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back to article British computing pioneer James Martin found dead in Bermuda sea

James Martin, whose 1977 Pulitzer-nominated book The Wired Society predicted much of the modern internet, and who was helped more than most to explain and instruct in modern computing, has been found dead in the sea off his private island in Bermuda. "The Bermuda Police Service can now confirm the death of 79 year old Dr. James …

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He earned a scholarship at Oxford to study physics

Props to the guy. He must have been quite intelligent.

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Unhappy

The man was a book writing machine

Compared to the time between tomes of the average researcher his output was huge

Being the suspicious soul I am I always wondered how many "assistants" he had on the case, or indeed if it was a pen name for a bunch of guys (they never seemed to carry a picture).

That said it's sad to see him go.

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Holmes

Re: The man was a book writing machine

Wrote :- "I always wondered how many "assistants" he had on the case, or indeed if it was a pen name for a bunch of guys"

While I have no doubt of this guy's abilities. it is true that writers with established "names" in the technical world tend to become editors as much as writers, overseeing a team doing much of the grunt work and then no doubt adding their own words for the final product.

It is a bit like how Brunel is quoted as having designed (and even built) practically every structure on the GWR, as in : "the goods shed at Stroud, built by Brunel". It would not have been physically possible. Brunel had a large team who knew his style, and certain standard designs which were adapted for particular sites. No doubt the man himself countersigned each design after some tweaks.

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Re: The man was a book writing machine

You are probably quite right, in the sense that Martin latterly had a staff of smart, well-informed people who pulled together and checked the material for his books. But they were still his, in the sense that he shaped them, put his stamp on them, and wrote the final text (I imagine).

To take a suitable parallel, Winston Churchill had a staff of assistants who contributed a great deal of the material for books like his famous "History of the English-speaking Peoples". In view of his other commitments, he couldn't possibly have done it all himself. But that in no way detracts from their value, because he masterminded the projects and stood behind everything published under his name.

Both Churchill's and Martin's books are superb, and stand the test of time. Indeed, the book that first got me really interested in computers - just in time to enter the industry - was Martin's "The Computerized Society", co-authored with Adrian Norman, and published in 1970. It's still available, and still well worth reading - both for the many things the authors got right, and the relatively few things they got wrong. In some ways, they had a better perspective from the standpoint of 40 years ago than we can hope to attain today.

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Re: The man was a book writing machine

Research science is the same way. The technicians do all the 'sciencey' stuff but rarely get their names on papers. Such is the way of the world.

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Coat

when I saw the name I thought it was that annoying TV chef.

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Anonymous Coward

But that annoying TV chef is nowhere near as annoying as that other annoying TV chef.

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$150m gift ?!

Consultancy and writing must pay better than I thought...

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Re: $150m gift ?!

"Consultancy and writing must pay better than I thought..."

They do... if you really know what you are talking about, and hardly anyone else does. And it's important.

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Impressive

Very impressive guy. Genius, proper scientist, multimillionaire and generous with it.

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"rode the well-paid wave of consultancy"

Yeah, really appropriate to make puns about someone's death at sea.

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Aw crap, the wrong James Martin died.

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Anonymous Coward

I live in Bermuda. His house on Agar's Island is a wonder.

He will be missed.

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Anonymous Coward

Where did folks hear of him?

I'm an Oxford physics graduate a few decades younger than this bloke. Like many folks these days, I've no career to speak of (even a job is a luxury these days for many folk), and I've no claim to fame at all. Since leaving uni I've been working one way or another with computers and networks in unusual applications (typically high reliability realtime and automation) for almost three decades.

My non-trivial computer-related book collection includes techy stuff (lots,h/w and s/w) and managerial stuff (Brooks etc) and more and stuff I've borrowed from assorted libraries, though admittedly not much on the 'soft' (ie people) side of computers (Hard Drive, Soul of a New Machine, a few others - mostly historical rather than visionary stuff). Magazines in my collection include Byte and various later stuff (never got into Dr Dobbs).

I've never heard of him, for which I apologise. I am also slightly puzzled.

Where did other folks hear of him?

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Re: Where did folks hear of him?

Must be a generational thing. In the 70's and 80's, James Martin was inescapable - a visionary rock star in the computing industry. He charged huge sums for this futurist "training", and businesses cheerfully paid.

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R.I.P. a fine mind

R.I.P. a fine mind

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Climate change concerns?

I bet he did, living on a low-lying island barely larger than his garden.

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If I had to pick an age and location...

Hell yeah!

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I did what he told me to do..

I used his 1973 book " Design of man-computer dialogues" to design the interface for an IBM software product, which got launched with my interface. The product was very profitable, and is still out there, still doing what it is supposed to (but of course the UI has been replaced since by far better technology than was available to me). And I think my copy of the book is still in the store room - might worth taking a look to see if it still makes sense in this fascinating modern world we live in.

I'll raise a glass for him.

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Anonymous Coward

" who was helped more than most to explain and instruct "

" *has* helped ", surely?

(genuine question)

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A software pioneer..

As an information modeler and database designer, much of my understanding of the art can be attributed to studying his scholarship.

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If he had invented the internet, he would have invented the internet.

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Pint

Private Island

If the man owned a private island in Bermuda, he must have been doing pretty well. I'd love to do that and get away from all the world's fu*ktards.

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Worked at Oxford in admin during the time when the Martin School was being set up

My first job after uni, in fact. Smart guy, and very keen to make the future happen. Look at what the Martin School's doing, and you'll be impressed.

Never met him (talked to his PA a lot, though), but this really saddened me.

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Sad

In the mid-1980's I listed to James Martin speak at one of his seminars. It was a whole week long and I was glued to the edge of my chair for the entire time. He was a true visionary!

I still have his book "The Design of Real-Time Systems" on my bookshelf. His logic on queuing theory still works flawlessly.

Unfortunately, I think about it every time I'm waiting in a queue at the airport, post office or whatever. It tells me that I'm waiting in line because the airline, USPS, or whomever, actually *wants* it to be that way! Yes, folks, all the organizations could know, should know, and probably do know just how long you're waiting. It's 100% predictable.

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Something is Missing

I've encountered some of Martin's works and he was a very literate and clear writer. I accept the plaudits here for his skill as a speaker, although I never heard him speak.

None of this explains 200 million plus of his "earnings". Was he an inventor too? Did he start or participate in a successful start-up? Even with 100 books he is not going to earn 2 million per book. No it just doesn't hold together and something is being held back from his story.

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What was his Science contribution that he should be listed in the Science category?

Oh and what was his Science contribution that he should be listed in the Science category? Does anyone know?

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