I was born in the long cold winter of 1946, on the day John Milton
was born and John Lennon was shot. I was raised on National Health
orange juice and free spectacles, by loving liberal
escaped from a lower middle class background. I grew up listening to
jazz, being confused by
contemporary art, despising organized
sport, militarism, and capitalism, going on CND marches, and reading,
reading, reading. At least one of these habits paid off in the shape
of a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford University, from which I
graduated with a first in English in 1968. I've found it impossible to
escape the place ever since. I lived in swinging London for a year
between my BA and MPhil degrees and I taught English at the University
of Malawi for two years at the start of the seventies, but apart from
that, I've been inhaling the fog of the Thames valley all my
My first job for the University Computing Service was as a Data Centre Operator. I sat in a large room in the Department of Atospheric Physics, with a line printer, a card reader, a card punch and three teletype devices. The one I sat in front of told me the time every five minutes and the date every half hour. If it stopped doing either, I had instructions to call an engineer. Aside from light duties tearing up output from the line printer, that was essentially all I had to do for my 8 hour shift, in those halcyon days of mainframe computers. I learned to program in Algol68, discovered the wild wacky world of humanities computing, then emerging, produced the world's first computer-generated concordance to the songs of Bob Dylan, and finally got myself a real job as a programmer in 1974.
The first real program I wrote was 12 lines of assembler to link a PDP-8 driven graphics display to the ICL 1900 mainframe. I learned Snobol4, and worked with Susan Hockey on the design of the Oxford Concordance Program. I worked on network database management systems, notably Cullinane's IDMS, and on ICL's amazing CAFS text searching engine. Some of this work is described in various obscure publications in my bibliography..
I set up the Oxford Text Archive in 1976 and kept it going across more changes of computer system than I care to think of.
After flirting briefly with applications of computers in History under the tutelage of Manfred Thaller, I finally succumbed to the lure of SGML in 1988 following the Poughkeepsie Conference which launched the Text Encoding Initiative, (TEI) project of which I have been European editor since February 1989.
Since October 1990 I have also been responsible for OUCS participation in the British National Corpus Project, a 100 million word corpus of modern British English.
I live in a somewhat rundown Victorian mansion in North Oxford, with Lilette, a family of squirrels, and a transient population of student lodgers. We have three daughters, now scattered around the country: Belinda (born 1973, lives in Nottingham); Sarah Daisy (born 1976, lives in Cambridge) and Elizabeth (born 1984, currently attending Sheffield Hallam University).