Sophie Wilson

2012 Fellow

For her work, with Steve Furber, on the BBC Micro computer and the ARM processor architecture

"Not knowing something is impossible has interesting effects on your work."

— Sophie Wilson

Sophie Wilson was born in Leeds, England, in 1957. She began studying computer science at the University of Cambridge in 1975. In 1977, she developed an automated cow-feeder during her first summer vacation. She next designed the Acorn System 1, an early 8-bit microcomputer for hobbyists, which was produced commercially by the British company Acorn Computers beginning in 1979.

Now working at Acorn, she and colleague Steve Furber took less than a week to design and implement the prototype of what became the BBC Microcomputer. Furber and Wilson refined their design over the same summer, with Wilson designing the operating system and writing the BBC basic interpreter.

The BBC project succeeded beyond its creators' wildest dreams: in the ensuing decade, well over a million BBC Micros were sold and used in thousands of UK schools.

Wilson and Furber then co-designed the 32-bit RISC Machine processor (1985). This was used in the BBC Micro as a second processor (1986); Acorn's first general-purpose home computer based on their own ARM architecture, the Archimedes (1987); and Apple Computer's first personal digital assistant, the Newton (1993).

The ARM processor core is now used in thousands of different products, from mobile phones and tablets to digital televisions and video games. The number of ARM processor cores now shipped exceeds 30 billion, or more than four ARM microprocessors for every person on earth.

Wilson lives near Cambridge, England.


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