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Steve Furber

Professor Stephen Byram Furber CBE, FRS, FREng (born 1953 in Manchester, England) is the ICL Professor of Computer Engineering at the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester[1] but is probably best known for his work at Acorn where he was one of the designers of the BBC Micro and the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor.





Furber was educated at Manchester Grammar School and represented the UK in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Hungary in 1970. He went up to Cambridge and received a BA in mathematics in 1974. In 1978, he was appointed the Rolls-Royce Research Fellow in Aerodynamics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and was awarded a PhD in 1980.


From 1980 to 1990, Furber worked at Acorn Computers Ltd where he was a Hardware Designer and then Design Manager. He was a principal designer of the BBC Micro and the ARM microprocessor. In August 1990 he moved to the Victoria University of Manchester to become the ICL Professor of Computer Engineering and established the Amulet research group.

Current Research Interests

In 2003, Furber was a member of the EPSRC research cluster in biologically-inspired novel computation. On 16 September 2004, he gave a speech on Hardware Implementations of Large-scale Neural Networks as part of the initiation activities of the Alan Turing Institute.

Professor Furber's latest project is known as Spinnaker, also nicknamed the 'brain box', to be constructed at the University of Manchester. This is an attempt to build a new kind of computer that directly mimics the workings of the human brain. Spinnaker is essentially an artificial neural network realised in hardware, a massively parallel processing system eventually designed to incorporate a million ARM processors. The finished Spinnaker will model 1% of the human brain's capability, or around 1 billion neurons. The Spinnaker project aims amongst other things to investigate:

  • How can massively parallel computing resources accelerate our understanding of brain function?
  • How can our growing understanding of brain function point the way to more efficient parallel, fault-tolerant computation?

Furber believes that "significant progress in either direction will represent a major scientific breakthrough"[2]

He is on the Advisory Board of Theseus Logic, Inc.

Furber's research interests include asynchronous systems, ultra-low-power processors for sensor networks, on-chip interconnect and GALS (Globally Asynchronous Locally Synchronous), and neural systems engineering.

Awards and honours

In February 1997, Furber was elected a Fellow of the British Computer Society. In 1998, he became a member of the European Working Group on Asynchronous Circuit Design (ACiD-WG). In 2002, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into microprocessor technology.

Furber is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the IEEE (2005) and the IET, and is a Chartered Engineer. In September 2007 he was awarded the prestigious IET Faraday Medal.

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.[3][4]

Cultural Depictions

A young Furber was played by actor Sam Philips in the BBC Four documentary drama Micro Men, first aired on 8 October, 2009.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Staff Profile of Steve Furber on University of Manchester site
  2. ^ Steve Furber and Andrew Brown "Biologically-Inspired Massively-Parallel Architectures – computing beyond a million processors" Proc. 9th International Conference on the Application of Concurrency to System Design (ACSD'09), Augsburg, Germany, 1-3 July 2009 (keynote talk), pp. 3-12. ISBN 978-0-7695-3697-2, ISSN 1550-4808
  3. ^ BBC News
  4. ^ BBC Micro designer gets New Year's Honour ZDNet 2-Jan-2008

External links


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