TechArchives is a project that collects stories from Ireland – stories about the country’s long and convoluted relationship with information technology.
We record the recollections of pioneers in computing, software development and network services, publish them on this web site and preserve them, plus related digital files, in a secure repository that future generations will be able to consult.
Dive into the interactive timelines on this site to retrace the emergence and evolution of key technologies and industry sectors. Then read personal testimonies by authors whose experiences seldom feature in other public records. And visit the anniversaries section for retrospective accounts of landmark events.
This project is managed as a social enterprise on behalf of Ireland’s information technology community. The growth and development of TechArchives depend on the willingness of individuals to tell their stories and to donate documents, images and files.
All contributions are very welcome. What can you add ?
The first crop of Apple computers in Ireland made its public debut 40 years ago at an exhibition in the Burlington Hotel. These systems were attached to television sets instead of monitors, stored data on audio cassettes instead of disks and did not yet run business applications. Teachers, however, did not mind such limitations and became early adopters of the Apple II.
This is where it all began. A world of punched cards and computers without screens. A profession that was too young to offer career paths. An era when electronic hardware was considered so precious that it was kept running around the clock. Quiet hours were spent processing information on behalf of companies that were not yet ready to invest in their own computers. The first decade of computing in Ireland, furthermore, was dominated by just two technology suppliers. Everyone who wanted to get involved was expected to pledge allegiance to one side or the other.
Office managers introduced them to replace mechanical accounting machines. Factories installed them to control production equipment. Engineers and architects adopted them to calculate the figures for construction projects. The minicomputers of the 1970s penetrated numerous workplaces in Ireland. They also, almost by accident, paved the way for a cluster of small Irish firms to become software exporters in the early 1980s.
Attempts to apply manufacturing models to the software industry in the 1980s had unintended results. Language engineering proved to be a much more critical activity than disk duplication or document printing. By the 1990s Dublin had become the leading source of expertise and new ideas in software localisation. This was a strand of information technology where, for a time at least, Ireland became the centre of the world.
One of the first internet service providers in Europe was also the first ever campus company in Trinity College Dublin. But the internet eruption of the 1990s was not simply the result of academic initiatives. The new medium arrived in Ireland at just the right time for businesses that had been experimenting with information and transaction services based on other networking technologies. Then, just as all these strands were drawing together, the World Wide Web appeared.
Every now and then the software industry discovers that large populations of computer users are looking for something different and that the heavy hitters of the trade are unable to meet their requirements. These are times when newcomers can shoot to prominence with well-timed product releases and small firms are able to land large service contracts. Thus, in the late 1990s, there was widespread concern that the internet posed major security risks. New remedies were needed and the technology developers that rose to the challenge included a cluster in Ireland.