In 1967 an American entrepreneur, Alan Marshall, with experience in the emerging field of ‘real time’ data processing arrived in the U.K., intending to set up a software house. He was keen to plug into the local network of people sharing a common interest in the applications of this new technology, and organised a dinner for that purpose.
The evening was a huge success. Held in the Bourbon Room of the Institute of Directors’ headquarters on Belgrave Square, it was attended by twelve leading entrepreneurs and academics in the fledgling British computing industry. After dinner, each person described his interest in real time data processing and the group agreed to a subsequent meeting to discuss particular problems over a good meal.
From this unassuming start, the Real Time Club was born. Meetings became regular events and the original twelve diners were joined by other prominent figures from business, academia, government and the press. The format of dinner, followed by discussion and debate, usually led by an invited speaker, became an established tradition. A secretary emerged to organise speakers and venues, and a Chairman was eventually appointed to keep the increasingly lively debate sessions under control.
Deliberately free from formal structure, rules or a permanent meeting house, this loose association of people who shared a passion for challenging and changing the established norms of a hidebound society has flourished for forty years. Individually and collectively, members have influenced British society and its governments to use information technologies to help build a better world.
Today we meet 6 or so times a year to enjoy each other’s company. Guests are welcome. At each dinner a speaker is encouraged to speak controversially and entertainingly on his chosen subject. After his speech the diners question the speaker and debate the topic - in a lively fashion.