IT's Real Time Club is still making waves 40 years on

One of the IT sector's longest running groups, the Real Time Club, is gearing up for its 40th birthday in June next year.

One of the IT sector's longest running groups, the Real Time Club, is gearing up for its 40th birthday in June next year.

The club's chairman is Philip Virgo, strategic adviser at the Institute for the Management of Information Systems and secretary general of parliamentary IT lobby group Eurim.

"The Real Time Club was founded 40 years ago when London's largest telephone exchange fell over when it couldn't cope with an attempt to connect it to six remote job entry stations," said Virgo. "The club's original objective was to get the Post Office to re-engineer for the computer age.

"Over the years the club has fought many campaigns - some successful, some not. Today's objective is to ensure that the UK has a communications infrastructure to be competitive in the global knowledge economy.

"That means bringing interactive computing, gaming, gossiping and so on to the home through synchronous links of at least 40Mbytes, not just contended video streaming," said Virgo.

"The programme is designed to raise the challenges, and throw rocks into stagnant pools to ensure that regulatory obstacles are removed."

Another objective is to complete the unfinished agenda of the late MP Ian Lloyd, co-founder of the Parliamentary IT Committee, which was, in his words, to create "automated abattoirs for sacred cows".

Forthcoming debates

6 February: The battle for the soul of the internet: network neutrality versus the intelligent internet

27 March: Crime online: the world's fastest growing, most profitable and lowest risk global business?

22 May: Myth and reality in innovation investment: why does the UK find it so hard?

26 June: Life begins at 40Mbytes synchronised to the home.


The real time club - 'a dining and debating society with attitude'

Founded in 1967, the Real Time Club for IT professionals has been described as a "dining and debating society with attitude".

It takes its name from the work done on "real time" computers in the early days of the UK software industry.

The Real Time Club has about 150 members, many of whom have strong City links. Members include IT directors, consultants, senior civil servants, suppliers, lawyers and others who meet regularly for discussion, debate and dinner.

Topics vary but tend to relate to the frontiers where IT meets industry, society and science. Although the club has a strong interest in technology, it remains business focused.

The club has special interest groups, known as caucuses, dealing with specific areas of concern. These contribute to the thinking of governmental bodies and industry. Currently there are four broad caucuses:

  • The Financial Caucus lobbies to reform clauses in finance acts to boost the flow of private capital to start new enterprises.
  • The Leading Edge Caucus promotes the potential of new sciences to transform computing, especially quantum computing.
  • The Foresight Associate Programme was set up with the Department of Trade & Industry to help solve the UK's IT skills and competence shortage.
  • The Real Time Club is also focused on education to produce an inventory of IT and telecoms courses and qualifications as a basis for policy formation.

In addition, it is sponsoring computers for the developing world.

Membership is open to IT professionals and others interested in keeping in touch with the commercial and social impact of IT, and to those who wish to contribute to and influence the development of the IT industry.

The Real Time Club meets about six times a year at the National Liberal Club in London's Whitehall.

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