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‘We liberate people’: The former prison teacher who started making smart home tech for disabled people

When John Shermer quit his job his wife was appalled. But, he tells Andy Martin, he’s proud of building an ‘unknown little British tech company’ that can take on the likes of giants like Apple

Sunday 01 September 2019 16:06
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Shermer was inspired by a meeting with Stephen Hawking in the Nineties
Shermer was inspired by a meeting with Stephen Hawking in the Nineties

John Shermer, the founder of Lightwave, had some of his best ideas in borstal. He was teaching delinquent teenagers in Birmingham back in the 1980s. “I used to think software was some kind of lingerie,” he says.

Then he discovered the Acorn BBC Micro. “There was this kid, aged 16, put away for a double murder. He couldn’t read or write. He’d pick a fight rather than answer a question. But if you put him in front of a computer, his behaviour changed – for the better.”

If he got it wrong, he could start again. “He could fail without humiliation,” says Shermer when we meet up in London. The computer had infinite patience and it wasn’t judgemental.

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