Department of Mathematics


Obituary: Dave Newell (1943–2019)

Dave Newell witnessed at first hand the dramatic changes in computing.

Dave Newell (left) at a MAPS reunion in 2011 with Brian Trustrum, one of the five Mathematics staff in the first year of Sussex science, 1962-63. (Photo: John Reid)

Dave Newell, who died on 15 February at the age of 74, witnessed at first hand the dramatic changes in computing.

Many staff and students will remember the smiling helpfulness of Dave, who was at Sussex from 1962–2010, first as a student and then working in the Computing Service.

Dave was born in Romsey and came to the very new University of Sussex in October 1962 in the first group of 48 students to study Mathematics.

After graduating he stayed at Sussex and his first job was as a research assistant to Arthur Craven in Mathematics. Soon the University set up a Computing Centre with Arthur as its acting director and Dave moved to join the new Computing Centre, going on to become the User Services Manager.

Initially there was no computer at Sussex, so they punched their programmes onto cards which they took by train to be run on the ATLAS computer at Chilton, near Oxford. As demand for running programmes grew, the University paid for Dave to have driving lessons so he could take more boxes of punched cards by car to the ATLAS Computing Laboratory.

Dave’s mathematical talent enabled him to quickly learn the intricacies of programming in several languages such as Algol, Pascal and especially Fortran. He wrote complex programmes and subroutines, debugging these long programmes printed out on sheets and sheets of paper. He was tenacious at helping staff find a coding error, often a missing comma or closed bracket!

He wrote and delivered many training courses and enjoyed helping staff and students to make the best use of computing. He was a skilful advisor for the ever growing and changing computing services at the University.

Dave took early retirement in 1993 to be a maths tutor and his calm, patient teaching style enabled many students to improve their grades.

He kept in touch with Sussex and - when the opening hours of the Computing Service were extended a few years later - Dave came back to work part-time on the Helpdesk, where his smiling knowledge and experience was greatly valued.

He finally retired in 2010 after spending over 48 years at Sussex.

Anyone who knew Dave knew about his devotion to football and in particular his lifelong support for Southampton Football Club, and this was reflected by the music chosen for the service on 4 March to remember and celebrate his life.

Caroline House, Sandy Radford, Andy Clews and Roger Discombe

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Posted on behalf of: IT Services
Last updated: Tuesday, 12 March 2019