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What is in your pocket? A whole raft of stuff. A BlackBerry, which I use as my phone. I carry a laptop - an IBM Thinkpad - an iPod, a charger for the iPod and another phone.

First crush? In the first year of university we had these large electronic calculators with gas neon displays. They were huge things. This was in 1972 and was a really big deal. Then in 1973 I started at an engineering school - I did one year of science and then went to engineering school - and that year the advent of the modern scientific calculator came. It was probably the next piece of equipment that I thought was really cool. I still have it today, I use it in my workshop for calculating cuts of wood. You can’t get batteries for them but I still have the charger and I keep it plugged in. They were astonishingly expensive - I forget what I paid for it - probably $400.

True love? I have an Apple iMac G5 - it’s the coolest piece of technology I have seen for a long time. It has a big 20-inch screen and I am very impressed by it. I just got it at Christmas so it is the latest and greatest thing for me.

Latest squeeze? I am in the middle of putting together a new home theatre system which, when I finish, it might even be cooler than the iMac but I haven’t got all the pieces hooked up. It is turning out to be more long-term than I thought. I bought this old farmhouse and it had a 15-seat theatre in the basement. When we tore it out we discovered, amongst other things, that it had asbestos. When we tore the walls out there were windows behind that. We had to have those bricked up, so one thing led to another, led to another, led to another. It started as a minor renovation but it has turned into a major project.

What makes you mad? I, like most stereotypical males, never read instructions and don’t feel I should have to read them. So when something is not intuitive it makes me quite angry. I like watches and this watch is one of the cooler ones that I have - it is a Citizen Equator. It is absolutely impossible to figure out how to change the time display. The hands are on New York time - I just can’t get them to change. It is so complicated - it has so many functions, so many dials on it that it is impossible, even with the manual.

What was your biggest tech disaster? I have had my share of disasters. I have been in the technology development business for a long time, most of the last 20 years I’ve been building products. I’ve had a bunch of products that were disasters but what is interesting is that, while the individual product might have been a disaster, the insights that came about from the disaster were in fact incredibly important in building the next generation of product.

The predecessor to the [IBM] WebSphere product was a disaster for a variety of reasons, including the fact that we didn’t build a set of development tools to go with it. But because we had done that piece of work, it gave us insight into what was needed next. That made WebSphere a far better thing than it would have been. In the tech industry if you stick with it and you learn from your mistakes, you can often end up in a good place.

If money were no object? Is this a personal question? If so, I would buy an Adam A500 airplane.

PC or Mac? Both.

Linux or Windows? Windows.

Google or not? Google. Always.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

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