One of Australia's first tech men celebrates 101st Birthday
Lawrie celebrated his birthday surrounded by his friends and family at Karinya Grove. He’s pictured here holding his great-granddaughter Kiara, 100 years his junior and sharing his love for technology ’she loves playing with the smartphone’ said Kiara’s dad Steve.
One of Australia’s first tech men, Lawrie Griffiths recently celebrated his 101st Birthday. He reflected on a time when computers were only really seen in sci-fi films and people manually performed the tasks of modern day computers.
In 1961 the world was a very different place. John F. Kennedy was the President of the United States, the Soviet Union became the first to fly a human into space and technology was advancing at an unprecedented rate. Many feared computers and advancements in technology, as this represented the unknown.
In Melbourne, Lawrie Griffiths and his friends were busy forming Victoria’s very first Computer Society which would go on to become the Australian Computer Society, inspired by their mate Dr Frank Hirst, a senior lecturer in Physics at the University of Melbourne. Their aim was to bring academics and business people together to discuss the big ideas and help raise funds for the advancement of computer technology.
Lawrie did not look at computers and feel fear, instead he saw the potential for opportunity and progress. ‘I am amazed by the changes I have seen. From a two room system to a laptop. Storage systems have changed from tape, to cassette, to cartridge, to floppy disk and now hard drive’ said Lawrie.
As an accountant at Fulton Textiles, Lawrie had started his career using mechanical accounting machines, to punch card devices and then onto using some of the very first commercial computers.
In 1955, Dr. Frank Hirst was tasked with bringing the CSIRAC, Australia’s very first digital computer from Sydney to Melbourne. This computer was the fourth ever in the world and was also the first to play computer music. The computer was so large that Dr Hirst had to arrange for its transportation by truck from the Radiophysics Laboratory in Sydney to its home at the Old Physics building at Melbourne University. On many occasions Lawrie had been invited to visit the CSIRAC and had even given lectures to students at the University.
Today the CSIRAC is the oldest intact computer in the world and is on display at Melbourne Museum. The CSIRAC was approximately a millionth the speed and computing size of a modern day smartphone.
Although Lawrie ‘gave up computers ten years ago’, the Leisure and Lifestyle team at BlueCross Karinya Grove in Sandringham are planning to surprise him with a visit to the Melbourne Museum to see the CSIRAC, ‘for old times’ sake’.