Real Time Computing: 50 Years On and 50 Years Hence (27 June 2017)

In 1967 an American entrepreneur with experience in the emerging field of ‘real time’ data processing arrived in the UK, intending to set up a software house. He was keen to plug into the local network of people who shared a common interest in the applications of this new technology, and organised a dinner for that purpose.

The evening was a huge success. Held on the 27th June 1967 in the Bourbon Room of the Institute of Directors’ headquarters on Belgrave Square, it was attended by twelve leading entrepreneurs and academics in the fledgling British computing industry. After dinner, each person described his interest in real time data processing and the group agreed to a subsequent meeting to discuss particular problems over a good meal.

From this unassuming start, the Real Time Club was born. The first speaker was a young, energetic genius who is our esteemed speaker this evening.

Was the Club a product of its time, or could it have emerged and thrived in any commercial environment? Will it be able to survive the continued changes in both the industry and its user communities, as real time computing becomes increasingly ubiquitous around the globe? These were the questions in 1967; they’re just as pertinent 50 years on and can be asked of the next 50 years.

Our speaker Iann Barron CBE will look back over the past 50 years of Real Time Computing and share a vision for the next 50 years.

Over the evening ex-Chairs of the Real Time Club from the past 50 years will give a very brief overview of their time in the hot seat, spanning five decades of the Real Time Club

Our Speaker: Iann Barron, CBE

Before he was 21 Iann Barron had designed a real computer, the Elliott 803. That was in 1956.

In 1965 Iann started Computer Technology Ltd – the first mini-computer company in the UK, long before the term minicomputer had been coined – and designed the Modular One, the most successful UK minicomputer in its time.

1978 saw the beginning of inMOS International PLC, the UK semiconductor company – where Iann and his team designed the Transputer, a device which should have revolutionised the world, but even now, no one understands the ideas behind it. inMOS International PLC ‘would have been a great success if it were not for Mrs Thatcher’ was sold in 1984 to Thorn EMI when inMOS needed a public offering to provide the funding to capitalise on the products it had created and before it had a chance to thrive and grow. It could have been the UK’s first £bn company.

He has gone on to start Division PLC, the company which created and has exploited virtual reality and continues to suffer from a persistent problem: his ideas are too far ahead of the market.

A copy of Iann Barron’s speech is held by the Archives of IT website in their Futurescope section.