Dr Tim Keen

Tim Keen made a huge impression on me when I was in my early 30’s and I have many happy memories that I’d like to share with you dear readers.  My guess is that he was in his late 30’s when I first met him and probably early 40’s when he sadly passed away due to an unexpected heart attack.

Tim was the Managing Director of Keen Computers Ltd which was a major supplier of sophisticated Novell fileservers, configured with (then) large hard disk drives with a full duplex driver software modification well before Novell themselves managed it.

He also designed the first rack mounted units (before Compaq) that had a passive backplane with slots for CPU/memory cards, network cards and disk controllers for the fileservers, separate trays for the disk drives and for application servers/communication gateways.

TimKeen1
For the younger readers out there in the foreground is an IBM PC with what looks like twin 5 1/4″ floppy drives…
TimKeen2
The drive trays had flashing LED’s that showed how much the SCSCI drives were being accessed – neat! 🙂

I believe he came from a very wealthy family and from memory his father was a senior director at a house builder, perhaps George Wimpey.  He was very intelligent too, I can’t remember the exact topic of his thesis but I know he had a PhD.

I also recollect he raced with Tiff Needell of Top Gear and Fifth Gear fame in his youth and that showed with his love of fast cars.  Simon Clayton remembers he had a Jaguar XJS V12 as well as a Morgan Plus 4 sports car.  He crashed the latter when a lady driver pulled out in front of him & I remember Tim eventually arriving by taxi at 56 Southcote Avenue in a rather shocked state, before being picked up by his wife and going home.

He also had a Bentley Turbo Mulsanne parked at his beautiful house but unfortunately I can’t remember where it was located.  He had a private hospitality box at Ascot races and I went in an old charabanc from his house to the races and back as his guest, I seem to remember having quite a lot of champagne!

Sometime in the mid 90’s he told me he was fed up of the pressures of running his own business and that he’d been accepted to become the Head of Computing at Sheffield Hallam University which was trying to engineer closer links to the computer industry.  He subsequently arranged a joint MSc course with Novell I recollect.

We kept in touch and once he was established he offered to sponsor my application to do a part-time PhD in Groupware having known about my frustration at not being able to afford a part-time PhD in High Energy Physics at Birkbeck back in 1981.  This time I was blessed by an employer (Pfizer) that paid all my fees and gave me an extra 2 weeks holiday a year to help with the required research and Tim became my supervisor.

I remember going up to Sheffield on at least two or three occasions, staying at his new “house” at least once.  In reality this was a rented farm in the Peak District shared with his wife and two adolescent children & where Tim also had a herd of woolly, long-horned highland cattle.

I can still remember the shock of hearing about his heart attack, he wasn’t overweight at all and never smoked, I guess it was just one of those terrible things.  In any event I decided I couldn’t continue my doctorate.

Writing this blog so many years later I was very pleased to see two recipients of the Tim Keen Memorial Award at the Sheffield Hallam School of Computing, the last still being awarded in 2013.

Sadly, apart from retrieving a couple of hard copy photos currently packed away ready for our impending move, I have not managed to find out any more details about this most remarkable man.

Tim RIP you’ve not been forgotten.

Dr Tim Keen

12 thoughts on “Dr Tim Keen

  1. Mark Abrahams says:

    I’ve just stumbled across this blog, this is Mark Abrahams, business partner of Tim keen who helped build the servers above all those years ago. Sorry I can’t remember your name (I think it is Peter) but spent many hours at your offices at Pfizer in Staines

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vicky says:

    Hello, what a lovely thing to read. This is Vicky Keen, Tim’s wife. He was incredibly clever and very much before his time in so many ways – I am glad to know that someone else thought so too!

    Like

    1. Mark Abrahams says:

      Hi Vicky, just came over all nostalgic seeing your message. Hope you are your family are well, from memory you had 2 children, I think there names are Lucy and Henry, who are now grown up, I remember two little kids running around, what are they doing?

      Best wishes

      Mark Abrahams

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      1. Vicky says:

        Hello Mark, Great to hear from you – Henry is a software engineer working in London and Lucy is working hard in all sorts of jobs whilst doing an Open University degree. I remember well, the Keen Computer’s crew and the office in the garden! We came to your wedding (I think you wife was called Rena?) I have never eaten so much in my life. Hope all is well with you. Nostalgia is a great feeling. Love Vicky

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      2. Mark Abrahams says:

        Hi Vicky, amazing you can remember my wedding, that was over 27years ago and I now have 2 daughters, aged 22 and 20.

        So many good memories flooding back. By the way I was also up all night building the servers with them lol. It was me who took the photos that Peter has posted.

        If anytime you’re in London and want to catch-up over coffee drop me an email on mark.abrahams@recycleyourcycle.org.uk or text on 07774 442446

        Best wishes

        Mark

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      1. Vicky says:

        Hello Peter, was Tim on his way to you once when he got mown down in his Morgan car by a fortune teller? (As we said, she didn’t see the accident coming!) Also, I think you and Tim once stayed up all night together to reboot the computer at Pfizer – am I right?

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  3. Lucinda Keen says:

    My mother just forwarded this to me – this is Lucy, Tims daughter. It is truely wonderful reading about how he is remembered so fondly. Thank you for sharing some of those memories, it has really brightened my day!
    Lucy.

    Like

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