Robin Shirley died on Sunday 27 March 2005, peacefully with members of his family at King’s
College Hospital, London. Robin was a Research Fellow in Information Systems at the University of Surrey in Guildford, teaching statistics and scientific method to psychology students. In
November 2004 he went to Egypt to speak at a conference and it seems that he caught Hepatitis A there from infected food or drink. Back in this country the symptoms began to show by the end of the year, and late in January he was taken to hospital. In the end he caught a form of MRSA.
In earlier years at Surrey Robin’s main work was in crystallography and he remained active in this
subject, for example looking after CRYSFIRE, a public software system he wrote which produces
structural information from diffraction data on powders.
Within the Computer Conservation Society (CCS), Robin was chairman of the Working Party on the S100 bus, an early de facto bus standard which had 100 lines.
Throughout his life Robin wrote poetry, often using imagery from space and science fiction.
Around 1968 he wrote his first program for computer-assisted poetry. This brought him into
the early Computer Arts Society and on 4 May 1969 he gave the first CAS public talk, How to write a Computer Poem, helped by fellow poet and performer Spike Hawkins, at the ICA in London. This made his the first name to appear in the first issue of PAGE. The front of PAGE 25 in October 1972 is devoted to his poem DUNE TUNE and his article Poet and Program. At INTERACT in Edinburgh, 1973, Robin performed, as he often did, with Gus Garside and Ranald Macdonald, singing and declaiming poems with instrumental accompaniment. Several of his poems appear in the INTERACT brochure.
Again, when the CAS was re-formed around the end of 2003, Robin was one of the first to join the committee, and contributed greatly to the project, becoming vice-chairman. In March 2004 he spoke at a joint CCS and CAS meeting at the Science Museum, London, with three other members of CACHe and CAS. Computers, Poetry and the Nature of Art, his 1973 paper for INTERACT, is reprinted in PAGE 57 with a 2004 footnote.
He will be greatly missed, and fondly remembered for his insights, his poetry and performances, his forthright manner, his good humour and his enthusiasm.
(Source: Alan Sutcliffe, Page Sixty: Bulletin of the Computer Arts Society, 2005: 8)