Irish computing pioneers celebrated

21 Sep 2007

It has been 50 years since the first computer installation in Ireland and to mark the event an award ceremony was held last night by the Irish Computer Society in which the individuals who ushered in our electronic age were celebrated.

One of the five awards were given to Ireland’s first software professional, Gordon Clarke, who began his career in 1958 when he was hired as a trainee by the British Tabulating Machine Company (BTMC) when it had just sent Irish Sugar the country’s first computer.

Until his retirement in 1998 Clarke worked as senior technologist for BTMA as it became ICT, then ICL, and went on to develop Cara from his work in Aer Lingus followed by his IT work for New Ireland assurance company.

Another awardee was former DIT engineering graduate Joe Cunningham who co-founded Aldiscon, a software service company that helped globally commercialise the newly emerging technical standard for the SMS (Short Message Service) or text message by convincing mobile operators to adopt it as a service.

UCC graduate Shemas Eivers was awarded for his contribution to software development in Cork when he led a campaign to establish the National Software Centre in Cork, along with founding tech companies SMC and Client Solutions.

After working as a civil servant for 15 years, award-winner Ronan Rooney began working for Apple in 1998 before going on to form Curam Software, now one of the largest software firms in Europe.

The fifth recipient and overall winner was John Byrne, who brought computing into university education by installing Ireland’s first third-level computer in Trinity College Dublin.

Byrne, as a professor and emeritus fellow at Trinity was recognised for influencing the development of the computing profession in Ireland.

Jim Friars, CEO of the Irish Computer Society, said of the five award recipients: “[They] have been instrumental in establishing and reinforcing Ireland’s status as a major world player in the IT industry.”

By Marie Boran