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Professor Steve Furber, one of the leading developers of personal computing, has been awarded the Faraday Medal, the IET’s (Institution of Engineering and Technology) most prestigious award, for his ground breaking contributions to engineering and technology.

Most celebrated for his work at Acorn Computers Ltd, Professor Furber’s work has had a significant impact on the economy, industry and lifestyle of people worldwide. At Acorn he was a principal designer of two world leading innovations: the BBC Microcomputer and the ARM® 32-bit RISC microprocessor, both of which earned the Queen’s Award for Technology.

For many people across the English speaking world, their first experience of a computer was through the BBC Microcomputer, including the vast majority of pupils in the UK, who first used BBC Microcomputers to learn computer literacy and information technology skills. The computer, which was developed by Furber and colleagues in 1981, was particularly successful as an educational tool.

The ARM processor design began in 1983 as a development project at Acorn Computers Ltd. The team, in which Steve Furber played a leading role, developed the technology that formed the basis for the world’s most successful SoC (System-on-Chip) processor licensing company. Because of initial benefits of high performance with power efficiency and cost effectiveness, ARM processors have become the most prolific in mobile and consumer electronics applications across the globe.

The processors are now found in all corners of consumer electronics worldwide, from portable devices which include PDAs, mobile phones, media players, handheld gaming units, automotive applications, digital set-top boxes, high-definition TV, to computer peripherals such as hard drives and desktop routers. In 2006, almost 2.5 billion ARM processors were shipped around the globe by ARM’s Semiconductor Partners.

Sir Robin Saxby, President of the IET and Chairman Emeritus, ARM Holdings plc, said: “Professor Furber is a great example of someone in the UK who bridges the gap between academic excellence and commercial success. The technology that Professor Furber has helped to design and innovate has dramatically changed the way we live and work and has opened up many new possibilities. The IET is committed to recognising and celebrating the work of people like Professor Furber who have made outstanding contributions to engineering.”

Professor Stephen Furber said: “It is a great honour to receive this award from the IET. I have been very fortunate to work with many outstanding colleagues both at Acorn and at Manchester, and to find myself in the right place at the right time to work on projects that turned out to have an impact. The first half-century of computing has been extraordinarily exciting, but watch out, because the next half-century promises even bigger changes and more rapid development!”

Professor Furber is currently the ICL Professor of Computer Engineering within the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester. In addition to his business-related achievements, Professor Furber has made great strides in research, creating the world-class ‘Advanced Processor Technologies’ research group at Manchester University, which focuses on asynchronous design methodologies and tools, processor design and on-chip communications.

Furthermore, Professor Furber has contributed to the 2002 House of Lords Science and Technology Committee investigation into the future of ‘microprocessing’ which suggest that a UK programme is needed in SoC design. He is also a driving force behind an initiative to develop a “Common Vision for the UK Microelectronic Design Research Community”.

Professor Furber has also written “ARM System-on-Chip Architecture”, one of the world’s leading books on Systems-on-Chip.

Current research interests for Professor Furber include: Neural systems Engineering, which is using engineering systems to understand the architecture of the brain; also research that is looking at ways to reduce the power requirement of small sensor systems to the point where they can run from scavenged energy that has been derived from their environment in the form of light, vibration, body heat or similar resources.


Additional information about Professor Steve Furber:

Professor Furber has earned a Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal, for contributions to British engineering which have led to market exploitation, and a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award.

Professor Steve Furber gained a BA degree in Mathematics in 1974 and his PhD in Aerodynamics in 1980 from the University of Cambridge. From 1980 to 1990 he worked in the hardware development group within the R&D department at Acorn Computers Ltd. Upon moving to the University of Manchester in 1990 he established the Amulet research group which has interests in asynchronous logic design and power-efficient computing, and which merged with the Parallel Architectures and Languages group in 2000 to form the Advanced Processor Technologies group.

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The Institution of Engineering and Technology
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The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is one of the world’s leading professional societies for the engineering and technology community. The IET has more than 150,000 members in 127 countries and has offices in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. The Institution provides a global knowledge network to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas and promotes the positive role of Science, Engineering and Technology in the world.

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