Brian Randell

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Not to be confused with Brian Randall or Brian Randle.

Brian Randell (born 1936) is a British computer scientist, and Emeritus Professor at the School of Computing Science, Newcastle University, U.K. He specializes in research in software fault tolerance and dependability, and is a noted authority on the early prior to 1950 history of computers.


Randell was employed at English Electric from 1957 to 1964 where he was working on compilers. His work on Algol 60 is particularly known, including the development of a compiler for the English Electric KDF9, an early stack machine.[1] In 1964 he joined IBM, where he worked at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center on high performance computer architectures and also on operating system design methodology. In May 1969 he became a Professor of Computing Science at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has been working ever since in the area of software fault tolerance and dependability.

He is a member of the Special Interest Group on Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS) of the Society for the History of Technology CIS, and a founder member of the Editorial Board of the Annals: the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing journal. He was also a founder-member of IFIP WG2.3 Programming Methodology, and is a founder-member of IFIP WG10.4 about Dependability and Fault Tolerance. He is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (2008).

He is married (to Liz, a teacher of French) and has four children[2]


Brian Randell's main research interests are in the field of "computer science, specifically on system dependability and fault tolerance. His interest in the history of computing was kick-started by coming across the then almost unknown work of Percy Ludgate. This was over thirty years ago, when he was preparing an inaugural lecture, and led on to producing the book "The Origins of Computers". This triggered him to further investigate the Colossus wartime code-breaking machines".[1]

Software engineering[edit]

In the 1960s Randell was "involved in the original "NATO Software Engineering conferences" in 1968 on Software engineering, at the time he was working at IBM in the very secret Project Y and then ACS super-computer projects.

Software fault tolerance[edit]

Beginning in the 1970s, Randell "set up the project that initiated research into the possibility of software fault tolerance, and introduced the "recovery block" concept. Subsequent major developments included the Newcastle Connection,[3][4] and the prototype distributed Secure System".[5]

Northern Informatics Applications Agency[edit]

In the 1990s Randell "became involved in a project to improve data networking provisions in the North of England, and to promote their effective use by all sectors of the community. This project resulted in the setting up of NiAA, the Northern Informatics Applications Agency". He wrote: "I served for several years as a member of NiAA's Management Group, until my attempts to delegate this to others bore fruit! NiAA existed, and worked to good effect, for seven years."[6]

Work in Genealogy[edit]

Brian Randell has for many years been one of the leading members of the team of volunteers responsible for GENUKI, the web portal for Genealogy in the United Kingdom and Ireland. He maintains the pages relating to the county of Devon, and has transcribed and made available online many documents of genealogical interest.

See also[edit]


Randell published several articles and books. A selection:[7]

  • 1964. Algol 60 Implementation. With L. J. Russell, Academic Press, London.
  • 1973. The Origins of Digital Computers: Selected Papers. Ed. Springer-Verlag.


  • 1971. "Ludgate's Analytical Machine of 1909", Computer J., 14 (3), pp. 317–26.
  • 1972. "On Alan Turing and the Origins of Digital Computers", in Machine Intelligence 7 (B. Meltzer and D. Michie, Eds.), pp. 3–20, Edinburgh Univ. Press.
  • 1979. "Software Engineering in 1968", in Proc. of the 4th Int. Conf. on Software Engineering, (Munich), pp. 1–10.
  • 1982. "From Analytical Engine to Electronic Digital Computer: The Contributions of Ludgate, Torres and Bush", Annals of the History of Computing, 4 (4), pp. 327–41, October.
  • 1998. "Memories of the NATO Software Engineering Conferences". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 20 (1), pp. 51–54.


  1. ^ a b SIGCIS profiles, last updated 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  2. ^ Professor Randell's page at the University of Newcastle/
  3. ^ Brownbridge, David R.; Marshall, Lindsay F.; Randell, Brian (1982). "The Newcastle Connection" (PDF). Software – Practice and Experience. 12: 1147–1162. doi:10.1002/spe.4380121206. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2016-08-16. 
  4. ^ Callaghan, Brent (2000). NFS Illustrated. Addison Wesley. ISBN 0-201-32570-5. 
  5. ^ Brian Randell at School of Computing Science. Last updated March 2008. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  6. ^ Northern Informatics Applications Agency. Brian Randell, last updated 11 Apr 2003.
  7. ^ Brian Randell Publications.

External links[edit]