Money raised by Byte Night is used to fund charity NCH's efforts to keep homeless children off the streets. NCH said the Computer Weekly supported event is highly effective because 92p of every pound raised by the IT industry goes directly towards helping the needy.
One newcomer to Byte Night was David Blunden who recently joined the Post Office as CIO after 33 years abroad in Canada and Australia, where his most recent position was CIO of Qantas Airlines. "My biggest surprise coming back to the UK after 33 years was the number of homeless on the streets of London - that was a real shock," he said.
Before turning in for the night on the hard ground of the square, the sleepers had a fun evening, taking part in a quiz, a charity auction and a guitar-led singalong. At the auction a signed Manchester United shirt went for £900, and a signed England rugby shirt raised £1,500.
Byte Night was set up in 1998 by Ken Deeks of PR company Kaizo in collaboration with NCH. After spotting a poster on the London Underground for the NCH House Our Youth 2000 campaign, Deeks approached NCH with the idea to create a fundraising event aimed specifically at the IT community.
Although the event has gone from strength to strength, with money raised having cumulatively topped the £1m mark, the need to help vulnerable young people in the UK is greater than ever, said NCH.
"The whole event demonstrates how IT can engage with the community and give something back," said one participant.
A good proportion of sleepers had taken part in Byte Night at least once before, but there were many first-timers - and all were committed to the cause. One senior IT director said, "If I cannot persuade just one other person to come next year and, with their additional sponsorship, double what I raised this year, I would consider myself to have failed."
Christopher Young, the outgoing managing director of user group the Impact Programme, said he would like to help bring in more IT directors from blue-chip organisations next year, and e-envoy Andrew Pinder said he hoped to see more government representation - last year IT minister Stephen Timms not only turned up but slept out overnight too.
It was a cloudless night, but only a hardy few, unaffected by the hard ground, cold and snoring, got a really sound sleep. One particularly loud snorer caused a mini evacuation from one part of the square.
At 6am someone's mobile telephone alarm set off a chain reaction, with everyone more or less wide awake by 6.30am, less than bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, to start the weekend.