Guest Blog by Dr Tom Abram, Director – AIT
AIT is an online digital database of oral history and documents from the UK IT and Telecommunications (Tech) industry. We are a charity, free to access, and aim to inspire, inform, and encourage further study:
- Informing people of all ages and interests , about the industry and its impact on our daily lives.
- Inspiring young students at schools and colleges to understand the opportunities and aspire to a career in IT.
- Encouraging researchers to study the economic and societal impact of IT and the people of the industry.
Distinctively we concentrate on people and organisations rather than physical devices. We capture the stories of people who are or have been significantly involved in the industry; including their background, successes and challenges in video and audio interviews along with company reports and other media.
So far, we have collected over 170 interviews, including 7 IET presidents. We complement other excellent collections of the history of science and technology, such as those of the IET, the IEEE, and museums in the UK and around the world, concentrating our attention on the UK from around 1950 to the present.
Norman Sanders is a notable example from the archive. Having met Alan Turing and worked with Maurice Wilkes at Cambridge, Norman was working on Computer Aided Design at Boeing in Seattle when he met the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. He found himself the personal IT adviser to the Prime Minister and helped implement Wilson’s promised ‘white heat of scientific revolution’.
As well as recording history, we present and promote it. Academics are welcome to use our archives for research, such as our reviews of the sociology of the industry. While young people can observe role models from all backgrounds of gender, ethnicity, and class.
Why is this important? After making his input to our oral history collection an eminent observer of the Information Age reflected:
“Could history be the new, new thing?”
What Professor Bill Dutton was getting at was that, maybe, IT and digital communications are now of an age where their history is both interesting and valuable. Furthermore, the same technology permits the people who made the history to tell us about it in their own words, recorded for posterity, from anywhere in the world. In his blog Bill Dutton postulated:
‘It is arguable that most individuals focused on new advances in media and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) have no historical perspective at all. I’ve called it ‘innovation amnesia’.
Computing, software, and IT Services directly employ around a million people and are used by millions more in all areas of economic activity. It is ubiquitous in its social impact. The industry’s – and the UK’s – future demands an ever-growing body of professionals; perhaps understanding the past is a key competence to manage the future. Certainly, we owe it to all young people making career choices to ensure they understand the career opportunities.
We would love to hear from IET members interested in helping us to uncover and share more history for the benefit of all. To find out more please visit the AIT website or email the AIT at: email@example.com
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