Computer ◆ Conservation ◆ Society


November 2016

Doron Swade MBE PhD MSc C.Eng. FBCS CITP

For outstanding services in relation to computer conservation: co-founder of the Computer Conservation Society, a leading authority on Charles Babbage, team leader for construction of the Babbage Difference Engine No. 2, researcher of Babbage’s Analytical Engine, historian of computing and writer on the history of computing.


Lifetime Achievements in Relation to Computer Conservation

Chris Burton

Doron Swade is an engineer, historian, museum professional and author. A brief summary of his academic background includes his studies of physics, electronics engineering, machine intelligence, history, philosophy of science; gaining degrees from a number of universities including the University of Cape Town, the University of Cambridge, and University College, London. He has held various professorships and other senior positions in universities, and is currently Research Fellow in Computer Science at Royal Holloway, University of London.

He has been a curator at the Science Museum in London and the Computer History Museum in California. At the Science Museum, he curated the computing and electronics collections and rose to be Assistant Director and Head of Collections. He has pioneered the philosophy, policy and working practices of computer restoration.

Doron was a founder of the Computer Conservation Society in 1989. Resurrection, the CCS Bulletin, stated in its first issue that the CCS was “the brainchild of Doron Swade, Curator of Computing at the Science Museum”. At this auspicious time the computer industry had existed for about half a century. Chris Burton has explained that “.. many people had spent a professional lifetime in the industry. The industry had matured, but was still poised for ever greater technological and social changes as it had been from its beginnings in the 1940s. It was time to take stock and reflect on the extraordinary developments to date, and in particular, to be concerned that many of the pioneering people and hardware and software were fast disappearing”.

Doron himself has recounted that he conceived the Computer Conservation Society so as to provide a social and organisational focus for a community of pioneering computer professionals retired or otherwise no longer directly involved in the industry, who had the enthusiasm and energy to participate and contribute in activities relevant to the systems on which they had worked, to preserve their technological and historical significance.

Doron propounded his vision to two people at the British Computer Society, the then Technical Vice-President, Roger Johnson, and the late Tony Sale, the BCS’ Technical Director. The Computer Conservation Society was thus formed as a Specialist Group of the BCS running in partnership with the Science Museum. An initial committee was created comprising Doron Swade, Tony Sale and Roger Johnson, together with two BCS Past Presidents.

In addition to this, Doron Swade is an internationally recognised authority on the work of English computer pioneer Charles Babbage and masterminded a project to build a working replica of his Difference Engine to original 19th-century designs. He is currently at Royal Holloway, University of London, researching Babbage's calculating engines.

He is author of books and many articles on the history of computing and on curatorship, and he has been awarded an MBE for services to the history of computing.