John joined the OU as a lecturer in Systems in 1972. Amongst many significant achievements in the 1980s he was a key member of the team that introduced the use of personal computers into the University's teaching and learning system. In the 1990s, John was lead academic creating the University's first major online course (You, your computer and the Net) which marked the beginning of the University's rise as a major provider of online education. In 2001 he set up the University's Relevant Knowledge programme—a suite of short online courses on topical technological issues and was Director of the programme until 2009. John retired from the OU (where he was Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology) on September 31, 2011. On October 1, 2011 John became Vice-President of Wolfson College, Cambridge, a post held for four years, until his term came to an end in September 2015. In 2012, with the historian Richard Evans and the political theorist David Runciman John was Co-Principle Investigator on a large 5-year Leverhulme-funded research project on ‘Conspiracy and Democracy’ in CRASSH (the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) in Cambridge, where he is a Senior Research Fellow.
John recalls “In 2013-2015 David Runciman and I ran a small project on Technology and Democracy which in 2020 led to the establishment of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy in CRASSH of which I was a founder and am Chair of its advisory board. Other stuff: I have been Director of the Wolfson Press Fellowship Programme since 1996 and an Observer columnist since 1987. I am now the paper’s Technology columnist writing a weekly column and occasional OpEds and editorials.” John is author of three books: A Brief History of the Future: the origins of the Internet 1999); From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know About the Internet (2012); and 100 Not Out: A Lockdown Diary (2020)”