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University of Brighton

British inventor donates IT archive to university

The British inventor of online shopping, Michael Aldrich, has donated his archive to the University of Brighton. The donation coincides with the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the world’s first online purchase which took place in the UK and forms part of the archive.

Mrs Jane Snowball, then 72, bought the first item from her local Tesco by using her TV set and remote control, and was found through research into online shopping for the digitised Michael Aldrich Archive. Her purchase was made possible by hardware and software developed by Rediffusion (later ROCC) Computers using the online shopping system invented by the company’s founder Michael Aldrich in 1979.

Covering the period 1977-2000 the archive includes the story of the invention of online shopping. It shows how these systems revolutionised industries including retailing, car sales, packaged holidays, finance houses and credit reference. Over 100 case studies form part of the archive including pioneers of online shopping, based in Sussex, such as American Express and Seeboard.

It also details the span of IT innovation from pricing UK doctors’ prescriptions to processing UK driving and vehicle licenses, from electronically reading handwritten timesheets for the British Rail payroll to electronically processing cattle passports in helping to solve the BSE crisis. Michael Aldrich and his team at ROCC computing provided the IT solutions and documented many of them.

Michael Aldrich, founder of ROCC said: “The whole archive is about Sussex and the systems were produced locally in Manor Royal, Crawley. ROCC is a Sussex-based company with strong links to further and higher education. The University of Brighton is not just a recipient of the archive, it is part of it. There was a ROCC professorial chair at Brighton for a number of years during the period of the archive with Gordon Bull as ROCC Professor of Computing.”

Thousands of people who were involved with these projects will be invited to contribute material and the online archive will be opened to the public in December 2009.

The University of Brighton’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Laing said: “The archive is a great source of social history, documenting the advent of online shopping, developments in IT and Sussex-based industry. There are also many other themes to be explored in the archive from innovation in business to socio-technical systems and change management, which will provide a host of research opportunities.”

Notes to editors

The Michael Aldrich Archive is currently being digitised. The development website is: http://uniweb.rocc.co.uk/AldrichArchive/
Please access the website for ‘Finding Mrs Snowball’, the story of the search.

Michael Aldrich is Founder and Chairman of ROCC Computers Ltd in Preston Village, Brighton

The 1984 ITN Interview with Mrs Snowball of Gateshead, the world’s first online home shopper can be obtained from;

Marc.Lecomber@ITNSOURCE>COM Reference; SP_MIKE ALDRICH1_FTP_ITN 104288_11

ROCC Press Office can be reached on 44 1273 274700 for international calls and 01273 274700 for UK calls.

The University of Brighton

The University of Brighton is ranked as one of the top modern universities in the UK and remains the only modern university to be named ‘Sunday Times University of the Year’. Across a very broad spectrum of research, spanning the creative arts and sciences, 80 per cent of the university’s work is judged to be of international standing in the Research Assessment Exercise. The university’s medical school, run jointly with the University of Sussex, is at the forefront of medical education and medical research, and ranks among the top five institutions in the country, according to the National Student Survey.



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