Showing Him The Door

When Cambridge finally demolished their pioneering Computer Technology Lab, to make room for a new one, a heritage site where one of the world’s first electronic computers was designed and built was literally and unceremoniously dumped on the scrap heap. One of the researchers rescued a door from the heap, painted in an old green enamel, because it was the only green door in the old lab, and had therefore once been attached to the office of Sir Maurice Wilkes, Cambridge’s legendary pioneer of computing.

As told by David Hartley to the San Jose Computer History Museum in a May 11, 2011 interview, when Sir Maurice finally retired, they hauled the rescued green door out of the basement, affixed a brass plaque to it, and presented it to Wilkes as part of his retirement ceremony. But he wasn’t allowed to take the door home. So then, what did they do with it?

Hartley said, from that day on, whenever a distinguished colleague and pioneer would retire, “we would put another brass plaque on the green door, give him a nice speech, and show him the door.”

— for more information about Sir Maurice Wilkes and the interview with Hartley, see

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