Testimonies

The designers of the first wave of microcomputers did not have the technical competence of the average citizen in mind. They assumed that users would not only possess programming skills, but would also be willing and able to configure their hardware. Communities of like-minded engineers, clustered in a few corners of the United States, designed and experimented with such machines in the mid 1970s. There were no equivalent groups in Ireland.

Over the following decade, however, the products evolved from assemble-it-yourself kits through program-it-yourself computer hardware to ready-to-run systems. Libraries of shrink-wrapped software packages followed. Along the way the devices became known as personal computers. Their impact on global culture and society in the 1980s was more profound than any of the computers that preceded them.

The PC also spurred the development of a new category of technology supplier. This archive recalls the formative years of a unique generation of Irish computer resellers.

PC Dealers – Educators, Enthusiasts and Entrepreneurs

Interactive timeline unavailable. This is the text only version.

May 1978 Computex 1978 The three-day Computex 1978 exhibition in the Fitzwilliam suite of the Burlington Hotel offered an early glimpse of microprocessor-based single-user computers. These systems were just starting to become available and were much less expensive than the minicomputers that dominated the Irish computer trade.

Computex showcased microcomputers from Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Rome-based Insel (later renamed Mael Computers).

May 1978 Budget Computing The Computex exhibition in Dublin marked the first public appearance in Ireland of Apple Computer’s systems. Budget Computing, which the vendor had accredited as its Irish partner in late 1977, demonstrated the original Apple II at the show.

Trinity College Dublin lecturer Lewis Leith and Brendan Jordan, who worked at Dunsink Observatory, had set up Budget Computing in 1976, initially importing and assembling computers from Southwest Technical Products Corporation.

As with the Southwest machines, almost all of the early Apple IIs in Ireland were sold to schools.

Read ‘I gave a lot of demonstrations where I switched off that computer after 45 minutes

1978 MSCS Medical & Scientific Computer Services (MSCS) in Lisburn, which had previously developed and sold technologies for hospital laboratories, diversified into microcomputer sales. The first machine that it offered was the Commodore PET running Microsoft BASIC.

MSCS soon replaced the PET with the Computer Automation Alpha and then with the ITT 2020 – a clone of the Apple II. This Apple-licensed system’s colour video signal conformed with the European PAL standard for television sets.

By the early 1980s the focus of MSCS’s activities had shifted from technical computing services to supplying desktop computers with business software.

February 1979 Softech Budget Computing co-founder Lewis Leith set up a new venture, Softech, which took over representation of Apple in Ireland.

Softech, mainly staffed by Trinity graduates, opened an office in Camden Street, Dublin.

1979 Commodore International Software Development Services, an established implementer of IBM’s mid-range systems, became the Irish distributor for Commodore International’s products.

This partnership began with the low-cost Personal Electronic Transaction computer, commonly known as the Commodore PET.

July 1979 CDS Computing CDS Computing offered a variety of hardware from premises in central Cork and later tried its hand at product distribution.
August 1979 Lendac Data Systems Don Lehane, who previously worked at Cara Data Processing, and Danny McNally established Lendac Data Systems. In its early years the company supplied Cromemco and Atari computers from premises at the IDA Enterprise Centre in Pearse Street, Dublin.

Lendac subsequently sold microcomputers from multiple manufacturers  and, when it added a store on Dawson Street, it became one of the first computer sellers in Ireland with a retail shopfront.

October 1979 Tomorrows World Maurice Cohen and Neville Kutner established Dublin-based Tomorrows World, initially specialising in hobbyist electronics at premises in Grafton Street. It relocated to Dundrum after it began selling computers to businesses.

When IBM launched its PC in January 1983, Tomorrows World became one of the first three IBM dealers in Ireland.

October 1979 American Microcomputers Despite its name, American Computers was a Dublin-based and Irish-owned operation that assembled its own hardware at premises in Pearse Street.

Its Easyuse microcomputer ran under CP/M and was later joined by the AM200 series which had a proprietary multi-user operating system.

1980 Sharptext Pat Garvey and Eddie Kerr founded Sharptext, which grew to become one of the twenty largest computer distributors in Europe by the early 1990s.

When it started trading, however, Sharptext was a reseller of computers and photocopiers. The company derived its name from its major supplier: Sharp Corporation in Japan.

February 1980 Taggart Whelan Taggart Whelan & Associates offered consultancy and bureau services before switching its focus to microcomputer sales in 1982.

The Dublin-based firm sold ACT and Apricot systems with software packages for professional practices.

1980 CK Business Electronics Founded by Gerry Gray and based in Galway, CK Business Electronics became a reseller for Digital Equipment PCs, among others.
May 1980 Tandy American microcomputer maker Tandy Radio Shack registered an Irish subsidiary in Dublin.

It sold its TRS-80 home computers through a small set of resellers. The commercial success and public awareness that Tandy achieved in the US were never replicated in Ireland.

May 1980 Work Stations Dublin-based Work Stations started trading in 1980 and shifted its focus to PC sales and training when the personal computer trade took off.

Read Ed Horgan’s testimony

June 1980 Manufacturing Management Systems Primarily a software package developer, Dublin-based Manufacturing Management Systems (MMS) also sold microcomputers in order to pay its way.

It offered the Rair Black Box, an Intel 8085-based system made in Britain and later taken over by ICL which revamped it as the Model 10 PC. MMS partnered with ICL in later years and also became an Altos reseller.

Frank Cole, who established the company, had previously sold Hewlett-Packard computers in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia as well as in Ireland.

August 1980 Orbis Micro Computers Clondalkin-based Orbis Micro Computers (Ireland) distributed Applied Computer Techniques (ACT) products.

In the early 1980s its offerings included the US-made Victor 9000, which was rebadged as the ACT Sirius 1 in Europe, and the ACT 8000, which it offered with bundled software as a ‘business micro computer’.

September 1980 QTH Electronics QTH Electronics, one of the earliest high street computer retailers, opened its first store in Dun Laoghaire. In later years it became an Apple specialist and moved to a prominent location in Dawson Street, Dublin.
November 1980 Reitig Consultants Reitig Consultants started life as a consulting business in Donegal Town and later supplied PCs to customers in the northwest under the trading name ‘Computers Unlimited’.
1980 Softech Distributors Softech, prompted by Apple, set up a separate wholesale business in Deansgrange, distributing computers to other retailers while its city centre branch continued to sell Apple products directly to users.

Softech Distributors signed up dealers throughout the country, often in towns where computer resellers had never operated before.

November 1980 Portable Microsystems Portable Microsystems was a distribution firm for Osborne Computer Corporation with an office in Dame Street, Dublin.

The venture was short-lived, but was nonetheless notable for raising awareness at an early date that computers would not always be deskbound. In the early 1980s some personal systems could already be carried around.

December 1980 Pascal Computer Systems It started as a developer of accounting and payroll software for microcomputers but, by the mid-1980s, Pascal Computer Systems was also selling Digital, Commodore and Apple hardware from its base in Foxrock.
December 1980 Sord Japanese computer vendor Sord opened its first international subsidiary, Orange Computer Products, in Clonshaugh Industrial Estate. The company selected the Orange name to signify that it intended to challenge Apple Computer in Europe.

The Clonshaugh base was primarily a repackaging and distribution operation. Sord signalled its intention to add system assembly at a later date, but never implemented this plan. It did, however, establish a network of dealers in Ireland.

January 1981 Binary Computer Binary Computer aspired to be a microcomputer manufacturer. Its plans centred on a system design that it obtained through a partnership with Dublin-based Memory Computer.

The company made an agreement with Udaras na Gaeltachta to assemble systems in Tralee and was reported in late 1981 to have commenced the training of staff there.

February 1981 Access Computer Systems Access Computer Systems ran premises in Parnell Street, Dublin and traded for less than three years.

It was nonetheless significant for introducing the Durango F-85 computer to Ireland. California-based Durango Systems had released this system in 1978, when it was one of the first personal computers to run CP/M as well as an operating system of its own.

March 1981 Mitec Computer Centre Mitec Computer Centre, an authorised dealer for Tandy Corporation, ran two branches in Dublin and one in Cork. It subsequently added premises in Waterford, Belfast and Galway.
March 1981 Declan Europe Originally registered in Dublin by former HP manager Rod McGahon, this company opened in Barna, Connemara and later moved into Galway city, where it traded as Declan Computers.

The company not only sold Commodore microcomputers in the west of Ireland, but also acted as a regional supplier of Memorex Corporation’s peripherals and media.

Read Tom Callanan’s testimony

April 1981 Micro Marketing Primarily a distributor of Intel components, Glenageary-based Micro Marketing also sold complete systems built by Intel.
1981 DDP Computing Created through a management buyout at the Unilever bureau service, DDP Computing supplied Televideo microcomputers. Later on it became a reseller of ICL PCs.
1981 ICL The first ICL Personal Computer was sourced from Rair and started production in 1981. It was built on the Intel 8085 and, like most of its contemporaries, used the CP/M operating system.
1981 Business Automation Business Automation (later known as BA Systems) was the computer sales arm of the Matrix Group – a Dublin-based organisation that originated in a recruitment agency for computing staff. Group founder Joe Rooney had previously worked for IBM.

Launched in 1981 and led by Barry Rhodes, BA initially offered the Intertec Superbrain, then added Digital’s Rainbow, the IBM PC and other products.

Read Declan Ganter’s testimony

September 1981 Sord Computer Sales Sord set up a retail organisation for Ireland, Sord Computer Sales, at its Orange Computer Products subsidiary in Clonshaugh.
September 1981 Crowley Computers Founded by Paul Crowley, this Dublin company sold Commodore products, frequently promoting them as supplementary equipment for installations with much larger computers.
September 1981 Transtec Technology Noel May established Transtec with ambitions to build and export its own microcomputers. The company set up a base at the IDA Enterprise Centre in Pearse Street, Dublin, where it assembled systems until its demise in 1986.

Transtec’s products included the Hydra range of multi-user microcomputers and its Transnet local area network.

September 1981 Glanmire Electronics Joe Byrne was a project engineer at the Apple facility in Cork before he established Glanmire Electronics in nearby Watergrasshill.

His company not only developed add-on memory products for Apple systems. As an Apple dealer, it also opened sales offices in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.

October 1981 Microdigital Business Services Microdigital Business Services offered consulting services and supplied systems from a base in Shankill, Co Dublin.
October 1981 Amabar Business Systems Three Cork-based employees left office equipment supplier Bryan S Ryan to set up Amabar Business Systems. The new firm opened premises on Georges Quay and started to sell Sord computers.
December 1981 Schools package Minister for education John Boland announced a schools computer supply agreement in the Dáil. The government had concluded a £200,000 bulk purchase involving Apple II computers.

It offered a standard package to 105 second level schools. This comprised a 48K system, a 16K language card, two disk drives, a 12 inch monitor and a Centronics printer, plus software and documentation.

This decision was strongly influenced by the government’s desire to choose hardware that was assembled in Ireland.

December 1981 Business Management Systems Dublin-based Business Management Systems partnered with multiple hardware vendors, but soon became identified with Toshiba computers.
January 1982 Datapac The Enniscorthy-based Donohoe Group, which was best known for bottling and distributing drinks, launched its own computer sales business, Datapac. Donohoe’s data processsing manager, David Laird, took the helm.

The Donohoe Group used IBM mid-range computers to manage its operations and set up Datapac in the knowledge that IBM had entered the PC trade in the US. It duly became one of the first accredited resellers of the IBM PC in January 1983.

Thereafter it added North Star and Compaq systems to its portfolio.

March 1982 Electronic World Electronic World, which ran a store in Parnell Street, Limerick, was an early retailer of home computers.
March 1982 Olivetti Olivetti, along with its long-established partner in Ireland Bryan S Ryan, entered the personal computer trade with the launch of the M20. Memory Ireland subsequently became a distributor for its PCs.

Designed at the Italian firm’s own research centre in Silicon Valley, the Olivetti M20 was based upon the seldom-seen Zilog Z8000 microprocessor and used a proprietary operating system.

1982 MKM Management Controls MKM Management Controls sold specialist word processing systems before it added general purpose PCs to its offerings.

This firm, based in Parnell Street, Dublin, began to supply Xerox microcomputers in 1982.

1982 Benchmark Engineering applications specialist Benchmark ran offices in Dublin and in Holywood, Co Down. The company supplied ITT and ICL PCs in the mid-1980s before opting to focus on technical workstations.
1982 COPS Computer COPS de