I am surprised at some of the opportunities I have missed over the years and I sometimes wish I could turn the clock back. We come across so many people in our day-to-day lives that we could learn from if only we realised or took the trouble to find out. This is especially so in our youth. Missing an opportunity then means possibly missing out for ever, as our older colleagues pass on.
I only recently realised that I missed a major opportunity to learn from my officially allocated mentor in ICL in 1969.
I joined ICL’s Advanced Research and Development Laboratories in Stevenage in 1969 and was allocated a mentor when I was in a year in industry as a part of my Physical Electronics thick sandwich degree course. That mentor was Dr John Pinkerton. I remember meeting Dr Pinkerton many times and indeed, he was one of my proposers for becoming a Fellow of the IEE in the mid 1986.
In a bored moment over the Christmas break, after rummaging around in my attic and came across a bunch of old line-printer papers, I used Google to search for Dr Pinkerton only to disappointedly find that he passed-on on December 22, 1997. The full document contained an excellent photograph of him sitting at his desk in ICL’s HQ in Putney. He was exactly as I remembered him and it turns out he was about my current age when he mentored me in those far off days.
It was then that I read that Dr Pinkerton was the project leader at Lyons that resulted in him designing and developing the world’s first business computer, the Lyons Electronic Office or ‘LEO’. Wow!
Did I know this at the time and I had just forgotten? To be honest I am not sure that I did. In those paper-tape, main-frame oriented days we didn’t have Google to undertake research.
I would love to meet up with him today. The stories he could tell about his war time radar research and ask questions about what must have been those fabulous pioneering days of developing LEO.
Missing opportunities? Please don’t…