In 1969, the team that developed the ATM at IBM Hursley (UK) used parts from that project to build an IBM School Computer, as a community outreach project, and it toured the region. When it came to James Davenport’s school, he (at age 16) discovered that, although it was ostensibly a six-digit computer, the microcode had access to a 12-digit internal register to do multiply/divide. He therefore used this to implement Draim's algorithm from his father's book, The Higher Arithmetic, and was testing eight-digit numbers for primality until the teacher’s patience wore out.

This is typical of Davenport’s lifelong interests: pushing computers to their limits to do mathematical computations. He worked in a government laboratory for nine months, again writing and using multiword arithmetic, but also using his knowledge of number theory to solve a problem in hashing, which earned him his first published paper at 18. He went to Cambridge University (Bachelor’s in 1974, Master’s in 1978, and PhD in 1980), to IBM Yorktown Heights for a year, back to Cambridge as a Research Fellow, to Grenoble for a year, which significantly improved his French, as well as his cooking, before going to the relatively new University of Bath “for a couple of years" in 1983. He is still there, though he has also spent time researching and teaching in many other countries. In 1986 in France, he finished his textbook Calcul Formel with Grenoble colleagues, which his mother translated into English as Computer Algebra.

Computer algebra remains his main research interest: as he says, “You don't really understand a subject until you can program a computer do to it, and that goes for mathematics at least as much as anything else.” He is finishing a new textbook on the subject, and has also edited four volumes of conference proceedings on the subject, as well as writing over 100 refereed papers. He has also produced four new editions of The Higher Arithmetic. He is active in the UK's professional world as a vice-president of the British Computer Society, the representative of the Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications on the London Mathematical Society’s Computer Science Committee, and a member of the Outer Circle of the National Advisory Committee on [School] Mathematics Education. In 2014, he was one of only two computer scientists chosen among the 55 national teaching fellows (and Tom Crick, the other one, had studied at Bath). Internationally, he is on the Committee for Electronic Information and Communication of the International Mathematical Union, and just moderated the panel on mathematical MOOCs at the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians.

Is he a mathematician or a computer scientist? “Yes, and if that were a conjunction rather than a disjunction, I would still say yes. What attracted me to Bath was that mathematics and computer science were one department, and when colleagues felt that growth made a split necessary, I was made a member of both departments.”

What attracts him most to Computing Reviews is the ability to read books and papers he would not otherwise read. “We examine PhD students, not just on their thesis, but also on the broader area. How do we professors keep up ourselves? Reviewing for Computing Reviews is my way.”

Computer security and the Internet van Oorschot P., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2020. 387 pp. Type: Book (978-3-030336-48-6), Reviews: (2 of 2) Paul C. van Oorschot is a master who has made many diverse contributions to computer system security (very much including systems connected by the Internet), from applied cryptography to system usability. This range is a strength of the book: whil...

Jan 6 2021

AndroZoo: collecting millions of Android apps for the research community Allix K., Bissyandé T., Klein J., Le Traon Y. MSR 2016 (Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Mining Software Repositories, Austin, Texas, May 14-22, 2016) 468-471, 2016. Type: Proceedings This is basically a data collection paper. How did the authors collect more than three million free Android apps (more than 20 terabytes)? The answer: it’s somewhat more delicate than one might have thought. In particular, one should avoid t...

Aug 5 2020

A survey on artifacts from CoNEXT, ICN, IMC, and SIGCOMM conferences in 2017 Flittner M., Mahfoudi M., Saucez D., Wählisch M., Iannone L., Bajpai V., Afanasyev A. ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review 48(1): 75-80, 2018. Type: Article This paper does precisely what the title says. It is an attempt to survey the current state of reproducibility in computer networking research. This is one of the more challenging areas of computing for reproducibility, in that more specific hardw...

Nov 18 2019

Analysis for computer scientists: foundations, methods, and algorithms (2nd ed.) Oberguggenberger M., Ostermann A., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2018. 392 pp. Type: Book (978-3-319911-54-0) In the title, “analysis” means “mathematical analysis” in the sense of Cauchy and Weierstrass, for example, ε-δ analysis. Chapters 1 through 4 are basically calculus (including trigonometry and complex numbers) an...

Oct 14 2019

Millions, billions, zillions: defending yourself in a world of too many numbers Kernighan B., PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS, Princeton, NJ, 2018. 176 pp. Type: Book (978-0-691182-77-3) This book is simultaneously entertaining, instructive (one might say educational), and worrying. After an (important) opening chapter, the author analyzes a statement from Newsweek that the US should tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve...

Jun 4 2019

An autotuning protocol to rapidly build autotuners Liu J., Tan G., Luo Y., Li J., Mo Z., Sun N. ACM Transactions on Parallel Computing 5(2): 1-25, 2018. Type: Article While autotuning has become a valuable tool for the high-performance computing (HPC) community to achieve “performance portability,” that is, the program runs on the new architecture correctly and with the expected performance, it is n...

Mar 7 2019

OWL reasoning: subsumption test hardness and modularity Matentzoglu N., Parsia B., Sattler U. Journal of Automated Reasoning 60(4): 385-419, 2018. Type: Article This paper is aimed at web ontology language (OWL) authors and tool developers. These people know that SROIQ(D), the logic that underpins OWL, has a high worst-case complexity (N2Exptime), and that this shows up in some practica...

Oct 16 2018

What can (and can’t) we do with sparse polynomials? Roche D. ISSAC 2018 (Proceedings of the 2018 ACM International Symposium on Symbolic and Algebraic Computation, New York, NY, Jul 16-19, 2018) 25-30, 2018. Type: Proceedings This is the paper version of Roche’s ISSAC 2018 tutorial, which serves as an update to my work [1]. It is an excellent tutorial, written in a clear and accessible style. ISSAC is to be commended for these tutorials, and I wish more were publ...

Oct 10 2018

Improved analysis of complete-linkage clustering Growendt A., Röglin H. Algorithmica 78(4): 1131-1150, 2017. Type: Article The authors consider the problem of clustering n points in ℝ^{d} into k clusters, where the metric on ℝ^{d} has yet to be specified. They consi...

Jul 31 2018

Maximizing polynomials subject to assignment constraints Makarychev K., Sviridenko M. ACM Transactions on Algorithms 13(4): 1-15, 2017. Type: Article This paper considers “the q-adic assignment problem.” Fix a number q (originally q=2), and suppose we are given, for some number n, a 2q-dim...