Britain's Strategic Computing Initiative
The authors, who were participants in Alvey, provide a personal and hands-on review of the Program, the participants, and the results.
This inside story of the Alvey Program, Britain's own Fifth Generation project, provides fascinating insights into how one Western nation chose to meet the Japanese challenge and how high-technology development was promoted at the national level with lessons for all who are concerned about the future of the computer/artificial intelligence industry or the direction of industrial policy. During its five-year lifetime and at the cost of 350 million, Alvey spawned a new information technology community that has become an integral part of Britain's national science and technology policy. The authors, who were participants in Alvey, provide a personal and hands-on review of the Program, the participants, and the results.How can such a complex undertaking be evaluated? There is no doubt that Alvey created new academic posts, new industrial research laboratories, and new teams where few existed before. It was a publicly funded program outside the defense field, a directed effort involving all parts of the industrial technology research community in a way that had not been attempted outside wartime. The authors provide a detailed comparison of Alvey and the Japanese Fifth Generation project and note Alvey's contributions in AI, parallel architecture, VLSI, integrated circuit CAD, software engineering, and speech technology. Above all they note Alvey's contribution in strengthening Britain's academic/industrial complex; British companies are now better placed to collaborate in the broader arena of Europe. The original Alvey is John Alvey, former Senior Director, Technology, at British Telecom (now retired). Alvey chaired the committee that recommended the launching of a major industrial technology program.