There is a piece every now and then in The Guardian, in its section containing obituaries, entitled, “Other lives”. This gives the opportunity for family and friends of those that have died to write a piece and submit it for publication. Some of these can be truly fascinating and inspirational, and one that popped up yesterday came with a little reminder from long ago, as I read of the death of Bill Broderick.
Now, to be honest, though he was a Maths teacher at the school which I attended just for my A-levels, I didn’t know him, but I was aware of what he had done. When I arrived in 1971, I discovered that the school had a computer and had had it for a few years. It filled a whole room, and we prepared programmes for it by completing little piles of cards from which it made its calculations, but we felt pride in possessing such a machine, heightened by the knowledge (which may or may not have been true) that if more powerful computing was required, it could be linked to the computer at the vast Ford plant at Dagenham - for we were in Essex, at the Royal Liberty School in Romford (technically we had become the London Borough of Havering a few years before this, but that hardly mattered, for we knew ourselves to be of Essex).
Bill Broderick was one of those individuals whose passion drove him to be innovative. I learnt several things from his obituary yesterday, including the fact that ‘our’ computer was the first to be installed in a British secondary school. In 1965, apparently, a BBC Tomorrow’s World episode was filmed from the school, in which he was quoted as saying, “Computers are as radical and important a keystone to our standard of living and industrial wellbeing as was the steam engine.” Half a century later the truth of that statement is even more obvious.
This morning in tapping away on this laptop, I am pleased to know that he lived to see this kind of innovation to our lives. As we gives thanks for the scientists who have created a vaccine to fight the virus from which Bill Broderick died, and the camera like a capsule which we can swallow to examine our insides, the development of which was announced earlier this week, it does give great hope, that for all the faults of humanity - and they are many - we do have a capacity to solve problems that has been proven many times during the course of history. We pray that this God-given gift may continue to be experienced, as the world faces its most demanding of all problems, as to how to save the world on which we live.