Origins of The New Bureaucracy

Ivor Catt 5jan01

An idea occurred to me which caused me to telephone Tom Ivall, the editor of Wireless. Quite quickly, His rapid response was to suggest that I write an editorial on the subject for Wireless World. Editorials were anonymous. This resulted in the 300 word Wireless World editorial The New Bureaucracy.

Organisers of the premier computer conference of the year in Holland contacted Ivall and invited the anonymous author of the 300 words to speak at their conference.

The Head of my Department at Watford College, who had been trying to fire me for many months, said that I could not be spared that day. (My teaching load on the day in question was one single 45 minute lecture to 20 low level students.) I so informed the people in Holland, who proceeded to telephone the Principal of my college every day. (Our Principal ran away from college a year or two later - disappeared). This relentless pressure from Holland resulted in my being authorised to go after all.

Now I was motivated to write a longer article with the same title, which I used in Holland, and which was also published in Wireless World two months later, in December 1982.

The night before I was due to leave for Holland, a manic depressive star law pupil of my wife's, who had later proceeded to Leeds University, turned up at the door. After having a bath in my home, into which he poured at least one full bottle of our bath scent, scenting out the house, needed to be taken home. I drove him to Swiss Cottage, and then discovered that he was unclear as to where his home was. He had taken off all his clothes and his shoes, except for his trousers. He then said he would get out and check, and disappeared. I had his luggage in my car, and he was black, at large in London at 2am wearing only trousers.

I phoned the police, who came to investigate. They told me I could go home. I got to bed at 3am.

Next day I did my lecturing, and then at 4pm caught the bus from Watford to Heathrow.

I drowned myself in a very fine dinner at the hotel, with wine. This made me able to sleep.

Next day, I was proud to be the last speaker at a conference where the second speaker was the famous Dijkstra. The conference ended with a five man brains trust, with me alongside Dijkstra.

A question from the floor was about the very famous Japanese "Fifth Generation Computer". I told them that Professor Fred Heath told me the English had sent a team to Japan to look into it, but he thought they had been the wrong people. He proposed that a new group with the right expertise go, and would I be willing to come? I agreed.

I told them in Holland that I did not believe we would learn anything much about computers by going to Japan, but I would certainly join a trip to Japan. (Air fares were much more expensive then.)

The much vaunted and heavily funded Japanese "Fifth Generation Computer Project" blew away a year or two later. Ivor Catt. 5jan00.


Dijkstra was world famous because of his article Go to instruction not wanted. This was a revolutionary idea, which led to the concept of a Procedure, called Proc or Defproc. It was a controversial matter, gaining a riposte in an article entitled Go to instruction not wanted not wanted. Dijkstra won, and all programming moved away from the conditional jump, to the procedure. This was a major improvement in software.

The New Bureaucracy