Judy Bailey, a former Fellow of Darwin College who was known to thousands of computer users and others in the University of Cambridge in the 1970s and 1980s, has died aged 73.

She was a woman of many parts and of trenchant views who was instrumental with her colleagues in providing Cambridge with some of the best computing facilities in the academic world.

Judy was born on 20 May 1934 and grew up in Woking, Surrey. She went from Wimbledon High School for Girls to St Hugh’s College, Oxford as an Exhibitioner. She graduated in 1956 in Mathematics and Physics and a Diploma in Education. She then taught Mathematics and Physics at Northampton Girls’ School.

The embryonic subject of Computing took her interest and, in 1960, she left teaching to go to Cambridge to take the Diploma in Numerical Analysis and Automatic Computing, which she was awarded in 1961.

The Diploma had been established in Cambridge in 1953 and was the first of the so-called one-year conversion courses, designed to convert undergraduates and postgraduates alike to this infant discipline of computation techniques and programming. Judy was one of the many who put aside the more traditional disciplines to enter this new subject in times of intense pioneering.

In 1962 she enrolled as a Research Student in computational methods in Agricultural Statistics, but after one year she found she was more cut out to become a programmer supporting research rather than be a research student herself. So like many before and after, she joined a Cambridge research group employing computational techniques to support research. In her case it was Radio Astronomy, in those days under the pioneer Professor Sir Martin Ryle.

Judy left Radio Astronomy in 1968 to be appointed a Technical Officer in the Mathematical Laboratory, her job being to assist the late Eric Mutch, the Superintendent of Computing Services, in the administration of computing facilities then provided by the Laboratory to the whole University. Not long after, Eric Mutch suddenly died, and she found herself promoted into his post, reporting directly to the Director of the Laboratory, Sir Maurice Wilkes.

The Mathematical Laboratory was reorganised in 1970, and the University Computing Service was established as a formal entity with its own Director, Dr David Hartley. Judy’s first reaction was to offer to resign, stating that there would now be nothing for her to do. She was persuaded not to resign, and thus began a singular career for her in the administration of university computing. She became Deputy Director and remained in that position until she retired in 1988.

In the 1970s university computing in support of research and teaching was dominated by a single large mainframe computer shared between users from professors to undergraduates and with many research students in between, and in all disciplines. The number of users was around 1,000 in 1970 and grew to over 8,000 by the early 1980s.

The task of sharing the resources of a single computer amongst so many users in a fair and effective way required some clever administrative mechanisms which were developed by computing service programmers. Nevertheless, someone had to allocate the resources, and this fell to Judy, a task that she undertook more or less on her own.

Judy had the extraordinary ability to know and understand the work of every single user, and to make wise decisions on allocating resources whenever the demand arose. For almost 20 years, a mainframe service was shared amongst the whole University without the need for a resource allocation committee, and without a single complaint from any user who felt that they were unfairly treated.

During this time she simply knew everybody in the University using the central computing service and understood their needs. For all the advanced technology employed by the Computing Service in those years, Judy was the one person to interface that technology with almost half the Cambridge University population of academics, staff and students. At the same time, she would deal briskly with the early manifestations of the hacker culture, and with those she thought were pushing their luck too far.

With the advent of the personal computer and networking in the 1980s, the age of the mainframe began to wane, and Judy decided that it was too late for her to acquire new skills in that area. She took retirement in 1988 and turned to what was always arguably her first love in life - music.

She was a knowledgeable and enthusiastic listener to music, and there was never any room for doubt about her likes and dislikes. On retirement, she first studied for an A-level in music and went on take a degree at Anglia Ruskin University. She was an accomplished pianist, organist, oboist, flautist, cellist and recorder player and was active in the Cambridge University Musical Society.

It is in these activities that she will be missed and remembered by her many friends in the Cambridge community, and as a kind sister and aunt by her family. But, for those thousands of Cambridge computer users in the 1970s and 1980s, she will be remembered as the one person who, while providing a human interface to what was then seen as a hostile technology, was their knowledgeable friend and supporter.

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