UCC-based developer of Ireland’s first webpage logs off

Tributes have been paid following the retirement of the man who developed Ireland’s first webpage.

Peter Flynn who worked at UCC for more than 30 years and who has retired as manager of the IT Services Unit’s Academic and Collaborative Technologies Group

UCC president Patrick O’Shea, described Peter Flynn, who worked at UCC for more than 30 years and who has retired as manager of the IT Services Unit’s Academic and Collaborative Technologies Group, as a “true pioneer”.

I’m going to miss the people and the work, but it’s just a phase that has to come to an end,” said Mr O’Flynn.

“There are other projects that I want to get involved in, in related spheres. I just have to take the time to decide now whether I want to get involved or not.”

Mr Flynn worked in the British printing and publishing industry and in technical support for a London City firm before joining UCC in 1984 in computing support.

At the time, UCC had three mainframe computers — two IBM 4341s and a VAX 11/780 — with a network of terminal servers and less than 10 hard-wired terminals. There was no external connectivity.

However, it was his position on a pan-European committee, which included Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the world wide web, which led to the creation of Ireland’s first website.

Mr Flynn said they were attending a meeting in 1991 when Berners-Lee said he wanted to show them a “project he’d been playing with”.

It was the world wide web as we know it today.

Tim had invented a way of linking pages, of being able to click on a link and going to a page,” said Mr Flynn.

“Tim said the software was sitting on his computer in CERN so I went back to UCC and downloaded it from his computer.”

Mr Flynn mentioned its potential to the late UCC historian, Donnchadh Ó Corráin, who had founded the Curia project, later called Celt — a vast archive of electronically-scanned ancient Irish manuscripts — and said it could be used to share the collection with a wider audience.

“Donnchadh said give it a go, and we did,” said.

The first Celt document (the Aisling Oenguso) was uploaded to the web around March 1993, becoming Ireland’s first website, and Berners-Lee added it to his homepage list of the world’s then-known webpages. It was ninth on the list.

The Celt collection is still available online today as a free teaching and research resource.

“I then started getting enquiries from other departments in the university who said they’d heard about this thing, and wanted their own web pages. And it all went from there,” Mr Flynn said.

Meanwhile, identifying fake news and keeping the internet out of government control are two of the biggest challenges facing the web today, he believes.


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