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James Alty

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James Lenton Alty
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James Alty.jpg
BornHaslingden, Lancashire
ResidenceOxford, England
Alma materUniversity of Liverpool

James Alty is a British computer scientist. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at Loughborough University.

Education[edit | edit source]

James Alty obtained a 1st class honours(Physics) at Liverpool University (awarded the Oliver Lodge Prize for the best performance in that examination). He obtained a PhD(Nuclear Physics) at Liverpool University in 1966 supervised by Prof L.L. Green carrying out research on the Nuclear Optical Model via the (d,p) and (d,d) reactions on O16 and (p,p) reactions on O17.[1][2][3][4][5] For the next two years he carried out research in the Metallurgy department under Prof. John Stringer investigating the Hall Effect.[6][7]

Career[edit | edit source]

He worked for IBM Ltd as a Senior Systems Engineer (1968–72) and was appointed Computer Laboratory Director at Liverpool University in April 1972. He was appointed to the Computer Board for Universities and Research Councils[8] (1975-81). In 1982 he was appointed Professor of Computer Science at Strathclyde University where he set up the Man-Machine Research Group. From (1985–1990) he was Executive Director of The Turing Institute in Glasgow. In 1986 he obtained £900,000 funding from The Alvey Committee to set up (with the Department of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University, the Scottish HCI Centre. In 1990 he was appointed Professor of Computer Science at Loughborough University, a position he held until retirement in 2003, becoming Dean of Science (2000–2003). On retirement he was made an Emeritus Professor of Loughborough University. He also studied Psychology and Music modules at the Open University.

Initial work in Human Computer Interaction[edit | edit source]

On becoming Director of the Computer Laboratory, Alty was told that the proposed new computer for Liverpool University had been downgraded to a 1904S from a 1906A. This was because the Computer Board for Universities and Research Councils[9] expected Liverpool University to off-load 50% of its computing to the Regional Centre at Manchester. Although the Computer Laboratory had a Remote Job Entry RJE link to UMRCC, it was hardly used. Alty realised that it was important to maximise the use of this link, but the users had great difficulty in using it. He therefore instructed the staff to become fully familiar with the link and then to strongly advise users. The result was that within 4 months the UMRCC 11% allocation was exceeded, and the Liverpool computer was upgraded by the Computer Board to a 1906A (and later to a 1906S). This result (probably the first demonstration of the importance of Human Computer Interaction) led to a life-long research interest in the subject. In 1976 he appointed Michael Coombs as a Research Assistant. Together they obtained the first UK research grant in HCI from EPSRC to examine the usefulness of User Advisory Services. They held the first conference in the UK on Human Computer Interaction in 1978 and this resulted in Academic Press publishing the proceedings in one of the first books on HCI—Computing Skills and the User Interface.[10]

Impact on microtechnology provision at universities and industry[edit | edit source]

In 1975 he realised the importance of Microtechnology on Computing and with Dr. Malcolm Taylor initiated the series of microtechnology Workshops at Liverpool University which continued for 6 years. Between them they established and edited the Journal of Microcomputer Applications (Elsevier).[11] He set up a Microtechnology Laboratory at Liverpool which became the model for other University Computing Centres. In 1978, the Computer Board (which provided computers for all Universities in the UK) realised that Microtechnology might have a fundamental impact on computer provision and they commissioned Alty to Chair a Working Party (members; Prof. David Aspinall, Basil Zacharov[12], Mervyn Williams and Iann Barron (of INMOS)) to report back on the likely consequences. The report (The Alty report) had a fundamental effect on University computer provision obtaining many millions of pounds for Universities initially from the Computer Board to set up MicroLaboratories, but the report directly influenced the University Grants Committee to set aside an additional £2million for University departments.[13] The New Scientist described the report as the most “important report since the Flowers Report.[14]” The content of the report is summarised in a Foreward written by Alty in System Design with Microprocessors by Zissos.[15][16]

Artificial Intelligence[edit | edit source]

In 1982, Alty moved to Strathclyde University as Professor of Computer Science where he set up the Scottish HCI Centre with Heriot Watt University funded by the Alvey Committee initiative.[17] He was appointed Executive Director of the Turing Institute in 1984, a post he held until 1990, working with Donald Michie and the Chairman, Lord Balfour of Burleigh. He continued to Chair the Scottish HCI Centre and located the Strathclyde Section in the Turing Institute. At the Institute he realised the important role Artificial Intelligence might play in HCI research. In 1984 he wrote a book, Expert Systems: Concepts and Examples (with M.J. Coombs)[18] which was adopted by many universities and was translated into French (with I. Lerestif),[19] Russian (with V.I. Sitokov),[20] Italian[21]and Spanish.[22] In 1988 he won a major research grant from the European Strategic Program on Research in Information Technology programme called GRADIENT[23] (with Gunnar Johannsen (Kassel Univerity), Peter Elzer (Clausthal University) and Asea Brown Boveri) to create intelligent interfaces for process control operators. This work had a major impact on process control interface design. The initial pilot phase report (Alty, Elzer et al, 1985) was widely used and cited. Many research papers were produced[24][25] A follow-on large ESPRIT research project was PROMISE (Process Operators Multimedia Intelligent Support Environment) working with DOW Benelux (Netherlands), Tecsiel (Italy) and Scottish Power (Scotland).[26] In 1996–97 he was invited to be a reviewer by the Finnish Government of the SIMSON programme, a government programme for developing Artificial Intelligence in Finland. During 1995–96 he advised, and at its conclusion, produced a review of the programme with Iilka Eerola for the Finnish Government.[27]

Loughborough University[edit | edit source]

Alty was appointed Prof. of Computer Science at Loughborough University in 1990, was Head of Department (1991–1996 and 1998–2000) and later Dean of Science (2000–2003). He moved his research group from Strathclyde University to Loughborough. During this time was awarded a number of large ESPRIT and RACE research grants - MITS (Metaphors for Integrated Telecommunications services), MEMO (Multimedia for Mobiles) and AMEBICA (Software Agents). The MEMO project was very much concerned with Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) and he obtained funding from the DTI to set up a DAB Laboratory. His research group worked with Roberts Radio to develop the first portable DAB radio. In 1996 he obtained an EPSRC research grant ADEPT (Adaptive Intelligent Dialogue) with British Telecom and Logica, which investigated the use of Software Agents in User Interaction. During these projects he became interested in the use of Multimedia techniques in HCI. In 1997, after writing a paper on the possible use of music in HCI, he developed (with D. Rigas) AUDIOGRAPH which used music to communicate graphical structures to assist blind users.[28][29]

In 1999 he developed a Program Debugging Tool (with P. Vickers) called CAITLIN using music to communicate program execution and assist debugging.[30][31][32] After retirement, he actively continued research into Multimedia carrying out (with N. Beecham) research into the effects of Multimedia interfaces on users with dyslexia.[33][34]

Music composition and golf[edit | edit source]

Alty is a competent musician and has composed a number of works mainly for Four-Part Choir and Organ. His set of 9 Christmas Carols (The Thurcaston Carols) is available in book form and all the carols have been performed in public in many different locations including Liverpool, Manchester, Leicester, Oxford, Salinas (in Granada, Spain) and Hamburg. He has written a number of piano works including "Party at Enschede" dedicated to his colleagues at the Turing Institute. He has researched musical compositional techniques[35] and presented them in an Engineering Context.[36] He wrote a Brass Fanfare which opened the INTERACT'99 Conference in Edinburgh (at the time of the International Festival) which was performed by the Glasgow Brass Ensemble (with Jan Borchers on Virtual Percussion) and the same work opened Digital Audio Broadcasting in Leicestershire in 2001. He has also written a book on golf.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Alty, J.L. (1964). "J dependence of the Angular Distributions from the O16 (d,p) O17 Reactions to Single Particle States". Physics Letters. 13 (1): 55–59.
  2. Alty, J.L. (1966). "Deuteron Optical Potentials and the O16(d,p)O17 reaction". Physics Letters. 20 (6): 664–666.
  3. Alty, J.L. (1966). "Further Measurements and Zero Range DWBA Calculations for the Cr52 (d,p) Cr53 reaction". Nuclear Physics. 86: 65–88.
  4. Alty, J.L. (1966). "J Dependence of the Angular distributions from the O16 (d,p) O17 reactions to single particle states". Nuclear Physics. 100A (1): 191–211.
  5. Alty, J.L. (1967). "A Study of the O16 (d,p) O17 Reaction". Nuclear Physics. A97: 541–567.
  6. Alty, J.L. (1968). "The Recording and Analysis of Pole Figures by Computer". A. J. Applied Physics. 39 (9): 4189–4193.
  7. Alty, J.L. & Stringer, J. (1969). "Hall Effects in Single Crystals of Mg". Phys. Stat. Solidi. 32: 243–246.
  8. Verdon, F.P. (1995). "The Computer Board for Universities and Research Councils". Computer Journal. 38 (10): 822–830.
  9. Verdon, F.P. (1995). "The Computer Board for Universities and Research Councils". Computer Journal. 38 (10): 822–830.
  10. J.L., Alty; M.J., Coombs (1984). Expert Systems: Concepts and Examples. Manchester, UK: NCC Publications. ISBN 0 85012 399 2.
  11. "Journal of Microcomputer Applications". Sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  12. Zacharov, B. (1977). "The Microprocessor Phenomenon". Nature. 266 (5605): 760–761.
  13. Edward Parkes (1979), "Microcentres spared full blast of cash cuts", computing, 3
  14. url=http://www.chilton-computing.org.uk/acl/literature/manuals/flowers/foreword.
  15. Zissos, D. (1978), System Design with Microprocessors, Academic Press, pp. v–viii, ISBN 0-12-781750-6
  16. J. McNulty (1979), "Book Reviews", computing, 7 (20), p. 23
  17. Dept of Trade and Industry (1982). Programme for Advanced Information Technology: Report of the Alvey Committee. London, UK: Stationery Office Books. ISBN 978-0115136535.
  18. J.L., Alty; M.J., Coombs (1984). Expert Systems: Concepts and Examples. Manchester, UK: NCC Publications. ISBN 0 85012 399 2.
  19. systemes-experts-concepts-et-exemples/oclc/729589838.
  20. ekspertnye-sistemy-koncepcii-i-primeri.
  21. I sistemi-esperti-Concetti-ed-Esempli. ISBN 9788820443986.
  22. Sistemas Expertos. Conceptos y Exemplos. 1987. p. 216. ISBN 84-86251-31-1.
  23. The Project Synopses Advanced Information Processing. European Strategic Programme for Research and Development in Information Technology. 4. Directorate General XIll Telecommunications, Information Industries and Innovation Commission of the European Communities. 1988. pp. 38–39.
  24. Alty, G. (1989). "Knowledge Based Dialogue for Dynamic Systems" (PDF). Automatica. 25 (6): 829–840. doi:10.1016/0005-1098(89)90051-4. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  25. Johannsen, J.L. (1991). "Knowledge Engineering for Industrial Expert Systems" (PDF). Automatica. 27 (1): 97–114. doi:10.1016/0005-1098(91)90009-Q. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  26. Alty, J.L. (1993). "Experiments using multimedia interfaces in process control: some initial results". Computers and Graphics. 17 (3): 205–218. doi:10.1016/0097-8493(93)90069-L. ISSN 0097-8493. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  27. J.L., Alty (1996). Simson: A CIM development programme for the Finnish Metal and Engineering Industry. Helsinki: Tekes, Fimet. ISBN 9789515304728.
  28. Rigas, D. (2005). "The Rising Pitch Metaphor: An Empirical Study". Int. Journal of Human Computer Studies. 62: 1–20. ISSN 1071-5819.
  29. Alty, J.L. (2005). "Communicating Graphics via the Auditory Channel: An Empirical Approach". Int. Journal of Human Computer Studies. 62 (3): 21–40. ISSN 1071-5819.
  30. Vickers, P. (2002). "Musical Program Auralisation: A Structured Approach to Motif Design". Interacting with Computers. 14 (5): 457–485.
  31. Vickers, P. (2002). "Using Music to Communicate Computing Information". Interacting with Computers. 14 (5): 435–446.
  32. Vickers, P. (2002). "When Bugs Sing". Interacting with Computers. 14 (6): 793–819.
  33. N., Beecham (2003). The MEDIA Project: An investigation into the effects computer-based media has on the learning outcomes of individuals who have dyslexia. Proc. of World Conf. on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications. Chesapeake, VA: AACE. pp. 2689–2694.
  34. Alty, J.L. (2006). "The Media Project: When Humans form Media and Media Form Humans. An Experimental Study Examining the Effects Different Digital Media have on the Learning Outcomes of Students who have Different Learning Styles". Interacting with Computers. 18 (5): 891–909. ISSN 0953-5438.
  35. Alty, J.L. (1996). "Navigating through Compositional Space: The Creativity Corridor". The LEONARDO Music Journal. 28 (3): 215–219.
  36. Alty, J.L. (2002). "Engineering for the Mind: Cognitive Science and Musical Composition". Journal of New Musical Research. 31 (3): 249–255.

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