12 October 2010: Pat Terry Receives Computing Pioneer Award from SAICSIT

Pat TerrySAICSIT (the South African Institute for Computer Scientists and Information Technologists) gave a Pioneer in Computer Science and Information Technology award for 2010 to Pat Terry.  The purpose of these recently-created awards is "to honour persons [who] made major contributions over a lifetime to the disciplines of Computer Science and Information Technology in South Africa".  In 2009, Dr. Derek Henderson, a former Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University, was the recipient of one of the two inaugural awards.

The award was presented to Pat at a gala dinner on 12 October 2010, held during the SAICSIT annual conference at Bela Bela.  Pat's contributions to the teaching of computer languages and compilers, and his pivotal role in establishing the first international links for academic email and networking were cited as key aspects of his pioneering activities.  Other recipients of this award for 2010 were Prof. Basie von Solms (University of Johannesburg), and Prof. Roelf van den Heever (University of Pretoria).

As Pat is due to retire at the end of this year, it was a highly appropriate moment for SAICSIT to recognise his long and productive career, and his many contributions as one of the leading pioneers of academic Computer Science in South Africa.

Some other photographs from the evening can be viewed here.

Nomination Details

SAICSIT Academic Computing Pioneers
Motivation: Prof. Patrick David Terry, MSc(Rhodes), PhD(Cantab), FICS, MACM

Pat Terry was born on 7 April 1945, in Johannesburg.  He was schooled at St Andrew's College, in Grahamstown from 1959–1962, then attended Rhodes University from 1963–1968, obtaining an MSc in Physics with distinction for a thesis entitled Radio ray tracing at very low frequencies when the effects of heavy ions are included.  In 1968 he was awarded the Elsie Ballot Scholarship and a National Scholarship which allowed him to proceed to Cambridge University for his PhD studies.  In 1972, he completed his PhD on the topic of Complex Ray Tracing in Ionospheric Radio Propagation.

His postgraduate studies in Physics, both at the MSc and PhD level, were largely dependent on computer simulations.  At Rhodes this led him to become an early user of the newly installed ICL1301 computer, and to dabble extensively in simple compiler writing and systems programming, so as best to exploit the limited potential of the machine.  His PhD studies in Cambridge, where he was supervised by Kenneth Budden, FRS, also had the side effect of exposing him for the first time to time-sharing computers at the famous Mathematical Laboratory where Wilkes and others were developing the Atlas computer, multi-access systems etc.

After completing his studies at Cambridge, he returned to Grahamstown and to Rhodes University to commence an academic career spanning almost 40 years.  He began this career as a Lecturer in Applied Mathematics.  In 1977 he was appointed as a Senior Lecturer in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, and then in 1981 was appointed as Professor of Computer Science in the newly created Department of Computer Science.  As an academic, Pat has been a long-time supporter of SAICSIT and of SACLA.  During his teaching career he has become particularly well-known for his work in the areas of compilers and computer languages. He is also well-known internationally for his textbooks, which include:

He has published in journals and conferences on a wide range of topics, but with a special focus on pedagogical issues in Computer Science.  These include ACM SigPlan Notices, Software: Practice and Experience, SA Journal of Higher Education, ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, and SACLA proceedings.  For several years, he served on the ISO/IEC international standards group (WG13), which was standardising the Modula-2 programming language.

Perhaps one of his most significant contributions to the South African academic community was his pivotal role in enabling the first email and networking connections between South Africa and the rest of the world.  For a period during the late 1980s/early 1990s all South African universities' email flowed through a PC managed by Pat, and connecting to contacts that he had forged in the USA.  In time this pioneering effort led to the establishment of the academic Internet in South Africa.