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Original ARM developer Sophie Wilson nominated for European Inventor Award

Sophie Wilson also helped develop the first affordable personal computer, the BBC Micro

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Computing pioneer Sophie Wilson, who helped design the Acorn Micro-Computer and the original ARM processor, has been nominated for the European Inventor Award 2013 for her contributions to technological, social and economic progress.

The award is presented annually by the European Patent Office (EPO) to outstanding inventors in five categories: industry, SMEs, research, lifetime achievement and non-European countries. Wilson has been nominated for a lifetime achievement award.

After studying mathematics and computer science at Cambridge University, Wilson's career began in March 1979 when she joined Acorn Computers to develop one of the first affordable personal computers, the BBC Micro.

Wilson created the operating system (using BBC Basic), designed the hardware, and managed all the people and documentation required to ensure success. By the end of its life cycle in 1989, the BBC Micro had sold more than 1 million units instead of the targeted 12,000.

In 1983, she teamed up with Steve Furber to design the first 32-bit RISC Machine chip for Acorn (ARM), a chip that operated with significantly fewer instructions and transistors than equivalent chips produced by Intel at the time.

Apart from having better performance thanks to their load/store architecture, these new chips consumed far less energy. The latest descendants of these chips are now in about a quarter of all tablets and PCs, including Microsoft's new Windows RT devices, and the vast majority of smartphones.

After the dissolution of Acorn Computers in 1999, Sophie Wilson continued her work in a company she co-founded, called Element 14, to develop the FirePath processor, which is integrated in broadband hardware and set-top boxes all over the world. Element 14 was sold to Broadcom in 2001 for $450 million.

“Not every technology genius has the profile of Alan Turing or Sir Clive Sinclair. But Sophie Wilson’s contributions to the development of computers and the creation of the ARM processor merit that comparison,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli.

Wilson is not the only Briton to be nominated for a European Inventor Award. University of Edinburgh scientist Philipp Koehn has been nominated for his advanced computer translation of languages, and Scottish engineer David Gow has been nominated in the SME category for the prosthetic i-limb hand which provides extraordinary precision and refined control.

Nomination proposals are submitted by the public, and by patent examiners at the EPO and Europe's national patent offices. The winners are chosen from among the nominees by an international jury, which includes experts from the areas of business, politics, media, academia and research.

The 2013 winners in all categories will be announced at a ceremony in Amsterdam on 28 May in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands.


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CMO said: Almost every single technical fact is wrong in this article High quality journalism thenThe BBC Micro was not the first affordable micro or even close to it Sinclair fans would have something to say about that BBC Basic is not the OS Wilson did the software architecture of the ARM Steve Furber designed the hardware of the BBC alongside Wilson and ARM Wilson was the software guy not the hardware guy The original BBC order was for 22000 not 12000 machines I have a copy of the original order ARM chips are used in 95 of all tablets and phones and are way more popular than Intel chips so that stat is also wrong They shipped 6 billion ARM processors in 2010 alone and I presume many more nowThats not to take away from Wilsons job and she is fully deserving of this award ARM has done more to progress the IT world than almost anything else Modern smartphones and tablets would simply not exist today without ARM

Nova Fisher said: We were there in the early days of writing software for the BBC Sinclair and Commodore and then for the Archimedes so I would like to correct a few errors The BBC wasnt the first affordable micro computer Sinclair fans would have something to say about that BBC basic is not an operating system Wilson didnt design the BBC hardware that was all Steve Furber Wilson was the software guy not the hardware guy The original BBC production was 22000 not 12000 my colleague saw the original letter of the quantity to be produced ARM chips are not used in a quarter of all tablets but in about 90 of themMy very best wishes to Sophie and hope that she wins the award - it is well deserved

Jonathan Harston said: BBC BASIC isnt an operating system its - duh - a Basic The BBCs operating system was called the BBC Operating System However yes Sophie did write chunks of the OS as well as writing the Basic

Bill Keesing said: As an owner of a BBC Model B an Acorn Archimedes A3000 and an A4000 a smartphone using the ARM CPU and a Raspberry Pi with more coming I hope that the jury see sense and make the award to Sophie someone who has been so influencial in computer technology and telecommunications today

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