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Tributes follow death of Raspberry Pi co-founder and computing education titan Jack Lang

One of the most significant figures in computing education in the UK, Jack Lang, has died at the age of 76.

A serial entrepreneur and business angel who co-founded Raspberry Pi, Jack has been described as an “integral part of the Cambridge Phenomenon”.

Jack Lang, right
Jack Lang, right

He grew up interested in “computer science and how the brain works” and studied mechanical sciences for his undergraduate degree, matriculating in 1966.

It led to a computer science diploma and a spell as demonstrator in the Computer Laboratory at Cambridge.

He left the university to found the consulting company TopExpress, with Prof Shon Ffowcs-Williams. One of its key projects was designing software for the BBC Micro, one of the key early computers for homes and schools.

He also founded Electronic Share Information Ltd, acquired by E*Trade Inc in 1995, and was a founder of Netchannel Ltd, acquired in 1998 by ntl. He subsequently became ntl’s chief technologist.

Jack’s long association with Emmanuel College included spells as director of studies in computer science and in management studies, and he was appointed a bye-fellow in 2003.

It was in 2012 that he co-founded Raspberry Pi, helping achieve the aim of bringing low-cost computing into the hands of millions of people all over the world.

More than 60 million Pi computers have been sold in the last decade and the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity, was established with the mission to enable young people to realise their full potential through the power of computing and digital technologies.

Eben Upton, co-founder of Raspberry Pi, said: “It’s very sad news for all of us at Raspberry Pi. Jack was an old friend, and had been a central part of the Cambridge tech entrepreneurship scene, having played an instrumental role in the development of the software for the BBC Micro, since long before I arrived in 1996.

“As well as co-founding the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Jack served as a trustee and chairman of the board of the foundation, non-executive director and chairman of the board of Raspberry Pi Ltd, and latterly a founding member of the foundation.

“He made an exceptional and unique contribution to the Raspberry Pi story: those famous photos of the first pallet of Raspberry Pi units was shot in his garage and he was there at every significant event in the early years.

“I am confident that he will go down in history as one of the most significant figures in computing education in the UK.”

Among Jack’s other endeavours was buying and converting the building that is now Midsummer House into a restaurant.

Fellow angel investor Peter Cowley told the Cambridge Independent: “I remember Jack as an occasionally gruff figure, but with a heart of gold. I first met him in the Cambridge Computer Labs in the 70s, and in the last 15 years learnt from his extensive experience as an entrepreneur and angel investor.

“I often used this phrase which, I believe, was one of Jack’s mantras: A start-up must address a ‘Global sustainable under-served (or unmet) market need’.”

Jeremy Sosabowski, executive director of AlgoDynamix, described him on LinkedIn as an “integral part” of the whole Cambridge Phenomenon, while Dr Soraya Jones wrote: “This man was a legend – so helpful and supportive as a board member, during the time I was the CEO of CambridgeWireless.”

Investor Stephen Lile said he was a “personal friend and mentor to me at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and Cambridge Judge Business School”, adding: “You made the world a better place, Jack.”

He was also active in his village community.

Dr Tumi Hawkins, a South Cambridgeshire district councillor, said: “It was sad to hear the news of Jack’s passing. He was a very generous man who contributed so much to the Caldecote community, with his time and resources.

“He was chairman of our parish council for many years, and it was a pleasure to serve with him. And his apple picking-cider making parties were legendary.”

Jack died on Tuesday, 23 April after a long illness.

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