Localisation Testimonies

In 1983 the three-year-old Apple manufacturing facility in Cork began to assemble supplementary packs for European buyers of the company’s new Apple IIe computer. These contained special ROM components that configured the systems to support different character sets, keyboard layouts and video display formats. The packs enabled the workforce in Cork to ship ready-for-use computers to each country.

Apple’s in-house term for this procedure was ‘localisation’ – a word that later became associated with packaged software rather than electronic hardware.

When this transpired, it was Dublin, not Cork, that took centre-stage. One after another, the biggest software developers in the US selected the city as a base for engineering the international editions of their products. They contracted out translation, testing and logistics work to a growing band of specialist service providers, many of which had Dublin offices. Industry associations, university courses and collaborative research projects followed.

By the 1990s the city was a global hub for software localisation. Dublin was the place where simultaneous shipment milestones were achieved, where emerging translation technologies were trialled, where language engineering standards were defined and where localisation practitioners looked for expertise to address their problems.

After the turn of the century, however, online applications supplanted software packages. Most code was downloaded over the internet instead of shipped in boxes. Software design had evolved to accommodate linguistic and cultural diversity at an early stage of product development. The localisation industry consolidated and contracted. And Dublin’s pre-eminence declined.

Software Localisation – Translators, Technicians and Toolsets

Interactive timeline unavailable. This is the text only version.

March 1982 MicroPro in Dun Laoghaire MicroPro International, the California-based developer of the hugely successful WordStar word processing package, opened a new subsidiary in Dun Laoghaire. The company planned to introduce European and Japanese versions of its products and had obtained IDA support to locate this work in Ireland.

It had hired an initial group of eight programmers in summer 1981 and trained them in the US before the new office opened. One of its American executives, Lyle Cowen, managed MicroPro Ireland in its early stages.

The Dun Laoghaire group proceeded to create a Kanji edition of WordStar for Japan and released versions of its software in nine European languages. It also adapted the products to run on an expanded range of hardware platforms in the era before standard microcomputer architectures.

Read John Nolan’s testimony

1982 Northern Telecom Northern Telecom, which had run a hardware assembly plant in Galway since 1973, established a design and development group there to modify its SL-1 telephone systems to meet European requirements.

This form of localisation was more concerned with national differences in telecommunications standards than with language issues.

January 1983 Apple IIe The manufacturing facility that Apple had opened in Cork in 1980 began to adapt the functionality of its computers to suit customers in different European countries.

Production staff in Cork assembled supplementary packs for the new Apple IIe computer. These used special ROM components that configured the systems into specific versions for individual countries, supporting local character sets, keyboard layouts and video display formats.

Apple’s in-house term for this procedure was ‘localisation’.

March 1983 Irish language PC Japanese personal computer maker Sord demonstrated an Irish language version of its English word processor at the Computex exhibition in Dublin.

The Sord Computers facility in Santry developed this capability at short notice for the show and its work was featured on RTE’s television news. 

In addition to translating the menus in the user interface into Irish, the project involved the output of accented upper case characters – a requirement that Sord had not encountered with other European languages.

Údarás na Gaeltachta subsequently adopted the Irish language software.

Read James Mahon’s testimony

November 1984 Lotus manager Lotus Development, the software industry’s largest supplier of PC applications, appointed David MacDonald as general manager of a new subsidiary in Ireland. He had previously worked for US manufacturers Technicon, Amdahl and Trilogy.

Read David MacDonald’s testimony

February 1985 Softrans International Softrans International was established in Dublin to provide a turnkey localisation service, initially supporting the major European languages.

This company was the first to define its business as ‘localisation’ – a term that founder Brian Kelly encountered when he previously worked in Apple. He had identified the opportunity for a localisation-plus-engineering specialist in late 1984, when the launch of the Macintosh was approaching. Apple was the major customer for Softrans in its early stages.

Its contract services included translation, engineering, testing and, occasionally, manufacturing.

Read Brian Kelly’s testimony

March 1985 Lotus in Santry Lotus Development Ireland started operations at its software packaging facility in Santry. An official opening ceremony followed in June.

The initial brief for the new Lotus subsidiary was confined to disk duplication and packaging for European customers, along with the sourcing of printed materials.

The company’s flagship products were the 1-2-3 spreadsheet-database-graphics package and Symphony, which added word processing and communications to these functions.

September 1985 Microsoft in Sandyford Microsoft announced its first investment in Ireland: a software duplicating and distribution centre in Sandyford. The official opening of this operation followed in 1986.
October 1985 MicroPro shrinks MicroPro, whose WordStar product had been overtaken by other word processing applications, scaled down and revised the mandate of its operation in Dun Laoghaire. Employment there had fallen over the previous year from 28 people to five.

The headcount rose again in 1986 and further localisation and product development work took place in Dun Laoghaire. But packaging and distribution became the primary focus for the Irish subsidiary.

February 1986 Lotus meets Softrans Lotus Development held an exploratory meeting with Softrans International and discussed taking a minority shareholding in the Dublin firm. The software corporation was considering an investment of this type to give it a close relationship with a localisation subcontractor in Europe.

Lotus VP of marketing Chuck Digate and director of European operations Irfan Salim both attended the meeting, but subsequently abandoned the idea of buying a stake in any of its European localisation partners.

December 1986 Lotus diversifies Lotus Development Ireland announced that it was establishing a new software development division at its production facility in Santry. The company made an initial commitment to hire eight employees in this area, but subsequently expanded the group to 150 people.

The new group initially delivered localised versions of the company’s 1-2-3 and Symphony packages in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Dutch.

Manus Hanratty, who had previously worked for Measurex, joined Lotus as product development  manager in the following month and localisation work began at the Santry premises in March 1987.

1987 Apple Global Workbench An internal resource developed by Apple Computer set an example that the rest of the industry followed in later years.

The Apple Global Workbench separated the user interface of a computer from its operating system – an innovation that assisted software developers to embed elements for multi-language functionality inside new product designs. It thus became easier for localisation providers to address translation requirements as they arose.

November 1987 Printech International Confidential Report Printing, a Clondalkin-based business established in 1978, re-registered as a public limited company and changed its name to Printech International.

The printing firm specialised in the production of technical manuals for the computer industry.

1988 RR Donnelley RR Donnelley, the world’s largest commercial printer, arrived in Ireland through its acquisition of Irish Printers.

The Irish subsidiary subsequently traded as Donnelley Documentation Services.

1988 Claris in Dublin Claris Corporation, an applications software subsidiary of Apple Computer, set up a manufacturing facility in Dublin. By 1991 this Blanchardstown-based operation was managing product localisation into 20 languages.
1988 Microsoft connections Managed service provider EuroKom developed a customised document transfer system that enabled Microsoft’s localisation partners around Europe to transfer files between their PCs and a server in Dublin.

EuroKom managed this server and operated the online service on behalf of Microsoft in the years before internet connectivity was generally available.

January 1988 Apple’s Irish accent Apple Computer announced a system disk that enabled the use of Irish accented characters on Macintosh systems with a standard keyboard layout. The computer department at Trinity College Dublin co-developed the disk, which facilitated Irish language versions of any application that supported Apple’s LaserWriter fonts.
March 1988 Quark International Typesetting and document design specialist Quark International announced a new European headquarters in Cork, where its US-developed software would be translated for sale to non-English speaking customers in Europe.  The Cork operation would also carry out disk duplication and customer support.
March 1988 Logitech in Cork Computer mouse manufacturer Logitech announced an operation in Cork for software translation and localisation, disk duplication and package assembly.

It subsequently assigned a development role, mainly mechanical engineering, to its Irish base.

May 1988 Ashton-Tate in Swords California-based Ashton-Tate, which was best known for its dBase database, commenced software duplication and packaging operations in Swords.
June 1988 Microsoft product group Microsoft established an International Product Group (IPG) at its base in Sandyford to co-ordinate software localisation in Europe.

This operation was initially assigned responsibility for the Dutch and Swedish editions of Microsoft products. By 1990 the IPG had also taken on the Italian, Finnish, Danish and Norwegian versions.

1989 International Translation and Publishing International Translation and Publishing (ITP) commenced operations in Sandycove, offering localisation services to computer hardware and software vendors. ITP subsequently moved its base to Bray.

The founder of the company, Finbarr Power, had previously worked for Digital Equipment and Memory Computer in Ireland and had gained international industry experience in the Middle East.

1989 European Language Translations European Language Translations (ELT) joined the growing number of translation and localisation service providers in the Dublin area.

Blackrock-based ELT majored in technical documentation and associated software.

May 1989 Printech invests in Softrans Manual production company Printech International invested £300,000 in Softrans International for a 42.5 per cent shareholding in the localisation services firm.

The companies agreed to collaborate on marketing their offerings to the software industry with a particular emphasis on US companies expanding in Europe.

November 1989 Lotus develops tools Lotus Development established a new team at its base in Santry to design and develop new tools and methodologies for software localisation. This initiative would build on the skills and experience that the company had gained by adapting its American products for international customers.

After three years in operation, the headcount of the software group in Santry had risen to 48 and its responsibilities had expanded to include localisation for South East Asia, South America and the Middle East as well as Europe.

Lotus had also begun to supply localisation training, materials and support to partner companies in its target markets.

December 1989 Quarterdeck in Dun Laoghaire PC software supplier Quarterdeck announced the selection of Ireland for its European sales headquarters.

It proceeded to establish Quarterdeck International in Dun Laoghaire. The activities of this operation included telephone technical support in six languages.

1990 WordStar’s demise WordStar International closed its Dun Laoghaire office – previously known as MicroPro Ireland – which had pioneered the processes required for software localisation in earlier years.

Its parent company in California survived for some time afterwards, but it too was wound up in 1993.

March 1990 Oracle in Dublin Oracle Corporation announced its first software operations project in Dublin: a porting centre that would convert existing products to run on different Unix platforms.
May 1990 Softrans glossary Softrans implemented a computer assisted translation (CAT) glossary that it had developed internally.

This database, running on Apple hardware, suggested words, phrases and sentences in up to six different languages for the terminology in English texts.

September 1990 FIGS landmark The Lotus Development facility in Santry shipped release 3.1 of its 1-2-3 product for Microsoft Windows with translated versions in French, Italian, German and Spanish – the four major European languages known as FIGS in the localisation trade.

This represented a landmark in the company’s drive to achieve simultaneous shipments in languages other than English.

1991 IDOC Europe Los Angeles-based localisation service provider IDOC opened a new subsidiary, IDOC Europe, in Dublin.
1991 R&D at ITP ITP formed its own research and development group, primarily for developing add-ons to other vendors’ tools that the company was using on its localisation projects.

The group, headed by Tom Grogan, went on to produce tools for data transfer among different computer assisted translation systems.

May 1991 Symantec in Blanchardstown Symantec started production at a software manufacturing facility in Blanchardstown. This operation was charged with supplying all of the company’s customers outside the US and Canada.
May 1991 Frame Technology Frame Technology, developer of the FrameMaker document publishing software, announced a new European operations centre at Airways Industrial Estate in Dublin. Its tasks included the delivery of localised versions of FrameMaker, including the first editions in Dutch, Spanish and Italian.

The company shut this centre in 1994.

July 1991 Eight localisation units A survey of international software corporations with subsidiaries in Ireland found that eight had established localisation units. Two more had localisation groups at the planning stage.

Twelve corporations were running disk duplication and packaging operations. There was now a clear trend for new projects to introduce localisation functions among their first activities.

This survey, which was published in Irish Computer magazine, also noted that three of the eight firms with localisation units employed in-house language translators.

October 1991 Borland International Borland International acquired Ashton-Tate, whose facility in Swords became Borland’s first dedicated software manufacturing plant in Europe.

In the first year under its new owner this operation shipped more than 80 software products in ten different languages to customers in Europe and the Middle East.

December 1991 Softrans Berlitz Berlitz Translation Services assumed control of Softrans International, attracted by the company’s technical expertise.

Berlitz acquired more than half of the shares in Softrans. Printech International retained almost 20 per cent and the company’s directors held the remaining shares.

After six years in operation, Softrans had grown its headcount to about 70 people, including groups at branch offices in England and France.

Under its new ownership structure the company traded as Softrans Berlitz International and later as Berlitz GlobalNet. Berlitz designated its Irish subsidiary a