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Brian Lawrence

Journal Contributor Brian Lawrence writes:

I was born in Hereford, the County Town of what was then Herefordshire, in 1949, and grew up near the small country town of Bromyard, also in Herefordshire. On leaving school in 1967, I moved to Abingdon in Berkshire because I started work at what was then known as the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE), Harwell, part of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

Brian Lawrence My first job was as a computer operator on the newly installed mainframe computer, an IBM 360/65. In those days the work involved a lot of manual loading of punched cards and paper tape, as well as magnetic tape loading and endless separating of printed output. The computer system was operated 24 hours a day, but only five days a week, so I had to work shifts, which gave opportunities to learn computing and misuse computer time!

After a couple of years I became a shift-leader, in charge of running the whole computer installation with a team of four or five other operators. With a few more years experience and being a bit older and wiser I moved into Systems Management, where I worked on installing software, testing new systems, fixing "bugs", etc. By the time the 1990s arrived I was in charge of a team of about six systems programmers working on the IBM machines. By then the Computing Centre had expanded to include other types of machines such as Vax's and a Cray Supercomputer. This expansion coupled with the "PC revolution" led to a decline in work for IBM mainframes, and gradually my team was "downsized" until there was only me left. The IBM was then closed down and for a couple of years I returned to where I started becoming head of Computer Operations and also Help Desk Manager. However, this was only really marking time, and I was negotiating towards early-retirement, which I managed to get in 1994.

The most significant factor in my life was my marriage to Gill in 1976, at which time I moved to Wantage in Oxfordshire where we still live.

My interest in space exploration began in the late fifties, I can just about remember hearing the "bleep-bleep" of Sputnik on the radio in October 1957 (I was 8 at the time). My greatest interest though has always been manned spaceflight, and especially the Apollo missions. I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Apollo 17 in December 1972 and also visited Houston and Huntsville while in the US.

Since 1975 I have been a member (and more recently a Fellow) of the British Interplanetary Society (BIS), which was formed in 1933 and has actively promoted all aspects of space exploration since then. It publishes two excellent monthly magazines, Spaceflight and the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS), both of which are widely available in the English-speaking world.

Apart from the ALSJ, I am interested in most sports, but especially Formula One motor racing and International (Test) Cricket. I also try to keep up-to-date with computing and science in general. Together with Gill, I am interested in Natural History (including our pet cats and rabbits), music, movies, (good) television, and foreign travel.