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Beyond Nose Dot PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Sunday, 09 February 2014 19:56

Chris Dann 1965-2014Readers who have followed the story so far will be saddened to hear that our hero of nose-dot-enabled computing passed away in January just 10 days short of his 49th birthday – and those who have no idea why an obituary appears here in a journal devoted to innovation can read the back-story at ‘Where would we be without nose dots’.

For a former sub-mariner specializing in electronics and then an airline pilot, accustomed to being attentively in control, the cycle accident 10 years ago was more than life changing for Chris Dann.  His spinal cord injury impacted not only on his family, friends and a small army of health professionals.   Machines maintained his breathing. Yet more machines assisted lifting and mobility but he remained able to see, to hear, to speak, to taste, to move his head a little and to think.  Within the constraints of his incapacities he thought through how to redefine a life - its purpose and practice.

CJD AvatarHe relished the anonymity of his website for whingers – enabling others to moan and groan as a substitute for temptations to sink into home grown grumbling.   Visitors to his website gallery of space exploration, or tutors on his Open University courses in Astro-Biology, may not have been aware of his disabilities, although his Facebook friends had more than a clue from his avatar– a wish to add jet propulsion to his wheel-chair!

In recent times Chris explored advances in voice dictation software to reduce the labour of nose-dot-enabled cursor movements and on-screen keyboards.   He became expert in head-butting and chin-nudging touch-sensitive switches.  Designers of breath-sensitive system controls became aware of the challenges of puff-suck asymmetry.  He was heartened to learn of recent advances in tongue-enabled controls.  He did not, alas, survive long enough to see the breakthroughs he envisaged in nerve-fibre repair and replacement but remained optimistic that research was heading in the right direction.  Chris did, however, with great support from his wife Tania, live to see his children through school and well on their way to becoming great contributors – and not short of inspiration for their own battles.

No one can say that any of this was easy. It was not easy for Chris or for any of those who loved and cared for him.  His determination and a wicked sense of humour was a challenge for those unprepared to give as good as they got but in the final reckoning all would reverse the good and evil in Mark Anthony’s observation.

In the remote Norbotten region of Sweden (close to the arctic circle) the locals can often marvel at dazzlingly displays of the Northern Lights.  With his enthusiasm for atmospherics and outer space Chris would have loved to see those displays but equally he would have approved of the Norbotten resourcefulness needed to live in relatively inhospitable places.  The innovative use of their public sector network to enable essential broadband access for remote communities (more remote even than in his corner of digitally-deprived rural Nairnshire) provides a fitting epitaph for Chris’s quest for innovation.  “Idéer som överbrygger avstånd föds där de behöves som mest.”  Ideas are born where they are needed most.


Research into spinal cord injuries continues to provide challenges for innovators.  The research requires generosity and support but also the insight that comes from those with direct experience of intensive caring.  Further information:  International Spinal Research Trust

 Update 2nd February 2015:  The science of brain-machine communications contunues to deliver amazing results.  In this TED talk the achievements of both command and feedback signals are demonstrated.  Chris would have been impressed.




Last Updated on Monday, 02 February 2015 10:45

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