Former employees of electronic manufacturing operations such as Northern Telecom and Digital Equipment Corporation as well as those who worked or studied in information technology, telecommunications and the computer retail sector in Galway during the 1970s/1980s are requested to attend a gathering at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics of the Data Science Institute, NUI Galway in the Dangan Business Park at 8pm on Tuesday June 11.
The purpose of the event is to engage with people that helped make Galway, not only country’s first ‘Digital City’, but one that was uniquely cosmopolitan during this era influenced, as it was by a sizeable non-Irish born population drawn from across the globe, in order to tap into their expertise, memorabilia and stories for the benefit particularly of Ireland’s only Computer and Communications Museum that is also based at the university’s Data Science Institute.
According to Brendan Smith, Public Engagement Officer at Insight and computer museum curator, There is a perception that what we term the ‘Global Village’ began with the roll out of the World Wide Web, passport-free European borders and low cost air travel from the 1990s onwards.
“But for Galway it began a decade or two earlier and it represents a fascinating modern history that has yet to be told. For the 1970s and early 1980s was when our city led the way in Ireland becoming part of a modern interconnected and interdependent world.
“Attracted by high tech jobs and a better quality of life, people came to work in Galway from such countries as Chile, Canada and India who had no Irish ancestry whilst attracting back emigrants, who had left Ireland in poorer times, from the United States and Britain.
“There were students at UCG (NUI Galway ) who came from Malaysia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria and the United States to study medicine, arts, engineering hydrology and the sciences.
“The new RTC (GMIT ) was providing a whole new array of technology courses for careers in modern industry. The movement from a rural farming to an urban Ireland characterised by manufacturing factories, third level colleges and state services ranging from hospitals to telecommunications was most evident in Galway,” he said.
“Locally-based companies, particularly Digital Equipment Corporation(DEC ), Northern Telecom (NT ) and Thermo King, were radically transforming the national economy as they exported high value electronic and computer equipment to Europe and beyond, giving ‘Made in Ireland’ an international badge of quality. “These multinational corporations were very proactive in sponsoring arts and sporting events, providing crucial funding in the early days of many festivals which today are central to the Irish cultural calendar. The presence of a large new young male and female workforce also helped spawn the city’s nightclub scene.
“There is a huge wealth of technical know-how amongst people of that generation which could help in repairing and understanding iconic vintage computers for exhibiting at the museum as well as allowing their unique stories to be recorded for future generations. Some individuals may be able to source key Galway-made/associated equipment absent from our collection or to volunteer as tour guides for this technology heritage and learning facility which is the only one of its type in Ireland.
“We want to develop further the interactive displays on home game computing, telephony, DEC, and on Northern Telecom at both the museum and the Galway Technology Centre, who are one of our main sponsors. For instance the Canadian owned Northern Telecom corporation, which opened its Irish export manufacturing operation in Galway in 1974, was a global pioneer in telecommunication devices and developed some wonderfully innovative equipment,” he concluded.