Bryan Down obituary

Other lives: Electronics engineer who spent more than a quarter of a century at Ferranti

My father, Bryan Down, who has died aged 84, was an electronics engineer who spent more than a quarter of a century at Ferranti, the company that invented the first European microprocessor. It also produced some of the first uncommitted logic arrays (ULAs), used in early home computers such as the Sinclair ZX81, Sinclair ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro.

As Ferranti’s sales and marketing director he travelled the world and was a frequent visitor to Silicon Valley in the early days of its computer-related activity. His customers included Alan Sugar and Clive Sinclair.

Born in Westerhope, Newcastle upon Tyne, to Ernie, a deputy manager at the nearby Walbottle colliery, and Alice (nee Thackwray), Bryan had one older brother, Alan, who died of cancer at the age of 45.

After Gosforth grammar school (now Gosforth academy), he did his national service in the RAF. Learning the ropes as a radio operator led him to study electronic engineering at the EMI College of Electronics in London, where he graduated with a City & Guilds qualification.

It was in London that Bryan met Mo Green, then a trainee physiotherapist, whom he married in 1963. That year he started work with Ferranti and they moved to Stockport, Greater Manchester, remaining there for the rest of their lives.

Later Bryan had a brief period with Texas Instruments, but he returned to Ferranti and stayed there until his retirement in the early 1990s, after which he pursued a short career in management consultancy. In 1985 he was awarded the Prince Philip medal, which honours those who have made the most of their talents and have seen significant success since completing their City & Guilds qualification.

Alongside his early working life, Bryan sang with the Four Folk – a group known for hosting great nights at the Two Brewers pub in Salford. Their guests included Labi Siffre and Ewan MacColl. In their seven-year history the Four Folk recorded one LP – Hard Cases (1966) – and appeared on regional and national TV. They were also performers on BBC radio programmes such as Folk on 2 and The Good Old Days.

Gentle and funny, Bryan was a popular man who enjoyed an active retirement. He was a member of Romiley Operatic Society and was also a keen metal detectorist, drummer, tennis player and skier. He was a great supporter of Stockport County FC and in his 80s joined the Woodlarks choir, which sang at his funeral.

He is survived by Mo, his children, Rick, Rach and me, and his grandsons, Dan, Luke, Max and Charlie.

• This article was amended on 2 July 2021 to correct the family name of Bryan Down’s mother, Alice, to Thackwray. It was earlier given as Thackeray.

Libby Howard

The GuardianTramp

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