The Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin - INT BOOK RING

by Francis Spufford | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 0571214975 Global Overview for this book
Registered by UrbanSpaceman of Kingston upon Thames, Greater London United Kingdom on 6/14/2005
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This book is in the wild! This Book is Currently in the Wild!
7 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by UrbanSpaceman from Kingston upon Thames, Greater London United Kingdom on Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Welcome to The Backroom Boys International Book Ring

This ring started 25 June 2005 and ended on 17 May 2006.

Francis Spufford

Francis Spufford is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster. As well as The Backroom Boys he is author of two acclaimed works of non-fiction: I May Be Some Time, a cultural history of the British fascination with polar exploration, which won the Somerset Maugham Award and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and The Child That Books Built.

Member/Location

Loopy1, Herne Bay, Kent
FabClaire, Malvern, Worcestershire
Mastulela, Nuneaton, Warwickshire
Katie 1980, Poole, Dorset
Sqdancer, Alberta, Canada

... and then back to me.

How it works

- If you wish to be added to the list, please PM me with your details.
- We will kick off once we have 5(ish) members.
- You will be sending the book to the person who appears after you in the list, so you need to PM them to get their address.
- It's not a race, but please read and send the book on as speedily as you can, other people are dying to read it too.
- Please journal the book once you have received it (so we all know where it currently is) and again when you have read it (so we know what you thought of it).
- If you're the last person on the list, then please send it back to me.



Journal Entry 2 by UrbanSpaceman from Kingston upon Thames, Greater London United Kingdom on Wednesday, June 22, 2005
This may sound like a book for nerds, but I hope the audience for it is far wider than that. It is an elegy to ‘good old British engineering and science’ or, rather, to ‘good old British engineers and scientists’, since it focuses on the people who made it happen.

It is not a single story, but six separate essays.

The first deals with Black Arrow, the UK’s own satellite launcher and its ultimate extinction. Many of the people involved are still alive and I have met a number of them – the story Spufford tells here is exactly right.

The second story deals with Concorde and the creativeness by which what was essentially a government project was eventually privatised.

The third story is about Elite, an epoch-making computer game created by a pair of undergraduate students back in the 1980s for the BBC micro (and which I remember very fndly, having spent way too many hours playing it).

The fourth story is about the introduction of mobile phones to the UK and Racal/Vodaphone engineers. It gave me some new insights into what is involved in mobile networks – they are even more complicated than I thought.

The fifth story is about gene sequencing and how Britain saved the world – no, really, it did – from an American corporate takeover of the human genome. I had no idea about this and was very impressed.

The last story returns to space and tells the (partial) story of Beagle-2, how it came to be, and some of the circumstances that may have contributed to its failure. This is the weakest story, since it was completed before the landing date and has just a brief epilogue about the loss of the mission.

If this doesn’t sound exciting then the blame is mine for not writing a good review. Spufford is an excellent writer who tells stories with humanity, wit and humour. If you are an engineer or scientist (or if you know one or two and you want to understand them better) then you should read it.

And, at the end of it, stop and wonder where we might have been now, if the politicians and accountants hadn’t got their way…



Journal Entry 3 by UrbanSpaceman from Kingston upon Thames, Greater London United Kingdom on Saturday, June 25, 2005
Posted to Loopy1 today.

Journal Entry 4 by loopy1 from Herne Bay, Kent United Kingdom on Monday, June 27, 2005
The book was received safely this morning, and I'll be passing it on to DH to read - although I might just take a quick peek before I send it on!

Thanks.

Journal Entry 5 by loopy1 from Herne Bay, Kent United Kingdom on Thursday, August 04, 2005
DH read and thoroughly enjoyed this book. I picked it up and started reading it. Although the subject matter was not always that interesting to me, I found the author's style really entertaining. Then I hit the chapter about Elite! I've never played the game, or even heard of it before reading this book, but I remember the era generally, when any teenager could sit and write playable computer games, and I really enjoyed this section, about a computer game that completely changed the world of shoot-em-ups into the world we know today.

I'll be passing this on as soon as I have an address. Thanks!

Journal Entry 6 by FabClaire from Malvern, Worcestershire United Kingdom on Sunday, September 11, 2005
Was waiting on the doormat when I got back from my hols - will read it next and pass it on.

Journal Entry 7 by FabClaire from Malvern, Worcestershire United Kingdom on Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Nope, this didn't do it for me. Struggled through two and and a bit chapters but I found it very dull and decided not to continue. I work for one of the establishments mentioned in the book so perhaps I'm biased, but it just reminded me of reading project reports - the chapter on Concorde could only have been enjoyed by an accountant or project manager!

Still, each to their own. I'll send this off and see what the next person thinks.

Journal Entry 8 by katie1980 from Basingstoke, Hampshire United Kingdom on Sunday, October 02, 2005
Apologies - this arrived the other day, and as Gary started reading it that night, we completely forgot to journal it to say it arrived!
But he seems to be enjoying it so far - he's read it a lot quicker than he usually reads books!
Thanks for passing it on, Claire, and I'll get to it as soon as I can once G has finished it.

Journal Entry 9 by katie1980 from Basingstoke, Hampshire United Kingdom on Monday, November 21, 2005
Gary is still reading this - I hope that this isn't a problem.
Apologies for the delay, but I did say it was likely when I signed up for the ring!
Hopefully it will be moving onto my TBR pile soon - I'll give him a prod to get reading!

Journal Entry 10 by katie1980 from Basingstoke, Hampshire United Kingdom on Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Another of UrbanSpaceman's rings that I seem to be holding up :o(
Still, G has now finished it, so I'll try my best to make a point of reading it and passing it on. It shouldn't even take long to read once I finally start, as it's not a big book!
Apologies for the delays - please give me a prod if it doesn't move or get journalled soon!

Journal Entry 11 by katie1980 from Basingstoke, Hampshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, January 24, 2006
I'm into the fifth chapter! I really enjoyed the one about Elite - I'd never heard of the game before, which is quite surprising, but it was incredible to read about the process of writing a game. I love the fact that one guy said "Four Bytes, that's nothing" and the programmers replied "Four bytes is the fuel scoops", which totally transformed the slant of the game! *lol* It helped me remember that there are 8 bits in a byte, which is cool cos I frequently forget! ;o)

The Concorde, Black Arrow and Vodafone chapters were interesting, but not un-put-down-able, and I'll comment on the other two when I've got through them. I hope to be finished in the next week, though, so I'll PM Sqdancer now for their address :o)

Journal Entry 12 by katie1980 from Basingstoke, Hampshire United Kingdom on Sunday, January 29, 2006
I enjoyed most of this book. Some parts were a bit slow going and less relevant to my interests, but as I said before, I enjoyed the Elite story, and I was interested in the Beagle2 one. I didn't even realise that most of it was done in Milton Keynes, though! *blush*
It was interesting reading about Vodafone and the human genome project, but I'm glad the whole book wasn't like that!

Thank you for sharing this with me, and sorry it's taken me so long to pass it on. It will go in the post as soon as possible - probably tomorrow.

Released 12 yrs ago (1/30/2006 UTC) at mailing to a fellow bookcrosser in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases

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Will be put in the post as soon as possible, probably at work tomorrow. I have the stamps already - including one with the Hungry Caterpillar on it! :o)

Journal Entry 14 by sqdancer on Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Arrived safe and sound. Thanks, katie1980, for the cool stamps - much nicer than those metered postage labels. I will give them to my sister, who collects stamps. She will love the caterpillar one with the holes in it!

I have two other rings before this one, but I will get it on its way back home as soon as I can.


Journal Entry 15 by sqdancer on Sunday, May 07, 2006
Thank you so much, UrbanSpaceman, for sharing this book and for being so patient about the amount of time that I had it!

Very interesting and eye-opening. I will admit that the Concorde chapter had me skipping bits, but overall I really enjoyed it.

It got me thinking about the Canadian government's cancellation of the Avro Arrow project in 1959. Ah well, NASA got the benefit of a bumper crop of unemployed aeronautical engineers. As you said, accountants and politicians... Sigh.

Mailed back to UrbanSpaceman today, via Air Mail.


Journal Entry 16 by UrbanSpaceman from Kingston upon Thames, Greater London United Kingdom on Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The Backroom Boys are now back home again safe and sound. Thanks to everyone for playing. Prolonged exposure to books has changed my attitude a bit over the last year, so I think I will probably release this, even though it was a ring. Watch for more journal entries...

Released 12 yrs ago (5/23/2006 UTC) at The Pottery , Park Road in Kingston upon Thames, Greater London United Kingdom

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At the Kingston BookCrossing Meetup. All Welcome! Contact UrbanSpaceman for details.

Journal Entry 18 by Nerra from Teddington, Middlesex United Kingdom on Saturday, May 27, 2006
I liked the look of this book when I saw it at the Kingston meet up. It has worked its way to the top of the pile of books to be read.

Journal Entry 19 by Nerra from Teddington, Middlesex United Kingdom on Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Loved this book. So much interesting information about things I would never have thought about. I don't read that much nonfiction away from work but this was written in such an easy style that i really enjoyed it. highly recommend that other people give it a chance

Released 12 yrs ago (9/26/2006 UTC) at The Pottery , Park Road in Kingston upon Thames, Greater London United Kingdom

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Bringing this to the meet up tonight.

Journal Entry 21 by Betty22 from Wandsworth, Greater London United Kingdom on Saturday, September 30, 2006
This was left over after our Kingston meet up last week, so I took it to release at the Tolworth Organic Fair to be held on October 15th at the Tolworth Recreation Centre.

Journal Entry 22 by Betty22 at Tolworth Recreation Centre in Tolworth, Surrey United Kingdom on Saturday, October 14, 2006

Released 12 yrs ago (10/15/2006 UTC) at Tolworth Recreation Centre in Tolworth, Surrey United Kingdom

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To be taken to the Organic Fair at the Tolworth Recreation Centre TOMORROW. Come and visit our wonderful stall and say hello.

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