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Department of Computer Science and Technology

We're saddened by the death of Jack Lang, an enthusiastic supporter of the next generation of computer scientists and company founders who had a long association with this Department. Jack died on 23rd April, aged 76.

He graduated with a Diploma in Computer Science in 1969 from the University of Cambridge after completing a degree in Mechanical Sciences also here at Cambridge (1965-1968).

In 1980, he founded this Department's Supporters' Club to strengthen links with industry. He became an Affiliated Lecturer in the Computer Laboratory (as this Department was then known) and the Cambridge Judge Business School, teaching courses in business studies and entrepreneurship.

Alongside his teaching he joined Emmanuel College as Director of Studies in Computer Science and Management Studies, becoming a Bye-Fellow in 2003. 

He was a serial-entrepreneur and business angel, starting numerous companies and supporting many more as a member of the Cambridge Angels.

His first company, TopExpress, founded with Professor Shôn Ffowcs Williams, was responsible for designing software for the BBC Micro. He authored 'The High Tech Entrepreneur's Handbook', which provided a practical guide to starting a company.

In 2008, Jack was one of the co-founders of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, alongside other members of the Department, and acted as the Foundation’s Chair. The project's original goals were modest: to build and distribute low-cost computers for prospective applicants to our Computer Science degree. Initially the project was a "success disaster", as Jack would say, as demand far outstripped the low-scale manufacturing plans.

Ultimately the Raspberry Pi became the UK's most successful computer with more than 60 million sold to date. Jack was drawn to the educational possibilities of the Raspberry Pi, its potential uses in emerging economies and the way it could support self-directed learning. Jack also made contributions to the Computing at School project and its work on curriculum development.  

Alongside Jack's achievements and ventures, he will perhaps be best remembered as a champion of the leadership role that Computer Scientists can play in society.

He'll also be fondly remembered by friends and colleagues, especially as autumn comes for those who remember helping him pick apples in his orchard, being treated to freshly baked pizzas, and then being treated to a fireworks show. And yes, he built his own pizza ovens and made his own fireworks displays – he was a Category 4 firework professional and architected the annual Cambridge Firework display for many years.

We'll remember Jack every time we pass Midsummer Common in the centre of Cambridge, not just for the fireworks but because he also started the fine dining restaurant Midsummer House, commenting at the time that "there are no good restaurants in Cambridge".

He lived a life where he pursued his passions and took action where he saw the need. By doing so not only improved the world around him and inspired others to do the same.

By Stewart McTavish and Robert Mullins  

Published by auto on Tuesday 7th May 2024