The oldest IT dining club in the world
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 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. Meetings became regular events and the original twelve diners were joined by other prominent figures from business, academia, government and the press. The format of a dinner followed by discussion and debate, usually led by an invited speaker, became an established tradition. A secretary emerged to organise speakers and venues, and a Chairman was eventually appointed to keep the increasingly lively debate sessions under control.
Deliberately free from formal structure, rules or a permanent meeting house, this loose association of people who shared a passion for challenging and changing the established norms of a hidebound society has flourished for forty-five years. Individually and collectively, members have influenced British society and its governments to use information technologies to help build a better world.
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?