When Martyn Cooper first establish Technology for Disabled People in the early 1990s it was a one person consultancy. After 8 years of being a BBC engineer, he didn’t want to move upwards to engineering management in the BBC at that time, so he took up an opportunity to leave the BBC, with some compensation for termination of contract, and returned to Reading University to resume his studies towards a B.Sc. in Cybernetics and Control Engineering, with Mathematics. He had left that course in the second year of study in December 1980 because he was successful in gaining a place on the BBC’s excellent engineering training scheme. His time at the BBC was excellent but it was time to move on and test that brain of his back at university. Gaining his bachelor’s degree was unfinished business.
So he went back to his old department (Cybernetics) to do the same course he had begun in 1979. He had to then do his second and third years of the course. It was a great move and he thoroughly enjoyed the course. Cybernetics can be defined in different ways. One definition is that it is the study of systems but it does not matter what sort of system that is, the underlying mathematics is similar. So it could be an engineering system (Martyn Cooper’s focus); or it could be a biological system (such as an ecosystem or a predator / prey relationship); or a financial system (for example the global oil market). What Martyn Cooper considers studying cybernetics gave him was a systems way of thinking which he has subsequently applied to a range of projects on combined technical and human support solutions for disabled people in daily living, work and education.
While Martyn Cooper was back studying it was a time to reflect on what he would do career wise after finishing the course. It was while in conversation with a freind that was deaf, another who had a relative with Cerebral Palsy and a wheelchair user that he realised he had developed quite a background knowledge in what technology could do in their lives. It was then he decided to work in the field of technology for disabled people. He discovered that many organisations that needed technical input in this field could not afford to appoint a full-time engineer. Hence the idea of TDP the consultancy was born. This was Martyn’s full-time employment from 1991-1993. He worked for the Local Education Authority, Social Services and various charities in this time as well as some jobs for individual disabled people.
Out of this work for TDP Martyn spotted an opportunity to exploit emerging Smart House technologies to enable disabled people to live independently in their homes. To cut a long story short this eventually led to Martyn Cooper becoming the project manager on a major EU funded project called HS-ADEPT for his old Cybernetics Department at Reading University. [Thanks is due to Prof. Kevin Warwick in backing his development of this project proposal and appointing him to manage the project.] This was Martyn’s first job in academia and was what he built his subsequent academic career on. As the academic role became more time consuming and with Martyn now having a young family, the amount of time he was able to devote to TDP consultancies reduced until it was set aside when he got a full-time permanent appointment at the Open University in 1998.
So TDP had been on the back-burner since 1998 with only the occasional consultancy been undertaken. The in December 2015 Martyn accepted voluntary redundancy from the Open University. At first he thought to resurrect TDP in much the same form as before but it soon became clear that there were others who wanted to work with Martyn and TDP. This was what stimulated seeking to set up TDP and a social enterprise (legally a CIC in English company law). Hence TDP in its current form was born.