View source for Oral-History:Rosemary Candlin ← Oral-History:Rosemary Candlin You do not have permission to edit this page, for the following reason: You are not allowed to execute the action you have requested. You can view and copy the source of this page. ==About Rosemary Candlin== Rosemary Candlin was born in 1927 and grew up in and around Plymouth, United Kingdom. She attended the University of Cambridge, earning a B.S. degree in physics and a Ph.D. degree in crystallography. Although she had worked with computers during her graduate studies, Candlin did not pursue a career in computing immediately upon graduation. She had a variety of jobs, most in crystallography, over the next several years. Many of these were part-time, as she was also raising four young children at the time. Candlin joined the Computer Science Department at the University of Edinburgh as a full-time Junior Lecturer in 1968. She remained there until 1995. Aside from her role as an instructor, Candlin was also a major contributor to the design of the computer science curriculum. Moreover, she served as a Director of Studies for more than a decade. After leaving the University of Edinburgh, Candlin worked for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. Candlin discusses her educational and work history in this interview. Here she covers her early work experiences outside of computing and her later jobs within the field. She speaks at length about her nearly thirty-year stretch as a faculty member of the Computer Science Department at the University of Edinburgh, furnishing a firsthand view of the evolution of the discipline. In discussing her involvement in computer science education since the 1960s, Candlin describes both rewards and challenges. Finally, she offers advice for young women who are considering a career in computing. ==About the Interview== ROSEMARY CANDLIN: An Interview Conducted by Janet Abbate for the IEEE History Center, 19 September 2001. Interview #582 for the IEEE History Center, 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: Rosemary Candlin, an oral history conducted in 2001 by Janet Abbate, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA. ==Interview== INTERVIEW: Rosemary Candlin<br>INTERVIEWER: Janet Abbate<br>DATE: 19 September 2001<br>PLACE: Candlin's home in Edinburgh, United Kingdom ===Early Education=== '''Abbate: ''' This is an interview with Rosemary Candlin on September 19th, 2001. To start at the beginning, can you tell me when you were born and where you grew up? '''Candlin:''' Oh, well: I was born in the very end of 1927, in Plymouth; and I mostly grew up in and around Plymouth, but my father was in the Navy, so we’d moved round a fair bit. And of course, during the War, things were very unsettled; Plymouth was badly bombed and we had to move out into the country. So I stuck out there for about three years, and then I went to Liverpool—also where my father went—and that was about the first time I went to what you might call a proper academic school. '''Abbate: ''' So you had been changing schools? '''Candlin:''' Yes, I think I went to six schools altogether, four of them secondary. '''Abbate: ''' Was that very disruptive? '''Candlin:''' Well, of course it was, yes. '''Abbate: ''' How big was your family? '''Candlin:''' Oh just me. I was an only child. '''Abbate: ''' And your mother didn’t work? '''Candlin:''' No, she didn’t work. She was very much a sort of traditional wife. '''Abbate: ''' Did you grow up with the expectation that you were going to work or have a career? '''Candlin:''' Probably, yes. Yes, I think I probably did—because it was pretty clear I was good at school work, and I expected to go on to university, anyhow, and do something or other then. '''Abbate: ''' Did your father have a degree? '''Candlin:''' Yes. Yes, he was an engineer. '''Abbate: ''' Did you have any sense of following his footsteps? '''Candlin:''' Well, not into the Navy, no! [laughs] I mean, I could have, I suppose, but no—not my kind of thing, really! No, I don’t think I would have survived very long in that. Not very amenable to discipline! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' I meant more on the technical side. '''Candlin:''' I suppose it was because I was fairly good at maths, and most other people didn’t seem to be, that channeled me into that direction. '''Abbate: ''' So, from quite an early age you were inclined to mathematics? '''Candlin:''' I don’t know. I mean, things were so disrupted then that you never looked more than about a week ahead. I expected things to change and to have to adapt. I didn’t really sit down and think, “Now I plan out my career: I’m going to go to university, and then I’m going to do something-or-other.” [laughs] In a sense, I feel I never made a decision in my life! Just sort of drifted into this or that. '''Abbate: ''' But in terms of just enjoying maths, not necessarily with a plan. '''Candlin:''' You know, things were . . . You couldn’t actually look terribly far ahead, but I certainly intended to go to university—but it wasn’t very easy when you were stuck in some place out in the middle of nowhere. The difficulty was getting teachers, of course. I mean, the schools were in just ordinary houses, just managing as well as they could. There were no labs or anything like that, and half the teachers had been called up, and they’d marshaled in people who hadn’t done it before, or who’d retired, or whatever it was. I don’t think it’s possible to visualize quite how improvised everything was in those days. '''Abbate: ''' But you finally ended up in a regular school in Liverpool. '''Candlin:''' Yes, I finally ended up—more by luck than capacity, I think, really. '''Abbate: ''' How old were you, about that time? '''Candlin:''' I was sixteen when I went to school in Liverpool. I was there two and a half years, then applied to Cambridge when I was eighteen. I was nineteen by the time I actually got there, because to apply to Cambridge you had to spend an extra year to do a scholarship exam. But I was on course, in spite of changing subjects; when I was sixteen I was on course to go at the normal age. '''Abbate: ''' Which exams did you take? '''Candlin:''' Physics. '''Abbate: ''' Were you encouraged to go into the sciences, in your various schools? '''Candlin:''' Yes. Yes I was, I think, really. '''Abbate: ''' And they were all girls’ schools? '''Candlin:''' They were all girls’ schools, yes. '''Abbate: ''' So was that unusual? '''Candlin:''' It was usual in those days. '''Abbate: ''' No, I’m sorry: Was it unusual in your schools to be interested in doing physics and maths? '''Candlin:''' I suppose so. I think I probably got into it—I’d originally thought I might do medicine, and so I was doing physics and chemistry and biology for that. I liked maths, so I kept that up; and then after a bit I thought, “You know, I’m never going to make a doctor,” and anyhow, I liked the pure science better. So I just . . . But it didn’t affect anything at school, really, except that I did keep up biology, which I think most people doing physics probably wouldn’t have. ===Studying at Cambridge=== '''Candlin:''' Then, when I got to university: Cambridge, in fact, had something a bit more like the American system in natural sciences, that you did three or four subjects in your first two years and then specialized in the last one. So that was the point at which I finally moved across to physics. I hadn’t really made my mind what I was going to do up till then. '''Abbate: ''' How did you end up at Cambridge? '''Candlin:''' How did I end up there rather than somewhere else? '''Abbate: ''' I mean, was that the obvious choice? '''Candlin:''' Oh, well, I supposed it has changed a bit, but the thing was that the schools liked to put people in for Oxbridge exams, because it reflected credit on them; so anybody who looked as though they had half a chance was put in for that. And also, of course, I knew that, being a collegiate university, it was more fun in a way than going to somewhere where you had to . . . Certainly at that stage, some of the others were rather boring. I don’t think it was that much better academically; in fact, I think the teaching was completely appalling! [laughs] But from the social point of view, I think it was quite nice. '''Abbate: ''' Well, what was the teaching like? '''Candlin:''' Well, it was nonexistent, you might say! It really, really was very . . . People didn’t like doing it, I think. That came across very clearly. There were very few people who were actually interested in teaching, as opposed to research. They didn’t keep their lectures up-to-date. Half the lecturers were—you know, you couldn’t hear them, or you couldn’t read what they’d written on the board. It was so slap-dash; I’d be ashamed to go and do anything like that! '''Abbate: ''' It sounds challenging. '''Candlin:''' [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' But you managed to make it through. '''Candlin:''' Yes. I mean, we all made it, because we had individual . . . We had tutorials, and those were the places where you could—well, essentially they had to replace what the lecturers didn’t do, in some cases. '''Abbate: ''' And those were different people. '''Candlin:''' They were different people. Yes, they were young Ph.D. students, mostly, who had just been through the course themselves a few years earlier, and had a bit more idea! [laughs] But some of the people there were really pretty disgraceful. '''Abbate: ''' Now, you got your physics degree in 1950. '''Candlin:''' That’s right; yes. '''Abbate: ''' Was that quite unusual, as a woman, to be getting a physics degree? '''Candlin:''' It didn’t seem to be at all usual! It was quite a big class, actually; I think it was swollen by a lot of ex-service people coming back, and I think—you know, this is so long ago, but I have the impression that there might have about seventy or eighty men and four women. '''Abbate: ''' Was that at all daunting? Or did you not care? '''Candlin:''' Well, I suppose it took a bit of getting used to, but I didn’t really mind. No. '''Abbate: ''' And you went right on to graduate school from there? '''Candlin:''' Yes, I did a Ph.D. there too, in crystallography. '''Abbate: ''' How did you choose crystallography? '''Candlin:''' It chose me! [laughs] Well, my Director of Studies there was a quite a well-known woman, and she was a crystallographer. Well, I liked it; I mean, I found it quite fun; but I think the thing that influenced me most was that there was quite a sort of female mafia in that subject. There were well-known people like Dorothy Hodgkin and Kathleen Lonsdale and other people in Britain, and there were quite a few Americans. All over: there was a well-known woman in Holland; Germany. I mean, women were in senior positions; they were heads of labs and that kind of thing. It was very, very different from most hard sciences, and they encouraged their students to do the same, so there have always been a lot of women. It’s always been largely female; I won’t say it was a female preserve, but women weren’t underrepresented like they were in most other branches of physics. '''Abbate: ''' I hadn’t realized that. And who was your advisor? '''Candlin:''' Somebody called Helen Megaw. No, you probably haven’t heard of her, but she was quite well thought-of. She wasn’t famous, but . . . She did structures of some substances called ferroelectrics; that’s what she was mostly known for. Like ferromagnets, only for electricity. So, she took me under her wing, and got me into that. And then I found—it was just about the stage, actually, where it had been something which was physics at some places and chemistry at others, but the main emphasis was going over to protein work and that kind of thing, and I didn’t really want to get into that. I think, if you’re going to do it, you need to know a lot about chemistry and that kind of thing. So I didn’t find that all that enticing, really, as a long-term thing. But I got employment with it [laughs], so that was the immediate goal. ===Early Computing Experience=== '''Abbate: ''' Was the first time you used a computer when you were a graduate student? '''Candlin:''' That’s right; yes. '''Abbate: ''' And how did that happen? '''Candlin:''' Well, because there’s a terrific lot of computation in crystallography. Roughly speaking, you get some data, and to see what’s the structure of the thing you’re doing, you have to guess what the structure is and then see whether it’s consistent with the data; and you do that. It’s just very standard calculations, but a great deal of it; and it had been done by hand, you know, with machines—mechanical calculators. You had a row of mostly school-leavers or something, who were pounding these things away for you. And so when the computer came on, the EDSAC at Cambridge, crystallography was one of the first applications that made use of them. What we had with the EDSAC was a very small amount of memory, but quite elaborate processing facilities. I mean, it had a very long word length; you could do floating-point arithmetic probably more accurately than you really can now. And various people got it—I mean, there were people there, mostly mathematicians, who were running this facility—but some people adapted programs that other people had written. You had to squash them into a very small amount of memory. That was the main art to the thing: to get it in and done! So that was the first time I ever did computing: first of all using other people’s programs and simply running them. It was quite hair-raising, actually, because it was in a building which had been a store of some kind, full of wooden floors—terrible fire risk!—and [the EDSAC], being made of valves (vacuum tubes, to you), would catch on fire if it was set off. The first thing you did when you signed up to be a computer user was to say, first of all, you knew where to switch the electricity off; secondly, you knew how to put a fire out! They wouldn’t let you use it unless you could do this. [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' The computer would literally be on fire? '''Candlin:''' Well the electronics; I mean, the wiring and things like that would catch on fire. And then, of course, there’s all that paper around, and this wooden building, and so on. It was a real death trap, really, I think! '''Abbate: ''' I had no idea! '''Candlin:''' This was the so-called “Maths Lab” in Cambridge, run by somebody called Maurice Wilkes, who’s still going, in fact, I believe. '''Abbate: ''' Right. And you would have been programming this in assembler? '''Candlin:''' No, I didn’t do very much in the way of programming. It was more a question of taking somebody else’s programming and making a slight change in it, and using it to get things out. '''Abbate: ''' But they were written in assembler? '''Candlin:''' Yes. '''Abbate: ''' Was that hard to learn, how to run these programs? '''Candlin:''' No, it was quite easy to learn, actually; but as I say, the trick was to try and get the thing squashed into the memory. '''Abbate: ''' So you had to actually be thinking about tricks to get it to fit? '''Candlin:''' Yes. You know, you’ll save a memory location here, or a memory location there, or recalculate rather than store, and all this kind of thing. '''Abbate: ''' So you must have been fairly aware of how the machine worked, or at least how it handled the memory. '''Candlin:''' Well, I didn’t find programming in assembler particularly difficult. I mean, certain chunks of it—a loop, or whatever it is—are quite straightforward. I wouldn’t choose to do it—not now!—but I mean in those days, it didn’t seem to be too difficult. Before that, I think you had to do it in binary or hex or something, so certainly an improvement on that! '''Abbate: ''' But I’m just wondering: Did you have a sense of how the machine worked? '''Candlin:''' Do you mean physically? Yes. Yes, you would know that you had these mercury delay lines and a small bit of—core, I suppose it was—for the main memory, and so on. '''Abbate: ''' So probably more than—you know, someone sitting down at a computer today doesn’t really need to know . . . '''Candlin:''' No, you don’t need to know anything about it at all, I suppose, now; not about its technology. '''Abbate: ''' Did you enjoy using it? '''Candlin:''' Yes. Oh yes; I did! I found it like some sort of puzzle, of being able to get what you wanted out of it. But I didn’t find any difficulty at all in formulating things to be solved. Of course, they were fairly simple calculations. I mean, the main thing was that there were just an awful lot of them; there was an awful lot of the same kind of thing. There wasn’t much design to it, quite honestly. You had the thing written down as a bit of mathematics—some formula that this was equal to the sum of a whole lot of things—and it translated very naturally into a program, I think. ===Work Experience in Crystallography=== '''Abbate: ''' What did you do once you got your Ph.D.? '''Candlin:''' Oh, well then I went off and did something else; I suppose it was related, but again not. I went off to the Natural History Museum in London, to work in their Crystallography Department—really as a sort of service facility for finding out structures of minerals and things. '''Abbate: ''' So they would have things in their collections that they needed analyzed? '''Candlin:''' That’s right, yes. Which I found extremely dull, as a matter of fact! [laughs] But it was a rather nice life. '''Abbate: ''' Because . . . ? '''Candlin:''' Well, it was a small department, and somehow there was always something going on. They were always doing something for the collection, or putting on a new display, or somebody would come in with something they didn’t know what it was, and so on. But I don’t think I would have wanted—I did it for two years; I don’t think I would have wanted to do it for much longer. '''Abbate: ''' So you did that from 1955 to ‘57? '''Candlin:''' Yes. Well, then I got married, and we went to America, and we went to Princeton. David went to the Institute of Advanced Studies, and I scratched around to see if I could find a job. I got one—again, using the crystallography—in the Geology Department in Princeton University, so I did that for a year there. Again, you’re finding structures, or taking photographs of what they wanted. So that was very much a fill-in. And then we went back to Cambridge, and I went back again to the same lab and was an R.A. there with the famous Helen Megaw, doing inorganic things. '''Abbate: ''' “R.A.” being a Research Assistant? '''Candlin:''' Yes. And then I—oh, what happened then? Then I had baby, and then I had another baby! [laughs] And then we came to Edinburgh, and it was really extremely difficult to find anything to do here at all for quite a long time, and I just did Demonstrating jobs in their second-year physics lab—electricity and magnetism—which was . . . [laughs] I told you, I never had any career plan! And then a friend of mine from Oxford, who was also a crystallographer, and rather more successful at it than me, said she wanted someone. She had a little research grant, and she wanted someone to work on it, so I worked with her for three years, in the Chemistry Department here. '''Abbate: ''' Let me just step back and fill in a bit. The job of a Demonstrator is sort of a classroom assistant? '''Candlin:''' That’s right. It’s a Teaching Assistant, I suppose you would say. '''Abbate: ''' But for a laboratory science, you would actually literally demonstrate things? '''Candlin:''' Yes, and tutorials. So, not actually planning a course or anything, but you know, doing tutorials, doing lab demonstrating, and so on. '''Abbate: ''' And that was in your field, more or less? '''Candlin:''' Well, it was standard physics, you know; second-year physics; so in principle I knew it, but in fact I didn’t actually know a great deal about it! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' So at that point you weren’t doing much . . . '''Candlin:''' No, I just did that a couple of afternoons a week, as a matter of fact, because by that time I’d—I had another baby by then? I have four children. So that was that. And then what’s next? Oh yes, that’s right: The next thing was that I taught in a boys’ school for a year—in fact, the one my sons went to. I taught physics there for a year, while one of their teachers was off. He had a sabbatical and I knew the Headmaster, so I just filled in. So it was another experience. And then I met this friend—she’d been at Oxford, doing protein crystallography—and she came up and had a grant and said, you know, Would I like to come along and work on it? So I did that for three years. And then the money was beginning to run out in crystallography; it wasn’t so flush as it had been. And by this time I had more experience in computing. Edinburgh didn’t have one of its own, but it linked in by telephone—it was quite an advanced system, I suppose—to one at the Rutherford Lab. So we ran our crystallographic things at Rutherford overnight—when the thing worked, which wasn’t always—but in principle, you handed in your tape at the little computer center, and they’d send it down the wire; they’d run it at Rutherford, and the results would come back the next day. '''Abbate: ''' And that was the Atlas computer? '''Candlin:''' That was Atlas, yes. ===Getting into Computing: Teaching Computer Science at Edinburgh=== '''Candlin:''' Around this date I went off to a course that they ran at the computer center—a three-day course or something like that to teach you Atlas Autocode—and you know, without being too modest, I was pretty good at it! And I thought, “This is quite interesting, and I quite like doing this.” So when the grant money came to an end, I asked the professor, Sydney Michaelson: they were running a diploma course, and I thought maybe I should retrain, because crystallography seemed to be a bit—I think you really had to be a chemist at that point, and I didn’t want to be, and maybe I should look around for something new. So I asked, Could I do his diploma? Sydney said, “No no! We’re far too busy. We’re just doing this new system. But you can come along, and you can be a Junior Lecturer and teach the first-year students how to program.” [laughs] So this was how I got into computing! '''Abbate: ''' When was the Computer Science Department actually founded? '''Candlin:''' I think it was about ‘65, or something like that. I went in ‘68, I think. '''Abbate: ''' So that’s quite early. '''Candlin:''' Yes. Well, to start with, it was just the first-year course. That’s why Sydney hired me, because at least I could write a program, which then there weren’t that many people around who could. I think the group was something like about six: of whom two were actually Numerical Analysts at that point; and a couple of his students who had come up from Imperial [College] with him, I think; and maybe a couple of people doing Ph.D.s in something-or-another—yes, probably two or three doing that. So it was quite a small group, and there wasn’t a great deal of actual teaching there, so he wanted somebody who could actually stand over people and say, “No, this isn’t what you have to do; it’s this.” And I could do that, so I said, “Oh, well okay!” '''Abbate: ''' Because you had had hands-on experience? '''Candlin:''' Yes, I’d had hands-on experience, and I could write in Atlas Autocode, which was what they were teaching at that point, I think. So I got my foot in the door. And about three years later, people would have been coming out with computer science degrees, and I never would have! '''Abbate: ''' Can I ask you a bit about the founding of the Computer Science Department? Sydney Michaelson came from Imperial College in London, and he brought . . . '''Candlin:''' Yes. He brought a small group with him. '''Abbate: ''' And started the department here? '''Candlin:''' Yes. '''Abbate: ''' Do you have any idea why or how that came about? '''Candlin:''' I’m not sure. I mean, Edinburgh—he was sort of sent for. Edinburgh, I think, thought that it should have this. But I think computer science was seen as being—when they first invited him, it was seen as being a dependence of maths, and that it would be mostly for Numerical Analysts. I mean, these two people who came up were: there was somebody called Donald Kershaw, who after a bit went to Lancaster, and an Australian, Mike Osborne; I don’t know what happened to him, actually. But I think the people who invited him definitely thought that it was going to be, you know, a subsidiary of maths, and would be something that maths students would go along and learn how to do to aid them in their numerical analysis things. And it didn’t work out like that at all, because in fact the main interest of the department was computer systems—you know, the actual computer systems themselves, whether theoretical or engineering aspects of it. And this didn’t go down entirely too well, I think, with certain people! [laughs] So I suspect that the original invitation came from Applied Maths, but I’m not sure about that. I couldn’t tell you. It was before I joined them. '''Abbate: ''' So there was a sense that they wanted to build capacity, and it was going to be a service department? '''Candlin:''' I think that was the idea, yes. I would guess that, anyhow, because in those days it probably was seen as being largely that. There weren’t the applications that came on fairly quickly afterwards. '''Abbate: ''' And they weren’t building their own machines here? '''Candlin:''' Not at that point. They did try—they did build some work stations, fairly well ahead of when other people did—but no, they weren’t building their own machines. They didn’t even have a machine for some time. Then this famous [DEC] PDP-8 appeared, and this was a great excitement: an actual computer! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' And when did they get the PDP-8? '''Candlin:''' Before I got there, I think, so that I think it was actually quite early. And then they joined up with somebody who was running a CAD facility, largely in Electrical Engineering, and he bought a PDP-10, but that was meant to be mostly for chip design. No, not chip design, even: printed circuit layout, probably! '''Abbate: ''' So Engineering was also using computers. '''Candlin:''' Yes, I think there was an input from that side, too, and that brought in things like graphics and so on. '''Abbate: ''' Once you were in the Computer Science Department, what was that like? '''Candlin:''' Well, it was a bit baffling, really! [laughs] Because, you know, I’d lost my structures that I knew about: you know, things like conferences and journals. I had no idea where you looked for these. In fact, a lot of them didn’t really exist, because the subject was so new that there wasn’t really anything very useful being published, and there weren’t any standard textbooks or anything; so you really had to pick it up more or less as you went along. '''Abbate: ''' And everyone was in the same position, in that sense? '''Candlin:''' Well, no. I think the people who’d been there before were a bit further ahead, in that they at least knew their own area—what they were interested in themselves, I think. But it was very fluid. For example, long before it was the habit to hand out lecture notes to students, we had to do it, because there really wasn’t anything that you could recommend them to use as a textbook. You couldn’t build a course around a textbook or anything; you had to write all the stuff yourself. Now, that’s much more usual now: people do hand out notes to students—but they certainly didn’t in my young days! You did have these standards texts that had been used for ten years or something, and everybody knew what they were, and that was the thing you had to have. But when I started teaching computer science there wasn’t anything like that at all. '''Abbate: ''' How did the curriculum develop? '''Candlin:''' Well, first of all, they did this first-year course. Edinburgh is one of these ones where you do several subjects in your first year. You do three subjects, normally, in your first and second year, and then you specialize in your third and fourth. Computer Science 1 came on, and that was taken by quite a wide range of people, in fact. Some of them were mathematicians, but a lot of people who really were just looking for an extra course to make up took it. So it was quite a big class, and some of those people who perhaps were doing archaeology or business studies or something like that would pick this up as an extra. So it was quite a variegated class. And then, after maybe two years of doing that, they brought in Computer Science 2, which was definitely much more computer-oriented. You did computer architecture, and a little bit of theory, and things about finite automata and this kind of thing, and more systems programming type things: operating systems and so on, however primitive it was. That type of material came into that, and the people who did that were mostly looking at that stage for a joint degree in maths and computer science; but until they got the third year in place, they couldn’t do that, because the Honors degrees needed a third-year course. I think it probably took about five years or something like that to build up to a pure computer science course. '''Abbate: ''' Who decided what was going to be covered? '''Candlin:''' Well, we did, roughly speaking! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' Whoever was teaching it? '''Candlin:''' Whoever was teaching it, yes. Well, the actual fact of a degree, or that you had a course in the third year or so on, was something that had to be approved by the faculty of science; so you had to put out a syllabus of what was going to be in it, and then the faculty would sit over it and say, “No, this is too much material,” or “Not enough,” or “Not high enough standard.” You had to put out a syllabus of some kind for that. I suppose Sydney invented it himself, probably. You know, he went off on his own quite a bit! [laughs] But anyhow, somehow these things got into the official university calendar, that certain subjects were going to be taught. I mean, it was very much an outline; it was just a few words; it wasn’t a properly drafted syllabus or anything like that, with this happening in Week 1, and that happening in Week 2. Then after that, people would be allocated to teach some particular named course, usually for a term—three lectures a week for a term or something like that—and they’d decide themselves what they’d put in it. You had a very, very free hand, and that went on for quite a long time, actually—longer than you might think really was possible! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' And what did you teach when you had the course? '''Candlin:''' Well, I got stuck on the first year for a very long time, because having been hired to do that, I felt I had some obligation to make a good go of it. I probably did that for about—I don’t know; it seemed an awfully long time—about six or seven years. And then I did the second-year course, and roughly speaking, I did the low-level stuff—gate-level stuff—about how a computer actually worked, and the instruction cycle, and that kind of thing. And then I also did a course, which was something I thought up myself, on real-time programming. That was in the second year. '''Abbate: ''' How did you get interested in that? '''Candlin:''' Well, I quite like that sort of thing! And then I did one on parallel programming. I don’t know quite how I did get into that, actually, but that became my specialty, and I did that in the third year. '''Abbate: ''' Were you doing any research in these areas? '''Candlin:''' I was doing some performance of parallel systems—more performance of parallel programs, actually, than the actual hardware. '''Abbate: ''' You were trying to measure the performance of . . . ? '''Candlin:''' I was trying to provide models for it. But I wasn’t very active in research. I mean, I did do some, more towards the end; but I was also a Director of Studies, and I had a very large number of students, and I found that I had virtually no time left for anything else. It was only once I got rid of being a Director of Studies that I actually had any time for any research. ===Serving as a Director of Studies=== '''Abbate: ''' What does Director of Studies encompass? '''Candlin:''' Well, you get allocated a certain number of students. In the beginning I had a very large number of students—well, we didn’t really have enough Directors of Studies, I think, in our subject. You helped them with their course—choosing what courses to go to, because there was this choice. And you’re also in some sort of pastoral role. '''Abbate: ''' So you were looking after the undergraduates? '''Candlin:''' Yes, so that if they come along and they’ve got some problem, they’re supposed to come to you first. '''Abbate: ''' You were in charge of all of the students? '''Candlin:''' No; at that point I think Computer Science had two, but I had—well, at the highest, I had about 80 students, which was far, far too much. Then after a bit they did cut down, and we were allowed to have, I think, two more Directors of Studies, and then the load went down to about fifty, which was more manageable. But it’s still a lot of work! They come at the beginning of the year; you have four or five awful days while the students are turning up and trying to decide what it is they’re going to do, and whether they’ve satisfied the prerequisites for the course they want to take, or whether they’ve got re-sits, and all the other problems that students get into. '''Abbate: ''' “Re-sit” is taking an exam again? '''Candlin:''' Yes, it’s taking an exam again in the same year—come back after the vacation and have another go. And then seeing whether they’re eligible to go on to the third year, or whether they’re still missing a course (because they’ve got to have six), and whether they can fit something in. It’s been getting worse all the time; it’s actually much worse now than when I did it, with the bureaucracy, and more forms you have to fill in for them, and more code numbers you have to know, and all that kind of thing. But after that big rush at the beginning of the term, then a fair number—I suppose about ten percent, perhaps—come back and say they don’t like this course that they’ve gone to, and could you find them something else? And you say, “Well, would you like to go to this, or would you like to go to that?” And they say, “Well, perhaps I’d like to go to something else”—but it turns out it’s completely impossible, because of the timetable or something. [laughs] And then you suggest something else, and they say, “But would I have to write an essay?” And I’d say, “Well yes, you do have to write essays for History of Science” or whatever it is, and they say, “No, I don’t think I fancy that!” [laughs] So that always took a very long time. Not most of them, but a number of them were always on your doorstep. '''Abbate: ''' How did you end up being a Director of Studies? '''Candlin:''' Oh, I think women always do. '''Abbate: ''' How many other women were in the department? '''Candlin:''' On the staff? '''Abbate: ''' Yes. '''Candlin:''' Well, there weren’t any Lecturers. There were a certain number, like Kathy Humphry, for example, who was a Computing Officer at one stage; and one or two who were Junior Lecturers—Assistant Lecturers, essentially—who had only three years and then went off and had to do something else. But for a long time I was the only one there. '''Abbate: ''' So, the other Directors of Studies: were they men or women? '''Candlin:''' They were men. '''Abbate: ''' Did you have to be a certain rank to do this? '''Candlin:''' Well, you had to be right type, I think! I mean, you had quite to like students. It would be quite hopeless to have somebody who’d put them off; you had to be reasonably kind. And you also had to be, I suppose, reasonably well-organized, because of all this bureaucracy. I mean, if you forgot to enter some student for some exam, or something like that, it would be a problem. '''Abbate: ''' But that’s the kind of thing—you were saying that if there were women available to do it, they would tend to end up as Directors of Studies? '''Candlin:''' I think they do, yes. I mean, in other departments, I think that’s happened. And I don’t think women mind doing it, but it does mean that it rather works against doing anything very serious in the research line. Some people manage it, but it’s not easy, because it does take a lot of time, if you do it properly—and a certain amount of emotional energy, too. You know, one’s terror always is of somebody who’s going to commit suicide or something. '''Abbate: ''' Did that ever happen? '''Candlin:''' Yes, it’s happened. Not to me, fortunately; but it does happen, yes. '''Abbate: ''' Among the computer science students? '''Candlin:''' No, not as far as I know; but there have been some severe cases of mental illness, and I certainly had one that was very worrying. And also sad cases where students get ill—meningitis or something—and die. So you just hope you don’t have anything like that. '''Abbate: ''' Were there graduate students as well? '''Candlin:''' Yes. '''Abbate: ''' Was that right from the start? '''Candlin:''' Yes, right from the start. In fact, before the start—before the start of the undergraduate courses, there were people on Ph.D. courses. I don’t know if anybody had actually graduated to that point, but there were certainly people there, yes. '''Abbate: ''' And did you work with them as well? '''Candlin:''' Only latterly, actually—once again, once I got rid of being a Director of Studies! There was a limit of twelve years: you weren’t supposed to do it for longer than that, though they did relax it at a certain point. '''Abbate: ''' When did you start being a Director of Studies? '''Candlin:''' Well, pretty soon, I think. I can’t remember. I suppose probably after about four or five years I became a Director of Studies. But you see, I was quite old when I started on this lark! I think I was 38 or 39 when I started this new career, and a mother—so, you know, I was an obvious person to be a Director of Studies! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' Was that the main advising that the students got? '''Candlin:''' Yes. Yes, definitely. There are sort of backup: there’s a Counseling Service, for example, but they really only take very severe problems. Originally, I think, Directors of Studies had a much easier task, because there weren’t many courses, and it was perfectly clear that if you were doing a degree in something-or-other, you took X, Y, and Zed. And I don’t think there was much in the way of what you might call pastoral care; students had to make out on their own. So it really did get a lot more difficult as the complexity of what they could do went up, and the students came in less well-prepared. '''Abbate: ''' In what sense? '''Candlin:''' I think that was true. Previously, the students who’d come to university had all gone through very similar schools—you know, they’d done very similar things. They were at least pretty good academically, because otherwise they wouldn’t have gone to university when only ten percent of people or something did. Directors of Studies probably had a pretty easy time at that point; they probably didn’t have a lot of problems, and they certainly didn’t have to spend hours with students discussing what their courses were going to be, because it was clear what it was going to be! '''Abbate: ''' So the student body as a whole was more diverse; it wasn’t just in computing? '''Candlin:''' Yes. Yes, they’re both more diverse in the kind of people who came in and in what they could do once they got there. '''Abbate: ''' Do you feel like you had a big impact on those students? '''Candlin:''' No! [laughs] I don’t think I had any impact at all! I don’t actually think teachers do. '''Abbate: ''' Neither as a teacher nor as an advisor? '''Candlin:''' No; except that I do go along around Edinburgh, and sometimes people come rushing up and they say, “Hello Dr. Candlin!” And I think, “Who on earth is this?” And they say, “You were my Director of Studies!” [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' Did any of your students go into parallel computing, or anything that you were associated with? '''Candlin:''' No. Funnily enough, they all came from outside, the Ph.D. students; there seemed to be a quite a big turnover. I suppose some of them must have stayed on, but most of our undergraduates went off to jobs in industry. Not many of them were academics at all. They got very well paid—better than we did! [laughs] And most of the Ph.D. students came from elsewhere; at least it seemed to me that that’s how it worked out. '''Abbate: ''' Interesting. So, you stayed at Edinburgh until 1995? '''Candlin:''' Yes. '''Abbate: ''' What have you been doing since then? ===Working at CERN in Geneva=== '''Candlin:''' Ah! Well, I’ve been working at CERN. '''Abbate: ''' At CERN in Geneva? '''Candlin:''' In Geneva, yes. '''Abbate: ''' But not physically in Geneva? '''Candlin:''' Yes, physically in Geneva. In fact, I’ve only just come back for these few days now. So I’ve turned back into a physicist! '''Abbate: ''' What are you working on for them? '''Candlin:''' Physics software; software for the new experiments. I won’t be around, because I don’t intend to do it for very long. In fact, I didn’t intend to do it beyond the end of this month, but because there’s big changes in the infrastructure, I thought I’d better stay on and at least get the stuff working again. It’s trying to reconstruct physics data from the electronics. It’s computing. '''Abbate: ''' So you take the output from the accelerator and . . . '''Candlin:''' That’s right. But that’s actually not what I’m doing. I take the next stage, which is where the stuff has come out of that, and try to make it into a . . . Or at least I do just a little bit, because there are a lot of people who know much more about the actual interactions of the particles and what . . . But basically, you’re trying to make tracks out of hits on counters. '''Abbate: ''' Does this draw on your physics background? '''Candlin:''' Well, it’s very useful that I’ve got a physics background, I think. We had a young lad from Finland—a real nerd—for about three or four years, and he obviously had no idea of the physics at all; and he wanted to apply artificial intelligence techniques to this and that. And it was clear that he wasn’t making much impact—because, I mean, the physics is known: the things basically go in a helix through a magnetic field, and that kind of thing, so that you’ve got a lot of information. You know how the thing should behave; it’s not an unknown situation! [laughs] Yes, it’s useful to have some idea, I think—though it’s not my background; I mean, the physics I knew about was solid state physics, and this is high-energy physics. But at least I’ve got some idea! ===On Women in Computing=== '''Abbate: ''' Are there a lot of women working in computing at CERN? '''Candlin:''' There’s a lot more than there used to be; a lot more women just round the place that you see. A large number—sometimes it seems to me that all of them—come from Italy. They seem to have a very high proportion of women in physics—and also in computing, too, as a matter of fact. '''Abbate: ''' In computing in general? '''Candlin:''' I don’t know; but certainly in computer performance there seem to be a lot of them. '''Abbate: ''' Of women from Italy? '''Candlin:''' Yes. Much more than here. And there also seemed to be a lot of Italian women physicists. Greek, too, and Spanish—you know, Mediterranean countries. So why, in our courses, are there so few? I think it was less than ten percent in computer science when I was there; and I don’t suppose it’s changed radically in the last five years. '''Abbate: ''' At the undergraduate level? '''Candlin:''' Yes, the undergraduate level. '''Abbate: ''' Is it similar at the graduate level? '''Candlin:''' At graduate level there are more women, because there’s quite a strong theoretical group in Edinburgh, and a lot of the people come from maths, rather than from computer science undergraduate degrees. '''Abbate: ''' And you think maths has more women? '''Candlin:''' Maths is not so male-dominated. Now, why that should be, I don’t know; but it isn’t. But certainly it’s very noticeable that some other countries, particularly Italy, seem to be able to support women in hard science in a way that Britain can’t. Whether it’s something to do with the schools . . . It must be something to do with the school system, I should think. '''Abbate: ''' Do you interact with these women? Do you have any sense from them of what the reasons might be? '''Candlin:''' They’re a lot younger than me, of course, most of them; so I don’t know really. But there are some senior ones, too—and always have been. '''Abbate: ''' I’ll have to look into that. '''Candlin:''' It’s a conundrum. '''Abbate: ''' Did you ever feel that as a woman, you didn’t have access to the same advantages as men, in terms of training or promotion? '''Candlin:''' Yes, I think that must be true. Certainly in my case, because I did have this break for having a family, and that affects a lot of women, of course. You have two choices: either you struggle on and work through it full-time, or you fall back to half-time or even less—and at that point you’re miles behind. I think it’s inevitable; I don’t see that there’s any way around that. I mean, you can say, “Women should be retrained,” and so on; but there’s a massive technical knowledge and know-how that you acquire just by doing things, and if you don’t do that for five years or something, it’s very difficult to make up again. I don’t quite see what the solution is. '''Abbate: ''' Now, you still had small children when you started in computing full time? '''Candlin:''' Yes. Yes; yes I did. '''Abbate: ''' Were you working full-time at first, or just part-time? '''Candlin:''' Well, I thought when I moved round . . . Yes, I was working half-time in crystallography, just working in the mornings. But when I said to Sydney Michaelson, “Could you take me on?” he said “Oh yes,” and I said “It must be part-time,” and he said, “Oh yes.” And then when it turned up, he finally came along and said, “I fixed you up”—and it was a full-time job! [laughs] But he was very understanding, so I didn’t actually really do a full day’s work for the first bit. My youngest was three, I think, at that point, so going to nursery school but coming home at lunch time; and it was always a bit of a panic to see whether we could fix up child-minders, and whether I could be back in time, and all this. '''Abbate: ''' Was that a difficult issue, trying to balance work and family? '''Candlin:''' Oh, very, yes! And also because we weren’t that well-paid, so you couldn’t really pay for a expensive full-time nanny, or anything; so you had to manage with people coming in, and make certain you were back in time before they wanted to go home, and all the rest of it. '''Abbate: ''' Now, your husband was also an academic? '''Candlin:''' Yes. He was in the Physics Department. '''Abbate: ''' Did that make easier to . . . ? '''Candlin:''' Oh yes; because so long as we turned up and gave our lectures, nobody asked where you were. It wasn’t like an office or anything. So in emergencies—if somebody was ill, or something like that—one of us could always stay home, usually. But it wasn’t easy. I must have done a bit of a juggling. '''Abbate: ''' Would you say that it’s become easier for women—that computing is more welcoming for women than it was in the past? Or maybe not? '''Candlin:''' Well, it’s different, I suppose. When I was around looking for jobs, people were actually very helpful in finding something for you. It might not have been exactly what you wanted, but they would work a way, and they’d say, “Look, somebody’s got a grant; perhaps they’d take you on,” or “I can fix you up with three hours a week of teaching,” or whatever it might be. I don’t think they do that now. In fact I don’t think they can, because everything’s much more official: you have to apply for a job, and you have to have a selection panel and all the rest of it—otherwise, a question’s asked in the papers about favoritism, and all that kind of thing! [laughs] So I think that aspect of it is actually more difficult than it was, because the whole thing’s more formal; you’re on the same footing as everybody else. And being on the same footing as everybody else is probably a good thing, on the whole, because you aren’t immediately discounted because you’re a woman. But it means you have to have the same profile as a man. You know, you have to have the publications and the rest of it. '''Abbate: ''' That’s interesting. I’m thinking about what you said about your own background. '''Candlin:''' I think anybody with my background turning up now wouldn’t be considered for a moment! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' I’m wondering if women would be more likely to have that sort of unorthodox background. '''Candlin:''' Well, I think they’re more careful that they don’t have that kind of background, if they want a career. '''Abbate: ''' So that would be a change over time? '''Candlin:''' For example, my daughter, who also has three children, has kept working full time through all of them. '''Abbate: ''' What does she do? '''Candlin:''' She’s a manager for the Health and Safety Project. '''Abbate: ''' Did any of your children go into computing? '''Candlin:''' Well, they all did computing, but there’s no one . . . The only one, I suppose, who actually got a straightforward software job—they’re all in industry—is my son, who works for a small database company; and he did a degree in Chinese! [laughs] The other ones all use computers, but they’re application-oriented, rather than being pure computing. '''Abbate: ''' Did they learn anything about computers from you? '''Candlin:''' Well, I don’t know. Not really, no! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' It wasn’t sort of something around the household? '''Candlin:''' Well, I suppose there was something around the house. My eldest son was terribly keen at school, but he did physics in the end—just like all the rest of us, apart from the one who did Chinese! [laughs] ===On Changes in Computing=== '''Abbate: ''' What strikes you the most about the way the field of computing has changed over the years? Either in the technology or the culture of it? '''Candlin:''' There’s more of it, I think you can say! I suppose it’s more formalized than it used to be, too. I mean, there’s a much more definite body of knowledge which you would call “computer science,” and it’s somehow got boundaries around it now that perhaps it didn’t have in the early days. I suppose there’s also the fact that in a way, hardware’s now not very interesting, perhaps, compared to software. '''Abbate: ''' Because the problems are all solved? '''Candlin:''' No, I don’t think they’re all solved, but I think there’s a comparatively small group of people who are working on that, and they are specialists, and other people would not feel competent to start building a computer now. And I suppose the fact that in many ways the interest has moved to what you can do with computers, rather than to the computers in themselves. They’re a tool, I think, now, very largely. Of course, there are always people who are interested in developing computer systems, but I think they’re probably a rather small proportion of people who work with computers. '''Abbate: ''' Do you think the type of people who get involved in computing has changed at all? '''Candlin:''' Well, all of these boys who get obsessed by it! [laughs] I think they still exist, probably. I think a lot of people go in for it because they think they’re going to get a good job at the end of it. '''Abbate: ''' And is that different? '''Candlin:''' Well, probably more so, I think. I can’t help feeling that previously, people were more interested in it for itself. When it first came on, it was actually quite exciting, because it was a completely new way of thinking. It was a human activity that nobody’d had before—and now you had it. I suppose in a way it was like—oh I don’t know; one probably could compare it with doing music or something—but it was a aspect of human life which hadn’t existed previously, and now was made available for people to do. And the fact that you could do certain things in a certain way was actually quite exciting to a number of people who wouldn’t have thought of doing it. I think this first-year class that I was talking about, in the early days, where we had all these people who were really just looking for an extra subject and suddenly found a whole new way of thinking opening up: it was actually a kind of revelation, if you like, not to put it too strongly. But now I think everybody takes it very much for granted that that’s something that you can do. You know, they play around really from infancy, almost, with them; and it’s what you can do with them, rather than the things themselves that interests them. ===On Working with Computers=== '''Abbate: ''' What have you found most satisfying about working with computing? '''Candlin:''' [laughs] Frustration! I don’t know—satisfying? Things that never work; things break down just when you want to use them? [laughs] Wasn’t there somebody who said, you know, that if cars had that degree of reliability . . . [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' But you obviously speak about them with enthusiasm. '''Candlin:''' Yes, I think it’s kind of fun. I think it is what you can do with them, really, that I find interesting, rather than in themselves. [pause] And then, of course, I do like the problem-solving aspect of it. You know: how are you going to formulate a particular problem in terms of a computer? I suppose it’s a sort of design. I suppose I’m basically an engineer. '''Abbate: ''' So in your mind, you start with a problem and work toward a . . . '''Candlin:''' Yes. How am I going to lay it out? Which bits and pieces do I need to solve this problem? '''Abbate: ''' So you start with an application, rather than starting with a technique and seeing what you can do with it. '''Candlin:''' I think so, yes. I prefer that, I think. '''Abbate: ''' Is there some particular accomplishment that really stands out for you that you are proud of? '''Candlin:''' No. It’s an ephemeral kind of thing, you know: you do something, and a year later it’s quite obsolete! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' So more of a process than a concrete thing? '''Candlin:''' I think so. No, I can’t look at anything and say, “You know, that’s . . .” I mean, at the time I thought, “Yes, that’s quite a nice bit of work.” But now I can’t say, “This is going to stand forever”—or even for five years! [laughs] That’s something that’s a bit unsatisfactory about it: that everything seems so transient. ===On Early Computing Culture: Theory vs. Practice=== '''Abbate: ''' Were there any people, either men or women, that you considered mentors or role models, in the sense of encouraging you or inspiring you? '''Candlin:''' No, I was very much alone as a matter of fact. '''Abbate: ''' In computing? '''Candlin:''' Yes. '''Abbate: ''' Now, that seems a change from—in crystallography you had mentors. '''Candlin:''' Yes! That’s right, yes. But then, that was so standard. I went through the undergraduate course; I went through the Ph.D.; and was sort of introduced, as it were. And here I was stuck down in a completely unknown environment. In fact the environment itself was very fluid. It didn’t have the structures that you could be inducted into, I don’t think! '''Abbate: ''' So that was true of everyone, that they were thrown into this . . . '''Candlin:''' I think it was fairly true at that stage. Soon afterwards—I mean, five years afterwards—things looked very different, I think. '''Abbate: ''' Did you find it difficult to work with people in the department? '''Candlin:''' No, I found them delightful, mostly! [laughs] But I did have a feeling that things were going on behind my back, to some extent—in the beginning, at any rate. '''Abbate: ''' In the sense that there was a group of people . . . '''Candlin:''' Yes, because there was a group of people into which I came, and it was purely Sydney who had brought me in, and the others were thinking, “Who on earth is she?” [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' So it wasn’t very structured? Just kind of a loose group of people? '''Candlin:''' No, it was very loose. They were an interesting bunch of people, too—not at all sort of stereotype, which was quite refreshing, I thought. But it did make it a bit difficult to know what was going on. '''Abbate: ''' Did you end up having debates about which way the department should go, or what subjects should be taught? '''Candlin:''' I suppose we did, but it never seemed to have a great deal of effect. [laughs] I mean, yes, we talked like anything; we all sort of shouted each other down! [laughs] It was very informal. '''Abbate: ''' Were there any particular divisions in terms of philosophy about computing? '''Candlin:''' Well, later on there became a big division between the theory group and the rest. '''Abbate: ''' . . . which was more engineering-oriented? '''Candlin:''' I don’t know. Yes, I suppose it was more practically oriented: it was the programming, and the systems design, and that kind of stuff. Certainly there was a feeling that the theory people didn’t do much on the way of teaching; and if they did, they were so unintelligible that no students would go to their courses! [laughs] So yes, there was a bit of a . . . And yet they got all the money; they got all the research money! So I think there was a bit of bitter feeling about some people—not everybody, but some people. '''Abbate: ''' Did theory have more status or something? '''Candlin:''' Oh yes, it did. Oh yes, definitely. It was the thing. '''Abbate: ''' And that’s why they got the money? '''Candlin:''' Yes, presumably. '''Abbate: ''' So how did that work out? Did the department actually split up? '''Candlin:''' Well, they had a special group within the department. There was a group within a group, as it were, which had a sort of identity, and there was a very good person called Robin Milner who got the thing going. He went off to Cambridge afterwards. It was very much his baby, as it were, and he had a lot of prestige; he was much the most distinguished person in the department. And he also got some quite good people, but—I mean, not a bit about Robin himself, but about some of the others it was felt that they did very little for the department; they were mostly furthering their own careers. '''Abbate: ''' I don’t know if there were enough women to even answer this question, but: Were there any particular areas that women seemed to end up in? In terms of theory, or . . . '''Candlin:''' Several of them were in the more theoretical things, because—it was what I was saying before: they came from maths, rather than coming up through computer science undergraduate degrees. So I think that maybe they did concentrate there. I don’t think I would say that they . . . Ah, but there’s also the fact that Edinburgh is—or was, at that stage—rather unusual in having a different department for artificial intelligence. '''Abbate: ''' That was its own department? '''Candlin:''' It’s now combined, but it was a separate department; and there were more women there, I think. '''Abbate: ''' When did that department get started? '''Candlin:''' About the same time, I think. '''Abbate: ''' As the regular computer science department? '''Candlin:''' Yes. '''Abbate: ''' Were women working in the systems area as well? '''Candlin:''' Only me, I think! [laughs] There were one or two who did Ph.D.’s, but not many. '''Abbate: ''' And eventually there were some people building machines in the department? Work stations? '''Candlin:''' Yes. That was—I don’t know—early ‘70s, or something like that. '''Abbate: ''' And were there women involved in that? '''Candlin:''' No, I don’t think so. In fact, that was pretty well one person. It was a one man; one man more or less did it himself. '''Abbate: ''' Oh. ===Advice for Young Women Who Are Considering a Career in Computing=== '''Abbate: ''' Do you have any advice for young women who might be thinking of going into computing? '''Candlin:''' I do think you have to continue to be flexible. I mean, I think I’ve perhaps shown more flexibility than one should [laughs], but I think you do. And I think because it’s such a rapidly changing subject, you have to be very careful that you don’t go into what’s currently fashionable, and then find two years later that nobody wants that. I mean, at one stage of it, everybody wanted people who could do Web page design, or something like that; now nobody wants that! So you do actually want to make certain that you get a good, solid, traditional—what’s now traditional—computer science background, with enough breadth of coverage. I think that’s been a bit of a danger, actually, of the subject: that it has been too narrow; that you learn a lot about compilers or something; and in order to cover a reasonable number of things, you really need the practical experience in all of them, and that takes a very long time; so it tends to be a very heavy course. And people shouldn’t—I think they’re afraid of that; they just have to put up with that. But I think you do want to be careful you don’t get too much into one specialist slot, because I think if you look at course descriptions, some of them look very, very specialized indeed, and then you’ll find you’re left with something which is no use after a few years. I think that might be my advice—but that’s not particularly to women; that’s to everybody! [laughs] '''Abbate: ''' Do you recommend it as a field to go into? '''Candlin:''' Oh, I think I’d recommend it; yes. But on the other hand, I think you also have to face the fact that quite a lot of people don’t like it at all, and people mustn’t be upset that it’s not for them, because it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, I don’t think. '''Abbate: ''' Do you have any sense of what kinds of people find it most appealing? '''Candlin:''' Not really, but I think it’s something you can tell very soon, whether somebody’s going to like it or not. I mean, I don’t think it’s one of these things that you start off by not liking, and then after a certain point you get over a hump and you do like it and you get good at it. I think, roughly speaking, some can and some can’t. '''Abbate: ''' So do you think it’s more ability than taste, in terms of who ends up doing computing? '''Candlin:''' Well, I don’t know that it’s ability; I think it’s a particular cast of mind. '''Abbate: ''' What sort of mind would want to do that? '''Candlin:''' Well, it is problem-solving, isn’t it? So it’s people who like doing maths puzzles and that kind of thing, are the kind of people who would like it. But I think you also have to have fairly good communication with other people, and not everybody does that. I mean you can go off and work on your own, but if you can’t talk to other people and explain it, or write them a system that they can use, it’s a waste of everybody’s time. So I think you do want to avoid the pure nerd. Oh, you have got to be able to write English, and you’ve got to have a certain amount of other capabilities than just churning out code, I think. '''Abbate: ''' So you really have to be a well-rounded person? '''Candlin:''' I think you do; yes. And I think it’s a pity that well-rounded people perhaps don’t go into it, because if you’re that well-rounded, you can go into other things, too, and they seem more appealing. I mean, what do women do, these days? An enormous number go in for business studies, law, that kind of thing; and I think they’re wise to do so, as a matter of fact, because I think the opportunities are as good, and they may be better at it—I mean, they may be better than men, in those fields. Because they are better with it: most women are better with people, I think, than most men. So I think, in a sense, they’re voting with their feet, and they’re maybe making the right choice. '''Abbate: ''' Well, thank you very much! [[Category:Computer science|Candlin]] [[Category:Programming|Candlin]] [[Category:Computing|Candlin]] Return to Oral-History:Rosemary Candlin. Retrieved from "https://ethw.org/Oral-History:Rosemary_Candlin"