'More recently I've begun to have a personal interest in growing older'

January 26, 2007

Alan Newell is one of three Europeans to be made a fellow of the Association for Computer Machinery

Dundee University computer expert Alan Newell has been made a fellow of the New York-based Association for Computer Machinery for his work in developing computing-based systems for older and disabled people.

He is one of three people from Europe among this year's 41 new fellows.

Professor Newell's pioneering work spans four decades: in the early 1970s, while a lecturer at Southampton University, he helped to develop the Palantype system that enabled deaf MP Jack Ashley to take part in parliamentary debates.

He took up the Dundee chair in 1980 and began to build up what is still the largest academic group in the world in the field.

Dundee's work includes computer systems that recognise the rules of conversation, allowing people who were unable to speak to choose appropriate phrases and "converse" more naturally.

Until the 1990s, most research in the discipline focused on systems for younger people with a single disability, such as blindness. But Dundee is now developing systems for older people who may have a range of minor disabilities, such as failing sight and hearing and hand tremors. "More recently I've begun to have a personal interest in growing older,"

Professor Newell said. He "retired" last year, aged 65, but remains prominent in Dundee's Queen Mother Research Centre for Information Technology, which aims to boost older people's quality of life and independence.

The work includes making computers more user-friendly to give elderly people the confidence to use them.

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