What's eating the British Computer Society? Hasn't its membership 'civil war' given it enough internal trouble and strife without needing to enrage tweeters and bloggers alike with its lecture ban on laptops and mobile phones?

The BCS confirmation message for attendance at the “Timing Is Everything” lecture by Dr Joël Ouaknine at The Royal Society, London, on November 4, includes the following warning: "Please note that all mobile phones and laptops must be switched off for the duration of the lecture."

Not only is the timing unfortunate but so is the context. This event is the annual BCS Roger Needham Lecture, and the late Roger Needham, an esteemed academic who ran Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory and went on to set up Microsoft Cambridge Research, was a man of immense personal warmth, perspective and humour. Hardly a banner of technology.

Once, while playing generous press host to an elliptical TES journalist who was exploring Microsoft Research issues of interest to schools, he was asked about the role of serendipity in research. "Ah, serendipity," he responded. "My old friend Claus Moser told me that serendipity is like looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the farmer's daughter."

The things you hear when you don't have access to Twitter...

“Timing Is Everything” lecture by Dr Joël Ouaknine at The Royal Society, London, November 4


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