Now and then

[Dave Birch] I went along to the University of Southampton Class of 1980 30th reunion, which was fun. I really did enjoy my time there (it’s one of top 10 UK universities according to the students) and was looking forward to seeing it again. I booked up for the whole package, which included staying in a dorm again for the night.


It was a little different from my old room in that it had en-suite and internet and a telephone. Mollycoddled, today’s students.


When I was in my first year, I actually lived in Connaught Hall, part of the Wessex Lane halls. These were different from the other halls, mainly because they had a warden system, whereby each landing was under the control of a warden (all of whom, I think, were lecturers or mature students). I don’t remember much about ours except that he seemed to drink a lot. I was there reading Physics, which I loved but wasn’t very good at. I was actually something of a maths prodigy, but I didn’t wanted to study it at university. Fortunately, Southampton at that time had good computing courses, so a combination of failing physics modules together with pass maths and computing modules earned me a degree. As it happened, only two of us physicists showed up (me and David Perry) but I got the full class list so maybe I’ll type it in to a web page somewhere in case one of my former classmates google’s themsevles.

We went off for a tour around the campus. Here’s our tour guide, who was born eight years after I graduated, standing outside the Hartley Library, which was built in the 1930s, asking us if it had been there when we were students.


In my second and third years I shared a house with friends in Sirdar Road, right behind the Engineering blocks, so my world lay essentially along a straight line, from the Brook Inn (our local pub) along Sirdar Road, past Engineering…

Way Home

… and then across the campus to Physics. The Physics building hadn’t changed much at all as far as I could see.


After the campus tour I went to a lecture — quite unlike any I had ever attended on the campus before, because it was about Agincourt and such like and it was given by Anne Curry, Professor of Medieval History and author of a book on the subject — and then in the evening we met for a talk by Professor Dame Wendy Hall who explained her personal journey from being student at Southampton to being Dean of the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences via being the first ever non-American chair of the ACM.

Wendy Hall

We then sat down to very pleasant dinner followed by drinks at the bar. At dinner, the organisers had put copies of the student newspaper from now and from then out for us to browse. Much of the content was the same then as now, although the politics today seemed much less radical (today’s students don’t have things like the Anti-Nazi League to galvanise them, I suppose). I don’t envy them. I had a full grant and lived easily, frankly. But one thing that did leap out at me was that the old newspaper had “milk round” adverts in it.


These date from the days when there used to be jobs for graduates, so employes would come to down, rent out a pub and ply prospective employees with drink. That’s how I got my first job. All in a all, a lovely reminder of how I started down the short and not especially winding path to Consult Hyperion.

In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes