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Oral-History:Pat Stewart

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About Pat Stewart

Pat Stewart retired in 2008 after 26 years of working at Cambridge University’s Computing Service Department. Previously, she worked at the Institute of Astronomers and Barclay’s Bank. It was at Barclay’s where she first worked with computers helping the bank transition to the decimal system in Great Britain.

This interview is a comprehensive conversation about her experiences with computers throughout her life, both personal and professional. It begins with a discussion of her childhood and early education. It transitions to her first job at Barclay’s and continues to her move to Cambridge. After a brief interlude of working at the Institute of Astronomers, she began to work at Cambridge University in the Computer Service Departments. While there she developed university regulations and taught computer courses to the faculty.

About the Interview

PAT STEWART: An interview conducted by Janet Abbate for the IEEE History Center, April 11, 2001.

Interview #631 Interview with Pat Stewart for the IEEE History, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Pat Stewart: an oral history conducted in 2001 by Janet Abbate, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEW: Pat Stewart
INTERVIEWER: Janet Abbate
DATE: April 11, 2001
PLACE: Pat Stewart’s office at Cambridge University

Family and Early Education

Abbate:

So to start, can you tell me when and where you were born?

Stewart:

Yes, I was born in Manchester (where you’re going to later) in 1948.

Abbate:

And you grew up in Manchester?

Stewart:

Yes. Yes, I was there until I went to the University in London at the age of 18.

Abbate:

What did your parents do?

Stewart:

My father was a lacrosse stick maker [laughs], which is a very unusual occupation. There’s only one company in England that does it, and that’s in Manchester, a very small firm. And my mother was an account’s clerk.

Abbate:

Did you have brothers and sisters?

Stewart:

No.

Abbate:

What kind of a . . . what sort of grammar school or . . . ?

Stewart:

It was a family school, yes. It was a convent grammar school.

Abbate:

So it was all girls then?

Stewart:

That’s right, yes. It was a [word unclear] Direct Grant grammar school; they were quite common. They direct grant opts out of the main state system, mainly for denominational reasons, so that basically the local authority pays to the school for your fees.

Abbate:

Does it have the same curriculum, basically?

Stewart:

Yes. Yes. More or less.

Abbate:

And were you interested in maths or science at an early age?

Stewart:

Maths, yes. Yes. Science as well, but it was really only when I went to grammar school that I knew anything about science at all. I went to a school in a class of over fifty students until I was eleven, and that was really just the basics. We had then the Eleven Plus, which is your qualifications to get into grammar school—I’m sure you’re well aware of the British system—and I was one of only two people who passed in that class, Eleven Plus; it was not a privileged sort of area or privileged sort of education, so obviously I somehow managed to scramble through. And when I went to grammar school I suddenly discovered that I was rather good at maths, and that really just steered me from then on, and science went with that.

Abbate:

So you took the A Levels in math and science?

Stewart:

That’s right, yes; maths and physics. And then went to Westville College in London after that, but I didn’t finish my degree. I wasn’t getting on very well at all, and I decided to call it a day. I lost my nerve, I think, for exams at some point.

Barclay’s Bank and First Computer

Abbate:

Hmm.

Stewart:

I had a summer job working for Barclay’s Bank in London, and so I said, “Oh, any ideas for permanent jobs for me here?” And they said, “Oh yes, we’ll send you off to Management Services, and maybe you can go into the computing section.”

Abbate:

Now, when did you first encounter a computer?

Stewart:

I was aware of them . . . I must have been aware of them; I was aware of them even when I was at home, but my first exposure was when I was actually working with them, when I started to train as a programmer.

Abbate:

So they sent you off to training and that’s the first time . . .

Stewart:

Yes. Some of my fellow students who were doing more physics-based courses were using computers as undergraduates, but as most of my degree was maths, I didn’t actually come into contact with one at all. So I knew what one was, and I knew what programming was, but I’d never actually laid a finger on one.

Abbate:

Did you want to? When they said they could train you for this?

Stewart:

Well yes, that was sort of the area that I was thinking of going into. Why, I don’t know; it just seemed a suitable sort of occupation for my interests.

Abbate:

And this would have been the late ‘60s?

Stewart:

Yes, that was ‘69. And I thought, “Well, I might as well give it a whirl, see how it goes,” and in fact quite enjoyed it. I was at Barclay’s for a year. I was trained on an NCR 315, which was using a language called NEAT. I’m not sure whether you came across it at all.

Abbate:

I’m not sure. Was that like an assembler type of language?

Stewart:

Yes, it’s an assembly level language.

The NCR 315 was an old machine, even at that stage. I was working in the Martin’s Bank programming team. Barclay’s—which is a very large bank, of course, and was then—had just taken over Martin’s bank, which was a small Liverpool-based bank; so I was working on that program team, before it became assimilated into the main part of Barclay’s. And that was quite a good experience, because working at the assembler level, at that stage, was a good training, I felt.

Abbate:

What were you doing for them?

Stewart:

It was mostly maintenance on their suite of programs; they were keeping things running; and it was decimalization conversion as well, because that’s just before Britain went decimal. So we were working on the decimalization programs.

Abbate:

Of the currency, you mean?

Stewart:

Yes.

Abbate:

I never thought about that.

Stewart:

[laughs.] Yes, yes the banks had to do quite a lot of work in that area.

Abbate:

It sounds almost like the Y2K thing, where you need to convert everything.

Stewart:

Yeah. Yes. It was pretty much that sort of major event that was coming up. We knew exactly what we were working for; we knew exactly what we had to do.

Abbate:

What was the deadline?

Stewart:

It was something like February, 1971, I think, if I remember correctly. There was . . . there was a date at which we moved straight across to decimal.

Abbate:

I mean, the whole country?

Stewart:

Yes. So we were working toward a particular date. [laughs.] Quite exciting!

Abbate:

Had your parents told you that you would need to earn a living, or had you always expected that you would need to . . . ?

Stewart:

Oh, absolutely expected. No question of it. Yes. As soon as I was 15 and able to work, I did have a little job occasionally in the summer, but certainly when I was at University it was expected that I would work in the holidays—rather too much, because then I didn’t really have time to do any catching up work that I might; it would have helped me to have more time. But yes, money was tight, and my mother always worked, from when I was five; so of course I expected to work. Yes, it wasn’t [laughs] anywhere where you didn’t expect to be earning your own living!

Abbate:

But you didn’t have anything particular in mind?

Stewart:

No, I always knew it would be something scientific, but I had no clear plan. I mean, I can remember looking in the local paper and seeing—computer operator, probably, or it may have been programmer—but I know it said “computer,” and that interested me, but I didn’t know what it was. I had no clear idea of what I was going towards. So I just fell into it, really—as so many people do. [laughs.]

Marriage and Moving to Cambridge

Abbate: So you worked at Barclay’s for just a year?

Stewart:

That’s right, yes. I was married at the end of the year, and my husband came to be a research student in Cambridge so we moved here.

Abbate:

What was his field?

Stewart:

Radio astronomy.

Abbate:

Did he do any computing with that?

Stewart:

Yes. Yes, he still computes. He’s an accountant now, but he still computes. [laughs]. Yes. Yes, he was a physicist at college and so was using computers as a practical tool. I learned quite a lot of background from him, what he was doing in that time.

Abbate:

So what happened after you moved to Cambridge?

Stewart:

Well, when I moved to Cambridge, I went to work for one of the early startup research and development companies in Cambridge, which was Cambridge Consultants. They were doing R&D, and the reason I fell into that job was because they were doing R&D for Barclay’s, who were having some problems with one of their computers which was next to a Tube line. It was a Burroughs computer, and Burroughs was saying it was the environment and the building that was causing the problem, and the people who built the building said No, no, it was the computer that was the problem. And so . . . [laughs.]

Abbate:

What was the problem again?

Stewart:

Vibration. There was some vibration that was causing some amount of problem to the operation of the machine. And so Cambridge Consultants were going about monitoring the building, monitoring the Tubes, et cetera, and trying to work out whose fault it was. I forget the outcome now [laughs], maybe it wasn’t that important.

I didn’t enjoy that job at all. I’d just moved to Cambridge, it was very isolated in 1970, you couldn’t easily move around: two hours to London; if you wanted to get to Manchester it was all day on the train. We didn’t have a car. Cambridge Consultants was about six miles out of Cambridge; there was no transport. And I think they hadn’t had a programmer in there before. I think they had just decided to employ me because they brought in a new member of staff who said, “We must have a programmer,” and there wasn’t really any work for me, so I didn’t enjoy it at all. I did a little bit of work . . . what was I working on? There was no computer in-house; we were using a very early dial-up service to a PDP. So I went on a FORTRAN course, to learn FORTRAN, which of course being a scientific sort of firm was what they were using; and I was dialing up, obviously in a very primitive way, to a large PDP time-share.

Abbate:

This was 300 baud or something? [laughs.]

Stewart:

Oh no, it would be 110! [laughs.] If that!

I forget what project I was working on. Whatever I was doing then, that finished, and I was working on a project concerning Amoco and the offshore gas platforms. They were wanting some work done on their PDP systems. That was running on an assembler language, so it was picking up an assembler language and working out what was going on with programs. Again, I can’t remember the details now of what we did with that, other than that it was in East Anglia; I had to go out there a couple of times. I eventually left there. I’d just had enough in the end.

Working at the Institute of Astronomers

Abbate:

How long were you there?

Stewart:

A year. Yes. So I just gave up the job because I just couldn’t bear it any longer [laughs], and I looked for a job in the University. And there were not many programming jobs in Cambridge around at that time—not for a pure programmer, certainly, with very little experience; a little bit of commercial, and a bit of low-level experience—and I couldn’t find very much. So I went to work for the Institute of Astronomers in the observatories.

Originally, I was just measuring photographic plates, but they soon realized that they had a programmer here, and they had programming work to be done, and maybe I should be using my skills as a programmer. And so I basically invented my own job—obviously with the department’s help—and I became a programmer in the department, working on various projects concerned with astronomy. I was there three years. Originally we were using the University computer, which was then Titan; if you’ve been talking to Karen [Spärk-Jones] you will have heard all about Titan, I’m sure. The IBM 370 was the first real computer the Computing Service had—the Computing Service started in 1970. It was the first one that they really had of their own, building a user service on, and so I was in the University at the time that came online, and I started working on that machine, moving programs across from Titan onto the 370.

Abbate:

Were you using FORTRAN on the 370?

Stewart:

Yes, FORTRAN at that point, yes.

Abbate:

And something else on the Titan?

Stewart:

Yes, it was Autocode on the Titan. That’s right. Yes. I was doing some translation of programs. Thank you for reminding of that, I’d forgotten.

Abbate:

I suspected you . . .

Stewart:

Yes, I was reading Autocode and writing FORTRAN.

Yes, I was working on various projects in the Institute, and after we’d done the conversion I was developing other programs with various other mapping projects. I think one of the projects was: you’re taking the radio sources and the optical sources and trying to get some match between them, and seeing what you were seeing—so you would have a radio source, take a photograph of it, and see the shape of the image.

Abbate:

That sounds quite interesting. So, were you doing sort of creative work, figuring out what could be done computationally for the astronomers?

Stewart:

[In terms of astronomy,] no; computationally, yes. They would tell me what it was they wanted to do, because I have no astronomy background at all, so they’d have to present me with the problem, and then it would be creative work from then on devising the programs. Very often you were looking for information from the tape libraries of astronomical information—I can’t remember the name of it offhand. It was a U.S. archive of stars. A large catalogue. Well, it was based somewhere around Washington, but it was the big archive, anyway. And this came on ten tapes, for example, and so you were winding down these tapes very, very slowly, looking for whatever you were looking for. And I basically copied the tapes and restructured them so you could find it very much more quickly, in relation to the photographic plates that you had.

Abbate:

So you made sort of a database?

Stewart:

Yeah. Yes, a primitive sort of database, to find the data much more quickly. And that worked quite nicely.

When the IBM was coming up, I was working down here [in the computer lab] quite a lot; because at that time, of course, it was all card and paper, and the office was two miles away, [so I] just spent all my time on my bike going up and down—you couldn’t do a great deal just sitting in an office. [laughs]

Developing a Career in Computer Services

Abbate:

The astronomy office was two miles away?

Stewart:

That’s right, yes. So I spent quite a lot of time down here, and became reasonably knowledgeable about the system, and the Computing Service used to have a series of programming advisors to help users use the system. And I became a programming advisor while I was also at astronomy, helping people out with my knowledge of the system. And from that I then joined the computer lab after three years, in the user support area—User Services, as it was then—and that was in 1974.

I was then working on documentation some, as much user support as we did in those days: so we still had the programming advisors, but the permanent staff were backing up the programming advisors. I would say basically user support and documentation.

Abbate:

Documentation of what?

Stewart:

The system that we were running at the time. Because the IBM 370 was running a lot of our own utilities.

Abbate:

Oh.

Stewart:

And basically we wrote the operating system—it was our own system, called Phoenix, which ran over TSO. You could get rather more material through a job scheduler, get rather more work through, and then they provided the online system, which ran over the top—this was all fairly early days—providing the help systems and messaging systems. From the start they were providing a rather more friendly service than you get on a basic IBM, [laughs] I think you would hear. A succinct way of saying it. [laughs.]

I did that for two years or so; I joined in October ‘74, and I actually left in January ‘77, February ‘77, which is after my first child was born. And during that time I’d written a number of manuals, particularly thick manuals. We also ran at that time an external service for other universities in the country. When the UK universities moved into computing in a big way, with a lot of government backing, most universities had British-built machines: ICLs. And only two universities, if I remember correctly, had IBMs: that was Newcastle and us. And part of our remit was to provide not only a service to other universities in this region—so East Anglia, and so on—but also to provide an IBM service to other universities in the country, if it was needed. So we had a number of people from all over the country who needed support, using packages like SPSS, for example, running on the IBM systems. So I got to know some of these other people, and I said to one of them, did he need any freelance programming–type assistance, as I was going to be leaving Computing Service and had a baby; I’d be working at home, but I would like some work to keep me going. He was a geneticist at Birmingham. He jumped at the chance. I was thinking that, originally, a few hours a week or something; and he said, “Oh, I’ll get you a half-time contract!” [laughs.] And in my naiveté I said, “Yes, OK”—[laughs] not knowing what having a small baby was going to be like!

Abbate:

Now, these other universities, how did they access the IBM? Were they dialing up, or sending people over?

Stewart:

They would send people over. I’m just trying to remember. Yes, we did have some sort of dial-up for remote universities, so they would submit their jobs and collect their output, and then log in again another twelve hours later and clear the output from the job they’d just submitted, et cetera. So they’d have the remote job entry sort of terminals. I don’t believe that we had very much in the way of dial-up. There might have been one or two people dialing up, but mostly I think they were doing the remote job entry method of submitting their jobs. It was very batch oriented at that time. The online system was certainly in its infancy. VDUs had only just hit—mostly it was teletypes.

Abbate:

And this was . . . ?

Stewart:

‘76, ‘77. Mostly they were teletypes. We did have some VDUs in the lab, but they were quite expensive. You know, they were beginning to come in, but not as many around as you would have expected only a couple of years later.

Abbate:

Right.

Stewart:

So when I first started work at home, which was in August ‘77, I had a teletype to begin with, and then I had a VDU shortly after that—we were just waiting for it to be delivered—and an acoustic coupler. Not even a modem [laughs]—an acoustic coupler! And this acoustic coupler worked at 110 baud, so it was pretty slow going, which is why I can’t think that many people were dialing up before that. They must have been doing job entry, I think. We may have even have had some fixed lines to somewhere like East Anglia; I think we probably did. Sorry I don’t remember the details [laughs]; it was a long time ago!

I think one the attractions for the person I worked for in Birmingham was that he was from Cambridge originally, and he liked having little trips across to Cambridge. [laughs.] I don’t know where he’d been before, but he was despairing of the Birmingham Computing Service, and “everything in Cambridge was wonderful.” I think the Birmingham Computing Service were despairing of him as well! [laughs.] Mustn’t be too disparaging, he is a very nice person; but he was quite demanding, and working in the Computing Service I can quite understand [laughs] how some users are.

And I worked for him half time for seven years from home, working in FORTRAN, working in PASCAL. During that time, as I’ve said, I originally had a teletype, and then a VDU very shortly afterwards. And then I was doing some graphics work; the work was mostly concerned with tracing heredity diseases through family trees—that was his area of interest—and so there was some graphics involved in that, drawing family trees and suchlike. And I had an HP, I think it was a 6000 machine, which was one of the early desktop computers. It was huge!

Abbate:

You had that at home?

Stewart:

At home. I did have an engineer out for it on one occasion; he said, “I’ve never seen one in a house before.” [laughs.] They were very expensive in those days. So this would have been just after my daughter was born, so it was 1979, 1980.

Abbate:

And did the geneticist pay for this?

Stewart:

Yes, yes. And it was about six thousand pounds.

Abbate:

That must have been nice to have at home!

Stewart:

It was wonderful! It was wonderful. It was very nice, and it had little tapes, two tape drives to operate it. It was very nice. Very classy graphics terminal, which you could program in BASIC as well, so we did some programming in BASIC. He had a similar machine in Birmingham, so we could bat the programs backwards and forwards, so we could run both on the Cambridge system and on these stand-alone terminals. And then the BBC Micro hit the market in the UK, and I had one of those for awhile. And again, I was quite doing graphics on that, which was quite interesting. Again, working in FORTRAN, BASIC and some PASCAL.

Abbate:

So how did you do the graphics? Was there a graphics package, or were you sort of working out how to do it?

Stewart:

There was some graphics package—a primitive sort of package—on the HP. And when I had the BBC Micro I was working on the mainframe here, and joined the—the BBC Micro could process graphics; we had a chip that was written in the Computing Service that converted, basically, this little machine into a terminal that could do graphics.

All the time I was working in the Genetics Department at Birmingham, and then the person I worked for moved to Oxford, and I followed him to Oxford, without leaving Cambridge! [laughs.]

Abbate:

Right. Virtually. [laughs.]

Stewart:

Yes, virtual following. He was originally a professor of Genetics at Birmingham, then professor of Human Genetics at Oxford. And his interests then turned to Human Genome mapping. And so I did a very small amount of work at the very beginning of that project. There were some quite interesting programs which we worked on, to install on the Cambridge mainframe machine, which were known as the Staden programs.

Abbate:

The who?

Stewart:

Staden. Roger Staden. He was the man who developed these programs. He worked at the MRC in Cambridge, and he did quite a lot of work on the Human Genome.

Abbate:

What’s the MRC?

Stewart:

Medical Research Council; sorry. They employed me throughout the period I was working for the geneticists. They paid my salary.

Abbate:

I see.

Stewart:

There was a grant from that kept me going.

So I think at the end of the seven years, John Edwards, who was the person I worked for, was happy with the Oxford Computing Service, and I think he felt he couldn’t justify another request for a grant; and that suited me absolutely fine, because I had had enough of working at home! I was climbing the walls by this time. [laughs.] And I was ready to get out of the house, in a big way. [laughs.] My daughter then was about 4 1/2 and just about to go to school.

What I haven’t said is, the whole time I was working for Birmingham and Oxford, I was doing a few hours for the Computing Service here. It was all writing documentation at that time, and I was just doing that in the background as well. And so I’d kept my contact with the Computing Service throughout. So I came back to the Computing Service and I said, “Have you got any work?” And they said, “Yeah, we’ll find you a few hours, and we’ll find you a desk.” [laughs.] That was what I really wanted. So I worked, then, half time for the Computing Service for about six to eight months, just coming and going in what time I had to spare, so that I was leaving time to—my husband was dropping the children off at school and I was collecting them, and we were struggling through the holidays quite well. I had made it clear that I would like to come back full time, and one of my colleagues was taking study leave for a year, so they said “OK, right: here you are. You can have this.” [laughs.] So I had a contract for a year. And I think that proved both to the lab and to me that I could do it. I had to go and find a nanny—we had somebody that used to come in to look after the children.

Abbate:

So this would have been eighty . . .

Stewart:

‘84. Yes. Had an A-level student or someone just come in to collect the children, look after them until I got home, and we’d do a bit longer in the school holidays. And then at the end of the year, a vacancy was available, so I took that. And I’ve been here ever since. [laughs.]

New Challenges in Computer Service

Abbate:

So what position was that?

Stewart:

Well, that was still in user support, and it was still supporting users—more or less the job I’d left seven years before, writing documentation. But of course, the whole computing world had moved on at that time, and it was no longer just the mainframe service that we provided. BBC Micros were the big thing that were in, so while we were using them as terminals—you know, one of my colleagues had written a chip that could fit them into a terminal, as I explained—they were also being used as stand-alone work stations. Again, some of the earliest microcomputers; IBM PCs were in their infancy. Nothing compared to the huge, amazingly slow [laughs] machines [like] the NCR that I used originally! In fact, the NCR that I originally worked on was in a huge room, as they were in the 1960s, air conditioned, with its operator sitting in their little air conditioned office; and this huge machine was 32K, which was the size of the BBC Micro that it was replaced by! You know, it’s a sort of a foot by a foot, and two inches thick. So it was amazing to consider what happened—and of course, far, far different from what it is today, which is very much a larger [display] sitting in front of it. [laughs.]

Abbate:

So you had all these new machines to support. But you had also kept up with it anyway, so it wasn’t new to you.

Stewart:

Absolutely, yes, yes. And also, the Macintosh came in at that time, and I really took to the Mac when it arrived. Apple in the UK were trying to introduce it to education, and they gave us—the Apple Lab, or Mac Lab—I can’t quite remember the name they gave it, but they gave us five machines and the printer, and we put those out for users, and they really took off in Cambridge. The director we had at that time was very keen on them, and we went with them in a big way, I think. And the children loved them as well! [laughs.]

Abbate:

Did you have one at home?

Stewart:

We did, yes. Yes. The 512—it was after the Mac Plus, a smaller version of the Mac Plus—we had one of those, and we’ve had them every since. In fact, I think we got to the point not very long ago, only a couple of years ago, where we had eight Macs in the house! [laughs]. I said, “Something has to go!”

Abbate:

And only four people?

Stewart:

And four people. [laughs.] Yes, yes. That got ridiculous. So something had to go there. The children both had them at university, and various spare machines kicking around that we haven’t quite got rid of. But yes, we all work on Macs now.

So I came back, anyway, in the early 80s, and was working in user support, but moving out into more micro support area, and giving courses on Pagemaker and Word—mostly Mac-oriented courses, but also things like TEK, and some of the other more general courses that we gave.

Abbate:

Did you have UNIX machines?

Stewart:

Yes, they were coming in at that point. We had had UNIX for some time, but it was rather a specialized area—we were providing some support to other departments, but we weren’t running a big service on it. We were running a fairly small service. The IBM then started to come to the end of its life, and it was obvious that we were no longer going to be running a big mainframe service in the same way, and the direction that we and everyone else was going in was UNIX at that point. So we started running up UNIX machines in parallel [with the IBM], to be running a service—this would be late ‘80s—to investigate initially, obviously, to see whether we could run a user service on it, and eventually to run the service that would take over from the old IBM. And the old IBM had basically run—obviously with lots of replacement hardware in the meantime—from about 1971 through to ‘94 or so—the same basic system! [laughs.] Developed, as I said; a lot of work went into that. But the University moved at that point that we were going to buy off-the-shelf systems; we were not going to develop our own in-house operating systems. Obviously, that sort of development still goes on, but the underlying system is UNIX, and is very strongly a pretty vanilla UNIX with add-ons. So that was developing the whole time, and learning about that, user education, writing documents, et cetera; keeping that going.

We also had to change our administrative procedures, because when we were just registering people on one machine, that was simple, and the database ran on that one machine itself; but in time, of course, we had to then start adding other services, and a proper database, and developed—which is now an Oracle database—but again, that database dates back to 1971. All the data was imported into the Oracle database and the underlying structure is really quite similar to what was running at that time.

The Computing Service was moving on in that time, and user support was spreading, because we were running little offices of micro support, and user services, and UNIX support service (our UNIX support is supporting systems and people who are running the systems, rather than the user service). [These were] merging together, and we became a much larger organization. And at that time I moved more towards the more administrative side, and I got very much involved in the user administration, getting users onto the system. I was beginning to develop procedures—it was, to some extent, forced on us—to get students onto the system as they came in the door.

Abbate:

Who was the user base? I mean, did it start out being just researchers, or could anyone use it?

Stewart:

I think it was open to anybody. If a student came along and expressed interest, they could have an account on the old IBM system—it was always open to everybody, I think; but in practice they didn’t. Mostly it was the scientists—obviously the computer scientists, but mathematicians and scientists who were coming for accounts; the geographers did, of course, in their first term; so they’d all have accounts. But then we wouldn’t see them again [laughs]—one term and that was it! So it was fairly light use on the undergraduate front. I think when I left to have James in 1977 we had about 2,000 users. So a fairly small user base compared to our 25,000–30,000 users today. It was much bigger when I came back in ‘84. More people were coming onto the system. And we had various courses which started—on the first day of term they had a computer class, and they actually had to sit down in front of a computer and they had to have an account on that computer.

Abbate:

Every student?

Stewart:

No, it was just one group of students. They were natural scientists, but because the way Cambridge works, you don’t actually know who they are; because all the colleges admit the students, and the University does know who all their students are and they know what courses they’re doing, but the department doesn’t know who’s coming.

Abbate:

So you can’t prepare the user accounts.

Stewart:

You can’t prepare! [laughs.] So what we were doing was, at nine o’clock on the first day of term the lecturer was passing round a tick list, returning this to us, we were typing all the names in furiously, and then producing the accounts for two o’clock in the afternoon. And after we’d done that for a couple of years, we thought there had to be a better way. So I started to investigate, then, and what you could get was the names of all 600 natural scientists. You didn’t know whether they were doing physics, chemistry, or biology, because they could make that decision when they got here. So we were able to get all 600 on the system in advance, and then only those who turned up needed to start using their accounts. So we had that. And in a couple of years I did a bit more investigation, and we started registering all—because the courses started developing, and we were going through with other courses. I mean, it was the one course that really threw us towards bulk registration, but we then started looking at the other courses who were coming to us a little later [in the term], and a little later, and a little later. So, I started taking their [information] from the University student records system, and we started registering all students as they came in the door. And that’s developed now, so for the last ten years we just take the data in September, we register everybody, we give them accounts on the email system, and on the Novell PC / Mac computer network; and they get those handed out to them as they arrive in college, and all the forms then come back to us, and all the registration’s done; and the undergraduate registration now is just complete routine. We just sit reception down with staplers and 7,000 sheets of paper, and they staple [laughs] for a day. We’ve thought of other ways of doing it, but this actually is the most efficient. [laughs.] Just use someone with a stapler. And they don’t mind it; they’re quite used to it now. And gradually we did the same things for the post-graduates, which is much harder because you really don’t know who’s coming in then. Post-graduates don’t come in in a huge cohort; they dribble in. And we now take all staff as well, so, I’ve developed all the data input so we that can automatically register people in the database and give them accounts. And that’s what I spend quite a lot of time doing. My main area is user administration; and I manage that and I’ve got a deputy and we have people still doing all the day-to-day work as they always did. But we do a vast amount by automatic procedures, and by sucking in data from everywhere that we can think of, and talking to people and . . .

Abbate:

Is the general student registration done on computer now?

Stewart:

Yes.

Abbate:

I mean to register at the college.

Stewart:

Oh, yes, it’s all very automated. I’m just continuing to develop. Because there’s a big central body called the UCAS—University Colleges Admissions something or other—and they coordinate all the applications for the universities for the entire country, so that students will put in a list of six universities, and that goes out to the UCAS computer, and then they communicate directly with the various universities when A Level results come in. Then they can say, “Yes, you’ve made your grades, so that’s where you’re going.” And the universities then confirm back. Everything passes around electronically now, and so we can just suck straight from our student records all the information we need. Cambridge is a bit more complicated, because they have all the colleges who have to confirm the admissions—it’s not just one body, the University; it’s the colleges who are the admitting bodies, who confirm back to the University who they’re admitting, or who they carried over from last year, which sometimes happens. And all that comes in, so it’s a slight rush; but we assure them it’s no big problem. Again, it’s a complicated University, because of all the separate bits of it: you can have College Fellows, who are not staff of the University strictly speaking, they’re employed by the College; so getting all that information can be quite tricky. But we have a reasonably smooth operation now, which I keep developing to get it better.

I also still look after documentation. I don’t write a vast amount myself. Of course, the documentation side once was writing manuals on paper and, indeed, typed onto lithograph—I’ve forgotten the name for the sheet now; we used to run it through a litho machine. That was where you did documentation. Now, of course, it’s all online; we run the University Web server. A lot of our documentation now is either getting straight onto the Web, or on paper and onto the Web, and we make judgments about where we put the information. So I suppose to a large extent the job is the same, that we’re still providing documentation to our users, information that they need to use our systems, but we do it in very different ways than the way we used to do it, which was wholly paper based. But we keep looking to see which way we should be going, how we should be providing the information. Obviously a lot should be on the Web. But the bit of paper that says “How do I start a Web browser?” has to be on paper. [laughs.]

Computing Security Concerns for Universities

Abbate:

Do you have to worry about security?

Stewart:

Yes. That’s the other area that I moved into. Because of the administration role, largely, and the getting information out to users, I somehow—I can’t quite remember how [laughs]—moved into the area of Internet security. And I’m now half of the CERT team. That’s Computer Emergency Response Team. Basically, we look after security incidents—we look out for vulnerabilities and for alerts . . .

Abbate:

[We were talking about] security concerns . . .

PS. Yes, yes. We’re taking information—there’s a parent body for the UK which is the UK universities CERT team, and then all the universities have their own security teams, and of course all the countries have their own security teams, so we’re part of that web of information passing around. We’re just trying to keep the University secure, keep the hackers out, and ensure that we are as secure as we can be. And that has grown enormously. I think, when we first started about three or four years ago, there were a very small number of incidents. And now we’re probed all the time; we don’t have too many break-ins actually, we do quite well, but every so often we’ll have a big break-in, and that just takes over for a couple of weeks while we sort it all out and re-secure all the machines.

Abbate:

And is that from outside? Or do you think that’s students hacking around?

Stewart:

It’s mostly from outside. We do also have our problems inside, of course, and that’s part of my role as well, dealing with the naughty students [laughs]—in all sorts of ways. Not only the hacking—they like to probe other Universities—but of course there are things like: they’re all running MP3s and Napster, and there are various associations—the British Phonographic Industry keep an eye out to see who’s violating their copyright; the Motion Picture Association of America also like to do the same thing—and those are just two that have cropped up in the last two weeks. So we’re then dealing with students and trying to enforce the rules [laughs]—which they’ve all signed up to, of course, and which they take no notice of at all, and pretend they don’t know anything about it. But you know, it is a real world and they have to behave themselves. And then of course there’s the usual problems that you get with young people in universities harassing each other, or various things that they do to each other.

Abbate:

And you’re responsible for all that?

Stewart:

Well, I get involved in quite a lot of it, yes. I will usually involve the college or some other authority, depending on the particular issue. Because while we are responsible for the security of our networks, and for keeping the rules of CUDN, and use of computers being within the guidelines, real disciplinary matters go to the colleges—for students—and so we would just pass those on, if that’s what it is. Obviously, if they’re really hacking, then we might well handle it ourselves, but I don’t get involved in matters that are not to do with computers. But if it involves the computer then very often I’ll be involved, either because somebody will come directly or because the department or college or the university will ask for help and guidance in dealing with the computer side of it. Also, if we need to trace anything through our logs then it has to be coordinated at this end, so we’re dealing with that sort of thing. So the rule has become very much dealing with people, and I quite enjoy that. I do feel I’ve lost my technical side, and I regret that, but there’s still quite a lot to dealing with databases, and Internet security, and there’s still a lot of learning to do. My knowledge of Internet security is not great; I rely on my colleagues to guide me, and to explain things from time to time. But I’ve got a pretty general, basic grounding in that area, and I suppose I’ve become a generalist, rather than anything very specific, which to a large extent I was when I was writing documentation: it is a very generalist sort of area. And that’s why, I suppose, I kept in that mold, rather than becoming a programming specialist.

Abbate:

So you know what the policy aims are, and someone else can fill in some of the technical bits?

Stewart:

Absolutely. Yes, yes. So we see the alerts coming through, and either I can understand that this an issue for us, or I can say to somebody, “Do I need to worry about this?” and they’ll explain if necessary. And there’s a lot of contacting people and reassuring them—or not, as the case may be! [laughs] Panicking them if necessary. [laughs.] Yes, so there’s plenty of backup if I need it, which is helpful.

Future Concerns for Computing Services

Abbate:

Do you also have a vision of where the Computing Service should be going in the next decade, or that sort of thing?

Stewart:

[Pause.] I can see things that will happen. You can see trends in the way the students are coming in. For example, at the moment, we’re providing them all with email accounts when they come into the University. They like to keep their accounts after they’ve gone, which we don’t let them do, obviously; we want them to be gone. But it wasn’t obvious where they went to next, because they would have a gap between one university and the next, or one university and their employer, and this perhaps caused them a little bit of a problem. But email in those days wasn’t quite so important. This last year or so, we have seen them coming in to the University with hotmail accounts. Now there’s a conflict here, because if I actually think about it: they come in with a hotmail account, they’re going to go out with a hotmail account, so what are we doing here? Well, we are providing service, because we need to be able to contact the students while they’re here, and it isn’t sensible for us to be keeping track of their hotmail accounts, especially when they can so easily be moved, canceled, for any reason; they’re very easy to change, a free account for another account. So, I think we still have a role here, if it’s only a forwarding service.

I mean, a lot of students do value having their Cambridge accounts because they’re not flooded with the advertising. And of course we get spammed, quite a lot; we try not to let that happen, but you can’t do a great deal about it. If you go on newsgroups they’re going to pick up your email address, and you’ll get spammed by that. But in the longer term for a student, I can quite see they need to keep something like their hotmail account going—or they can ditch it and come back to it in another—when they leave again; but obviously it’s where their friends from school know a contact point. And the students now seem to think that they must have this one contact point for the rest of their life! Well, it’s not something that any of us really expected for many, many years. You know: you move house, you didn’t have email, you didn’t have the same telephone number—you did get lost. And I don’t think you do really expect to keep in contact with your friends. But of course when you leave school you don’t think in quite those ways. When you leave college you don’t think in those ways; you think you’re always going to know these people. [But] even if you know where they are, you don’t tend to contact them every day. [laughs.]

So, I think, for our purposes, we still need to be able to contact the students by email, and we are going to want to keep running that service, in some way or another. We’re going to be running the network continuously, I think. If we’ve moved to the point where all students came in with their own machines, the need for us to provide a large number of machines for them to use for class purposes would still be there. So when they’re doing their class work, there would still need to be machines there for them to use. They perhaps won’t need so much in terms of a computer room where they can go in the evening to do their email, because they’ll be doing that from their rooms, perhaps.

Abbate:

Are the residences networked?

Stewart:

Yes, yes. All the colleges have some network connection; some have 100 percent network connection—it’s very variable. But a very high proportion of the college rooms now are networked. So the students, at least theoretically, can come and plug into a great many rooms. And they do that. And they’re running services from their rooms: Napster, etc. [laughs.] So that sort of thing will continue. Certainly, with this being a research university, there still is a role, and some departments, like Physics—scientific departments—do have their own computing resources, where they’re using very heavyweight and specialist resources, which is not appropriate for a Computing Service to provide. We’re really there for the other resources—for example, email. Why does every department run email? There might as well be one central resource for that. And departments like history, and so on, need the infrastructure services, even though they’re using PCs and Macs for their everyday work. So, I think largely we’re going to be infrastructure, with some backup resources, perhaps, as well.

Abbate:

Do you see moving to multi-media or any sort of radically new things?

Stewart:

I think that, yes, some of the departments are looking more in that direction. I’m not involved in that area, but certainly there is interest, and yes, I suspect we will go that way. To what extent I’ll see it in the areas I work in, I’m not sure; I think those who are teaching and giving courses are going to be much more involved in that area.

Abbate:

Do you support the people giving courses?

Stewart:

Sorry, I was thinking there of the people in the Computing Service who give courses . . .

Abbate:

Oh.

Stewart:

. . . who are mostly giving courses to University staff and students in whatever topics are of interest at the moment. So I can see that they will go in that area. Yes, we do support the Lecturers and the Departments, especially where they need central resources. So our big PWF network—that’s the PCs and Macintosh network, Novell Network; it’s called PWF, but it’s just basically a Novell network— is used a lot in teaching, and that provides various rooms where we do teaching or departments can do teaching. And we also provide management services for classes inside departments and colleges, and that is expanding at the moment, so that we’re facilities-managing quite a large part of the individual networks. To begin with, because there are the thirty-one colleges, they were all running their own little network with their own computer officer, and then we were running central resources; whereas in other universities where it is just a university without the college structure, of course the Computing Service would be running everything, or the departments would be running it. You wouldn’t have this other layer of the colleges, which is across subject areas—so, you know, you have your department of physics with its network, but King’s College will have physics, medicine, every subject inside there.

Abbate:

Sounds like a nightmare. [laughs.]

Stewart:

So it weaves all ways round. But what we’re doing now is, some of the college networks and some of the department networks, we actually do the facilities management for them. So they’re still responsible for what goes on there—they’re responsible for the day-to-day management, putting the paper in the printer, et cetera—but we register all the users, we maintain the machines in terms of system software, which saves having a large number of people all doing the same job in a small way. You just have a larger team producing the work for the whole University. So that sort of thing, I think, will continue.

Abbate:

What proportion of the Computer Service staff are women?

Stewart:

In the Computing Service? I think it’s around 30 to 40 percent. If you take that on the programming staff—the graduate staff—that will come up to be probably about 30 percent, I think, most of them working in the support area. A few programmers, but mostly working in the support area. I think that’s quite typical of universities—I’m not sure, but I think it is. When I go to user support workshops, you see a larger proportion of women than you would see at a networking sort of workshop, for example.

Gender Concerns and Balancing Work and Family

Abbate:

So that’s a separate staff, the networking . . . ?

Stewart:

Well, we have various groups. And the networking tends to be fairly male; UNIX support is fairly male; for the more specialist programming conferences—security—there are not very many women there. But if you go to a support workshop you will find that there are more women. [laughs.]

Abbate:

Have you ever encountered gender discrimination at any of your jobs, in terms of people’s behavior, or pay scales, or promotion, or anything like that?

Stewart:

Not since I’ve been in the University. I think in the very early days, 60s, 70s, there was some discrimination there, both in Barclay’s and in Cambridge Consultants. But in the University, I haven’t found that. I’ve been very happy with the arrangements. I don’t think there’s—certainly not much—gender discrimination. Certainly not in the pay scale, no; I haven’t seen that. Which is good!

Abbate:

Yes. [laughs.]

Stewart:

I’m not sure what I would have done about it if I had. [laughs.]

Abbate:

Did you have a lot of trouble balancing work and family while you were raising your kids?

Stewart:

Yes. Yes, I think so. It’s a very difficult decision. I think I always knew that I had to work, for myself, that I would be useless as a mother sitting at home, without some clear aim in life that wasn’t just child based. And that doesn’t criticize anyone who can do it, it’s just not for me. My mother had gone out to work when I was five, and I could quite see that I was going to do exactly the same, and I can see my daughter’s going to be exactly the same. It just is the way we are. Not being focused in that way.

Abbate:

Right.

Stewart:

My husband recognized that, obviously, and it obviously gives us a different standard of living, which we both appreciate, I think. When I was working at home, then he would be there to look after the children in the evening. He’d look after them at the weekends when I was working, so he would support me in that. When I came back to work, he was supporting me by [getting] the children up in the morning—we were splitting things. He would take time off work—I slipped a disk at one point, he had to take six weeks off work. I could still work [laughs]—lie in bed and work—and he couldn’t! [laughs.] He was looking after the children.

We stayed in Cambridge. His career would undoubtedly have progressed much better if he’d been free to move.

Abbate:

Now, he was doing . . . ?

Stewart:

He was doing radio astronomy, but he moved into accountancy. There were certain times when we distinctly thought of moving, but that would have meant that I wouldn’t have had the ties that I had—especially when the children were small, where I was using my Cambridge ties to keep me in work, before I was really available for the job market again. And I would have lost those. So we decided that it probably wasn’t the best move to make at that time. He’s done all the traveling. He’s worked forty miles away, twenty miles away. He’s back in Cambridge now, but for a long time he was doing all the commuting. So that sort of support has been very helpful.

The other support I had was: my parents, after I was married, moved to live in St. Anne’s, which is on the coast near Manchester, about forty miles from Manchester, and my parents used to take the children during the school holidays. They’d take them for a fortnight, or a week, or whatever; and that was wonderful. That gave us just that little bit of space that made it all doable.

Abbate:

I’m sure the kids liked it, too.

Stewart:

They loved it. They loved it! They would spend every day on the beach that it was possible to spend on the beach, in Blackpool. And then, Blackpool has a great big fairground, and they would go there every night. [laughs.] They adored it, they really did.

Abbate:

Did either of them go into computing?

Stewart:

My son is a communications engineer, so on the borders of computing—engineer, physics, computing. You know, he’s very much a chip.

Abbate:

A chip?

Stewart:

A chip off the old block.

Abbate:

Oh. [laughs.] I thought you meant a computer chip!

Stewart:

[laughs.] Yes, quite so, yes. So, he is close to computing, rather than actually being in computing. And my daughter’s a drama student. [laughs]. So, nothing more to be said on that one! [laughs.] But she is computer literate.

Abbate:

All those Macs in the house.

Stewart:

Absolutely, yes, she’s got an iMac at college and is pretty handy with computers. But she doesn’t want to spend her life in front of a screen.

Abbate:

Well, have you spent your life in front of a screen?

Stewart:

I do it now, but I didn’t used to. Now my work is much more planning and administration. I do spend quite a lot of time in front of a screen. But the phone never stops ringing, and I see a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people, and my colleagues come and talk to me quite a lot as well. So, in fact, I have a very varied job. At this time of year, when it is quiet—it’s in a vacation, it’s just before Easter, so it really is quite dead—then I’m spending quite a lot of time in front of the screen; but come term starting again, just after Easter, it’ll be busy again, and I’ll be dealing with people much more. So the quiet periods are quite useful. [laughs.]

Abbate:

It must be a relief, some of the time.

Stewart:

It is, yes. It’s when I do the catching up that I have to do, and have to get through. It’s quite hard work to get that solid screen work.

How has the Field Changed

Abbate:

How would you say the field of computing has changed since you started?

Stewart:

Enormously! [laughs.] Obviously, in 1969, it was a field for the very few. The general public knew nothing about it—even people who were associated with computers. For example, when I first started in Barclay’s, if you went into your local branch and asked for your balance, they would say, “Oh no, we can’t tell you your balance, the computer broke down last night.” And I’d say, “No it didn’t!” [laughs.] “I was on call!” So they could use it much more in that sort of excuse; you could pull the wool easily over the public’s eyes. It was always the computer’s fault, et cetera. You can’t do that now. Everyone’s aware of computers; it’s part of everybody’s life. It’s not a privileged, reserved, occupation in that sense. People, I suppose generally, probably hadn’t got a clue about computers in those days. Now they all think they’ve got a clue about computers, but of course what they’re actually using is a very, very limited subset of the alternatives that are available. I don’t suppose the majority of people actually think what goes between sitting on your modem and getting your email there and back, and what happens in the middle. So, all that side of it still is a huge mystery to the general public, but they have much more accessibility.

When I first started, it was very much a nine-to-five job. No, that’s slightly misleading: your work was at your office; you couldn’t take it home it with you. I mean, you might take a bit of paper home to scribble, or you might be thinking, dwelling in the background. But, you couldn’t . . .

Abbate:

. . . dial up from home.

Stewart:

Yes, you couldn’t do any of those sorts of things. And now it’s very much more part of life. Especially with the security side of things. We keep in contact over the weekends, to make sure that everything’s OK. And it’s easy to dial up; the computer is just sitting there at home; it’s not a problem. The accessibility is very much greater.

You can contact people more easily. When we first started networking in the early days of the Internet, we could send messages easily within our own computer. You know, we’d just have what is now an email conversation, but within the University, always using the same machine. If you needed to get out, you’d have to have this incantation—a sentence everywhere—routing your email message in great detail, to get it to anywhere outside your immediate domain. Now of course, it’s easy. You can find people easily. Information—for what it’s worth, in some cases!—is very easily available. It’s changed enormously.

I’m still developing, of course. I couldn’t possibly have seen the scope, in ‘69, for what it is now. Just looking now at the world, and widening the area from just computing, because: WAP phones, digital cameras, PDAs, and palmtops—I would include them all in the same general field now. And there is so much integration to happen there yet, so many things to come together. And indeed, Internet into the home—a permanent connection into the home—is still to some extent in its infancy. You know, there’s a long way to go on all those sort of areas, and there’s just so much to come yet. And I should think by the time I retire in another ten years or so, I expect to have everything just at home, and not worry about a modem. [laughs.] I expect to have a line there, and what I’ll do, I don’t know—have to wait and see! But I expect to have that sort of connection with computing in general.

I also find it very nice and relaxing that I can talk to my children at any time I want to, by email. You didn’t do that before; you didn’t have that sort of contact. You know, it was much further away. Now my daughter will go to India for the summer, or for a month in the summer, and I’ll get an email saying “Hi! I’m OK!” [laughs.] It’s just such a small world now. It’s brought us a lot closer together, I think, in many ways.

Abbate:

Do you think the culture of computing has changed?

Stewart:

In that it’s opened up to many more people, yes. Yes. When it was that very small group of people, it . . . Well, you didn’t have to worry about hacking, for example, because there was nothing on the machine to hack. Our earliest hacking incident was in the early ‘80s, but again, that was very easy to track down. But I think people had a clearer code of practice in those days, of what it was all about, because they were all computer people, professional people. Now it’s a different scene, I think, especially with the hacking side of it. Yes, I think the culture is quite different. And just the fact that one can use it, I think, also adds to the cultural side—that yes, it’s part of life. It’s not specialist, it is very much a part of everyone’s life.

Abbate:

Do you think it’s become more open to women?

Stewart:

I suppose it has, yes. Yes, I think it probably has. Bringing it into the home will do that. [pause.] Yes, I think it probably has. There still are barriers to break down. I think there are women who have not been used to computers, depending on their job, of course. Those who are not in a work place using a machine all the time will still have a barrier there. But if there’s a computer in the home, that’s going to break down that barrier. Secretaries, of course, have computers available to them all the time. They’re using them all the time. That barrier has gone, in that sense. I suspect that the more vulnerable groups are people like teachers, where they’re not using them every day. They are tool in a classroom where a small number of people will be using it, and all the students know how to use it, and so this huge barrier of “I don’t know; how am I going to learn?” I suspect that is—and indeed, from what I see from my children’s school—I think that is something that needs to be overcome. And having a machine in the home is going to give you the space to do that. I’m sure there are lots of professions where there is a big barrier, but it’s quite interesting that the secretarial staff got there and other staff haven’t. Because of the tool on the desk.

Abbate:

Do the secretaries then learn anything learn anything more about it than just the world processor?

Stewart:

No. I don’t think so, no. Email, of course; browsing the Web. But I mean, that’s quite a substantial chunk of what you’re doing—the bulk of use of computers today is email, word processing, the Web. I don’t think that they will get into programming. I don’t think that many people get into programming. My daughter, for example, will never get into programming. She’ll use it as a part of her life, rather than a tool. She won’t, for example, learn packages for design. She’s a designer. So, designing stage sets: it’s a tool in that respect. But she’ll use the Web to find information. And I think that’s the way people will use it. And that’s a fine way to use it. Not everybody has to program. It’s not part of life! [laughs.] It’s a specialist occupation.

Abbate:

Did you have any mentors or role models when you were starting out?

Stewart:

No.

Abbate:

Or later on? Ever?

Stewart:

[pause.] No, I don’t think so. No. My colleagues here perhaps were all more or less at the same sort of stage as me, so no, I don’t think there was in that respect.

Abbate:

Have you found yourself mentoring anyone else who’s trying to learn about computers?

Stewart:

Occasionally. Occasionally. Some of the staff we’ve had who have been moving into computing from another area. Perhaps a little, yes. Not hugely.

Abbate:

So what have you found the most satisfying aspects of working with computers?

Stewart:

Ooh. [laughs.] Gosh, that’s a difficult question.

Abbate:

There’s so many, or . . . ?

Stewart:

[laughs.] It’s kept me employed! [laughs.] But it’s challenging. I suppose the most satisfying thing is, I cannot imagine me doing a job that was the same—and this changes every day, every year. I cannot imagine having been in any job for twenty-five years—working in the Computing Service, with the gap of course—working in the same place for so long, if there wasn’t continual change. And I think that’s probably the one thing that’s really, really kept me in this. I think if I were just to have been programming, I would have got bored with it in a few years. But because I’ve been working in very changing areas all the time, where it has to develop, and you have to keep up with everything that’s going on, I think that’s probably the most rewarding side, and the most satisfying for me.

Abbate:

You picked the right field!

Stewart:

[laughs] I think I did, yes! By accident—but there we are. And I’ve just been very lucky, really; the right opportunities have come along at the right time, and I’ve had the right support. In fact, I think I’ve been very fortunate in my career.

Abbate:

Do you have any advice for young women contemplating a computer career today?

Stewart:

Hmm . . . I would think: Keep your options open. Don’t get too narrow, is probably a useful guide. Unless that’s what you really want to do, and that satisfies you. But if you’re considering taking a career break in any shape or form, even if that’s [just reducing your hours]—when you have children you can really only manage nine-to-five, you can’t use all hours in the day—then keep it wide, and keep your options open. I think that is probably the best move.

Abbate:

All right. I think you’ve probably answered all my questions, unless I’ve missed any important parts of your career.

Stewart:

I can’t think of any offhand, no. [laughs.]

Abbate:

Have you been active in any computer societies, or those sorts of things?

Stewart:

No. No, I think you keep working and don’t bother to have time for these. No, I haven’t.

Abbate:

Well, thank you very much.

Stewart:

It’s a pleasure. I hope it’s helpful!