My interest in computing started in the early 80s with the arrival of a Sinclair ZX81 in our house. This was a great intorduction into bother the rewards (working software) and pitfalls (wobbly RAM packs, frustrating keyboards) of computing. My next computer was a BBC Model B. This amazing machine allowed the creation of genuinely useful software due to its superior BBC BASIC and accessible 6502 assember, which also gave easy access to the vast array of hardware ports.
Following school I went to Manchester Metropolitan University to study Computer Science, a modular degree with a huge variety of subjects to choose from. The course had an option to spend a year working in industry and I chose to go to France as a developer in the Laboratoire Technique de Brive, a branch of Philips TRT in Brive-la-Gaillarde in the centre of France. It was a fascinating time during which I learned French, joined a choir there, met lots of excellent people and generally enjoyed the wonderful culture (and weather) of a smallish Southern French town. In the Lab we developed software in C, C++ and WinDev (a French scripting language) for monitoring and maintaining the microwave networks that formed a section of the back-haul of the GSM telephone network.
After graduating I became interested in machine intelligence and software agents. In 1997, I started a PhD in developing multi-agent approaches to collaborative search. This led to the production of a search engine called Casmir (Collaborative Agent-Based System for Multiuser Information Retrieval) and later Socialiser (a web-based version of the software) that allowed people to rate and bookmark interesting content. By sharing the resulting user profiles, other users would be helped in finding useful material and be put in touch with people sharing similar interests and expertise. The research was spun out of Salford University as Casmir Limited, a company that attracted over £2m in funding. Following this (and after finishing the PhD) we created a new company (Gillc Group, later renamed Dexter Intelligence) specialising primarily in forensic examination of multiple computers and devices. The idea was to recover all data from devices (including hidden and deleted information), extract entities such as names, places, email addresses and credit card numbers, and join the datasets from different devices together in order to prove conspiracy; something that nobody else was doing at the time. I am still active in this area, though the emphasis now is on identifying security risks for enterprises holding personally identifiable information.