Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin

Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin

Francis Spufford / Feb 21, 2020

Backroom Boys The Secret Return of the British Boffin A brilliant beautiful account of how British boffins triumphed across the decades in creating everything from computer games to Martian landers The book contains chapters on the Beagle II Elite the

  • Title: Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin
  • Author: Francis Spufford
  • ISBN: 9780571214976
  • Page: 429
  • Format: Paperback
  • A brilliant, beautiful account of how British boffins triumphed across the decades in creating everything from computer games to Martian landers.The book contains chapters on the Beagle II, Elite the 80s computer game, the Blue Streak missile, Concorde, mobile phone technology and the Human Genome Project, among others.Britain is the only country in the world to have canA brilliant, beautiful account of how British boffins triumphed across the decades in creating everything from computer games to Martian landers.The book contains chapters on the Beagle II, Elite the 80s computer game, the Blue Streak missile, Concorde, mobile phone technology and the Human Genome Project, among others.Britain is the only country in the world to have cancelled its space programme just as it put its first rocket into orbit Starting with this forgotten episode, Backroom Boys tells the bittersweet story of how one country lost its industrial tradition and got back something else Sad, inspiring, funny and ultimately triumphant, it follows the technologists whose work kept Concorde flying, created the computer game, conquered the mobile phone business, saved the human genome for the human race and who now are sending the Beagle 2 probe to burrow in the cinnamon sands of Mars Backroom Boys is a vivid love letter to quiet men in pullovers, to those whose imaginings take shape not in words but in mild steel and carbon fibre and lines of code Above all, it is a celebration of big dreams achieved with slender means.

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    • ✓ Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin || ☆ PDF Read by ↠ Francis Spufford
      429 Francis Spufford
    • thumbnail Title: ✓ Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin || ☆ PDF Read by ↠ Francis Spufford
      Posted by:Francis Spufford
      Published :2018-011-19T23:59:38+00:00

    About "Francis Spufford"

      • Francis Spufford

        Spufford began as a writer of non fiction, though always with a strong element of story telling Among his early books are I May Be Some Time, The Child That Books Built, and Backroom Boys He has also edited two volumes of polar literature But beginning in 2010 with Red Plenty, which explored the Soviet Union around the time of Sputnik using a mixture of fiction and history, he has been drawing steadily closer and closer to writing novels, and after a slight detour into religious controversy with Unapologetic, arrived definitely at fiction in 2016 with Golden Hill He has been long listed or shortlisted for prizes for writing about history, science, politics, theology and the spirit of place Spufford studied English at Cambridge University He was a Royal Literary Fund fellow at Anglia Ruskin University from 2005 to 2007, and since 2008 has taught at Goldsmiths College in London on the MA in Creative and Life Writing there.


    1. The poetry of science and determination told with equal eloquence and passion. A book about British people calmly and good naturedly going about complex tasks for good reasons. Francis Spufford teaches at Goldsmiths about 2km from my house, and having read this and Red Plenty, it is another reason I am proud to be a South Londoner again. (ZONE 2, EAST LONDON LINE, COFFEE SHOPS, ART STUDENT GRADUATE WOMEN, NICE FRONT DOORS)The book details six Quiet British Science Triumphs of the post war era as [...]

    2. Have you ever wondered how Concorde actually got built? Just the politics alone would make up a chapter or a thesis! The cutting edge technology and the whole sacrificial nature of the project; both we and the French had to make offerings to the gods of the air, of our egos, our secrets and ever vaster sums of money for the thing to fly at all, let alone cross the Atlantic on a regular, noisy and super expensive basis.From supersonic to microscopic, Francis Spufford covers some of the more outst [...]

    3. I wasn't at all sure of this when I started but, on reflection, I think it just took me a while to get used to the style of writing. I really don't read a lot of this sort of book but it was very engagingly written with a lot of humour and some great use of interview quotes throughout. I struggled slightly with some of the engineering detail but managed to get through it; I think it's fairly telling that the two stories I found the hardest to get through (the rockets and the radio) were probably [...]

    4. A fascinating book looking into the development 6 British technical and geeky projects involving rockets, DNA, home computers and mobile phones. Some were more successful than others! Sadly the edition I read ends in late 2003 just before the British Beagle 2 was due to land on Mars. At least the author was open to the risks and possibility of the probe being unsuccessful, and concentrated on the joy of the probe getting built and launched at all.

    5. A cracking account of what British scientists have brought to the modern world, touching on the space programme, the making of Vodaphone, Concorde, gene therapy and computer graphics. Interesting, informative and, on the race to prevent the an American mapping the human genome and selling it, quite inspiring.

    6. At last someone has written down the stories of all the pipe-chuffing uncle-figures who were once my heroes. And what a great job Francis Spufford has done.It would be easy to caricature the quiet, understated passion of men whose ambition stretches from the suburbs to the stars. While Spufford's writing is full of funny human detail, he never takes that easy line. Instead, he overcomes the challenge of linking a list of contrasting stories to reveal a larger theme: how successive sons of a fadi [...]

    7. This is a sort of love letter to British engineering, but a deprecating one with notes of doubt. Spufford looks at projects from the Black Arrow space rocket to the computer game Elite to the Human Genome Project. Sometimes, like that last example, the Brits formed part of an international effort, but it is very much the Brits that Spufford is writing about.Spufford is playing up the idea of the unsung hero, the small project dwarfed by international (especially US) comparison, which isn’t act [...]

    8. Utterly brilliant. Six quirky histories of postwar British engineering - everything from Concord to Mars exploration. Not all of it successful, but then we Brits thrive on qualified failure. "Better to have loved and lost" and "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." Pure BS, but a great way of disguising failure!The weakest of the six? Perhaps the story of 'Elite' - an apparently groundbreaking computer game. No, I hadn't heard of it either.And the best? Easily t [...]

    9. Loved every piece of this book. One of the best non-fiction I have read.Six chapters/sections on various "British" scientific endeavors: Black Knight (Rockets to Space!), Concorde (Wow!), Elite, Cellphones (I still hate Oftel), DNA (Saving the Human Genome project from corporate America) and Beagle 2 (our last, best hope).Every one well written. Every one a good length. Every one compelling.In a parochial somewhat British way all of these stories struck a chord, but they are also great stories. [...]

    10. In my favorite sections, Backroom Boys is an immensely readable account of technological and technical innovations in Britain, and at its finest, it sustains an incredible amount of tension over whether--or, at any rate, how--specific plans will bear fruit. Because of varying levels of technical detail and (my) technical expertise, I didn't find all the sections equally involving (and since I'm weakest at physics, the opening chapter on rockets was the one I found hardest to follow), but a remar [...]

    11. For anyone who wants to know how the Brits established themselves as leaders in the cellphone and computer games industries (amongst others), then this is a great introduction. More importantly though, it describes the inspiring and motivational "can-do" attitude of some of the most important applied scientists, engineers and scientific entrepreneurs. The story of a bunch of men driving around London in a van trying to work out mobile phone cell blackspots made me chuckle. If you like this book, [...]

    12. A collection of essays about a selection of British projects in science and engineering, ranging from rocket-design, to computer-game development, to the siting of base stations for cellphone networks. The individual essays are fascinating and Spufford describes the technical and organisational issues extremely well, but he makes no attempt to pull them together - which is the same problem I had with I may be some time, his book about the place that the polar regions have in the British imaginat [...]

    13. British non-fiction author writes a love letter to technology. He covers the period from post-WWII British rocketry, through the supersonic Concorde, software startups, cell phones, and mapping the human genome. He's a wonderful writer, with an amazing gift for the delicious anecdote. There was a computer game in the 1980s that sold 150,000 copies -- the same as the number of BBC Micro computers in the world, and that release only ran on the BBC Micro. How's that for market penetration?

    14. Some great facts and insight to untalked about technologies but sometimes goes on too long about to and froing between government etc. Glad to have read it, favourite chapter was on history of mobile phone

    15. A ripping yarn of British boffins which climaxes with the arrival of a British suitcase on Mars. Don't let the boffin bit put you off this book makes advanced science (including the rocket type) understandable and fascinating.

    16. An enjoyable look at some of the more interesting science, engineering and business projects to originate in the British Isles. Very informative and entertaining.

    17. Really fascinating. A thorough (and slightly nerdy) account of hi-tech successes by UK engineers in the post war period.

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