TechArchives is an online home for stories from Ireland – stories about the country’s long and convoluted relationship with information technology. The project gathers the recollections of pioneers in computing, software development and networking, groups them according to theme and stores them for the benefit of future generations.
Dive into the interactive timelines on this site to retrace the emergence and evolution of businesses, products, services and projects. Then read the testimonies – witness statements about movements and events that seldom feature in public records.
The archives on which work is already underway are listed below in chronological order.
New archives will be added as more contributors join the TechArchives community and start to work on other topics. If you want to take part, or if you have any questions about the archives, we would love to hear from you.
The first crop of Apple computers in Ireland made its public debut 40 years ago at an exhibition in the Burlington Hotel. These early systems were attached to television sets instead of monitors, stored data on audio cassettes instead of disks, were subject to performance quirks and could not yet run business applications. The original Apple II was adopted, nonetheless, by teachers who did not mind its limitations.
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.