Alan Clements Aycliffe Exhibition Frigiliana Exhibition

Extracts from a Life

I became interested in electronics at a time when the transistor was replacing the valve. It was an exciting time, a period when the computer was becoming the focus of academic interest. I went to the University of Sussex to read electronics and then did a PhD at Loughborough University.

I started work in industry but my company was taken over and the only work available was the design of tank control systems. Since the tanks were being sold to a vicious dictator, I resigned and joined the academic world, eventually becoming a professor of computer science at Teesside University.


I became involved with the body that represents the computing profession at all levels, the Computer Society based in Washington DC. I took over leadership of their Computer Society International Design Competition. I managed to find the right person at the right time in Microsoft and they gave me $1M to implement the competition for several years. Bringing $1M to the society allowed me to select the theme of the competition. I was aware that computing was associated in many people’s minds with geekiness, gaming, and surfing the web. I wanted to dispel this misconception and demonstrate its importance and its social usefulness. Teams of five students from all over the world were asked to design a computer-based application that would be innovative and beneficial to society. The top ten teams were invited to the finals in Washington, DC with all expenses paid. The competition was a success and teams from developing countries and East Europe dominated the competition.

A professor in Cuba contacted me about the competition (and my academic work) and invited me to visit him at his university. I did so and was quite amazed to discover that the university was built on the site of the former Soviet base that housed the nuclear missiles at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In fact, I was made a visiting professor and visited the university three times. These visits provided some of the most fascinating and enjoyable moments of my life.

As well as my visit to Cuba, my academic work earned me a visit to the West Point Military Academy in the USA, where I gave a talk on a topic that included two of my greatest interests, computer science (professional) and aviation (personal): “Can you trust computers to fly aircraft”. This was an interesting visit, walking round a campus where students saluted their lecturers (I should be so lucky) and where trash cans were labelled ‘secret’ and ‘non-secret’.

All good things come to an end and in 2008 I took early retirement to devote myself to travel, photography and writing. In the last few years, Sue and I have visited many fascinating countries—probably the most interesting was Japan. I visit the USA frequently and have even managed to get press accreditation to New York’s LGBT parade which lets me go behind police lines to photograph participants.

I’ve also managed to combine photography with one of my other hobbies. I learned to fly light aircraft at Teesside Airport. For a decade, Sue and I used to go to California in summer, hire an aircraft and fly around the west coast photographing the world from the air. One of the walls of this exhibition is devoted to my aerial photography.

This exhibition is the result of my passion for photography. I hope you all enjoy it.

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