``Computing'', and bought my own copy of the Lighthill Report in 1973. Naively, I simply thought it a rather silly document and threw it away. Since it was responsible for very serious cutbacks in UK AI funding, it has since become a rather rare and important historical document.

My general all-round computational capability attracted Robin Popplestone, the famous roboticist then of this Department (now University of Amherst, Mass, USA), who employed me as an RA on some research contracts (1981-87). I liked working here, developed my skills and qualifications (MSc in IT 1987, Xerox project prize), and took the opportunity of a staff position as a robotics lecturer when it become available (1987).

I spent most of my time based in the Department of Artificial Intelligence at Forrest Hill. That was for many years the largest central location of the often distributed department of Artificial Intelligence. The expansion of the AI department after the Alvey Report increased Govt funding in the area led to acquisition of the South Bridge location which soon became much larger than Forrest Hill.

In 1998 the department of Artificial Intelligence was amalgamated with Computer Science and Cognitive Science to form the School of Informatics. The robotics and vision group of the department became the IPAB research institute of Informatics.

The fire which destroyed the South Bridge location in December 2002 led to the plans to build the Informatics Forum beside the Appleton Tower in George Square. While the Forum was being built IPAB moved temporarily to JCMB.

I retired in 2004.

Chris Malcolm 2009