Monday, 9 November 2020

Pure platinum: Seventy five years of automation.

The current (Sept/Oct 2020) issue of InTech*, the official periodical of the International Society of Automation is not only a veritable storehouse of nostalgia for automation professionals but also focusses on the next chapter in the discipline.

Brian Curtis, (Ireland Section) ISA President 2018
There should have been a big party but circumstances and responsible planning militated against any major gatherings for public health reasons. Hopefully we will be able to celebrate soon when conditions allow.

I first came across the ISA in the mid seventies when the late Fred Gilroy of Gilroy Automation and some other instrument professionals mostly based in the south of Ireland posited the idea of forming a section in Ireland. It eventually was formed in 1977 achieving its charter at the end of that year. As a founding member of that Section this writer has perhaps unique memories of the early days in Ireland. 

ISA has always led in formulating Worldwide Standards in Automation.
ISA volunteers share their stories of the history and evolution of some of ISA’s most important standards, including ISA-99, ISA-95, ISA-88, ISA-84.1, ISA-101.01, ISA-106, ISA-108, ISA-112, ISA-76 ISA-18.2, and ISA-5.1.
One of the "problems" was that it was called the "Instrument Society of America" at that time and that presented a obstacle to some. But one of the great advantages was that it lacked the fussiness and formality of other automation organisations. (The Society eventually sorted the perceived narrowness of its title eventually by becoming the "International Society of Automation.") All those who were involved in instrumentation regardless of academic qualification were welcome. Automation qualifications were not really available at that time although the influence of the Ireland can be cited as an influence in the setting up of courses up to degree standard in the years that followed.

This writer can recall his attendance at an ISA function in the United States in the eighties when he was a delegate to a governance meeting. It was held in conjunction with an exhibition and the sense of relief of being among people to whom he did not have to explain what Instrumentation was! 

The Ireland section has been very active in the governance of this international society. Even in the early days of the society officerships were filled by members of the society. It was very active too in the organisation of what is now District 12 - Europe. Middle East & Africa - in the late eighties and nineties. It provided an International President for the organisation in Brian Curtis a few years ago.

This issue - sorry we got lost in reminicences - covers so many "milestones" in automation over the seventy five years from the invention of the transistor (Brattain & Shokley), Glen Harvey, Executive Director for 31 years up to the 90s, the late Dick Morley father of the PLC, Emerson's John Berra in the development of communication protocols and so many others. Society milestones since 1945 including its first woman President and the first non-North American president. The current President-elect is a Brazilian based in Ireland which again emphasises the international nature of the society. He assumes office in 2021.

Another important milestone is the successful European Training centre based in the Netherlands. They organise training courses through the region both within and outside the European Union. This centre compliments the Training Centre in North Carolina. This training tradition is an important part of the ISA psyche and international co-operation has been a feature of this with teachers in the US assisting other parts of the world including Russia.

It reflects continuing development from the descrete instrumentation pneumatic and electrical through to the universal controller to batch control to digitisation, cybersecurity, smart manufacturing and the Industrial Internet of Things. Things were simpler when ISA started out, you opened the door of your instrument and could see how it worked now it is so much more complex. Associations and fellowship like ISA help advance automation and through automation are possibilities to advance the human condition. 

In short this issue is full of interesting recollections and looking forward to continuing setting the standard of Automation throughout the world. 

*The ISA 75th Anniversary Issue of InTech on line (Sept/Oct2020)

More news on the ISA Ireland Section in the Read-out Archive through the years. 

@ISA_Interchange @ISA_EU #PAuto 

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