Thursday, 26 November 2020 10:38

Jennifer Seberry is 2020 Pearcey Medallist Featured

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Jennifer Seberry and Graeme Philipson Jennifer Seberry and Graeme Philipson

Professor Jennifer Seberry has been announced winner of the 2020 Pearcey Medal, The Medal has been awarded annually since 1998 to ‘recognise a distinguished lifetime achievement and contribution to the development and growth of the ICT industry in Australia’. This year’s Pearcey Awards were held virtually via Zoom.

Professor Seberry is a regarded as the mother of Cryptography in Australia and has had a long and distinguished academic career. She was the first female Professor in Computer Science in Australia when she was appointed the Head of Computer Science in 1987 at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in Canberra. In 1989 she led the team which designed the LOKI family of encryption algorithms, which are fundamental building blocks in contemporary global cryptography standards.

She has worked in the departments of Computer Science at the University of Sydney and many international academic institutions in the US, UK and India. She convened and spoke at at many international conferences and has chaired many committees. This included becoming a director of the International Association for Cryptologic Research from 1990 to 1992. She was the only Australian elected as a Fellow of this association in 2012 for her ‘outstanding contributions to research and education in cryptologic research and education and for fostering the Australian Research Community’.

Professor Seberry joined the University of Wollongong in 1992, where she established the Centre for Computer Security Research. She was admitted as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong in July 2015. She is also patron of and immediate Past President of the Australian Computer Museum Society.

Inducted to the Pearcey Hall of Fame were Microbee founder Owen Hill and Dr Jeff Whittle, the world’s pre-eminent developer of software for the mining industry. The Pearcey National Entrepreneur Award went to Grant Petty, founder and CEO of digital cinema company Blackmagic Design.

Owen Hill founded Applied Technology in 1975 as an electronics components and electronics kits distributor. He designed the Microbee, the first commercially marketed Australian PC. The first 1000 Microbees were sold in kit form in 1982, before entering the market as a fully formed product competing directly with the IBM PC and the Apple II

 By 1987 more than 3000 Australian schools were using Microbee computers and the Microbee had been adopted as the national standard in Swedish schools. Applied Technology listed on the ASX in 1985 and the Microbee reached a peak of 11% of the Australian market and had significant international sales in Asia, Scandinavia and Russia (with a Cyrillic keyboard when Apple was still English only).

Struggling to compete with the cost and production scale of the IBM PC and with the application support for the Apple II in the school markets, the company wound up in 1990. In total, more than 70,000 Microbee computers were sold worldwide, placing Australia squarely at the forefront of technology development for PCs globally.

Jeff Whittle was born in England, trained as physicist and worked at the Medical Research Radiobiology Research Unit at the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell. He and his family moved to Australia in 1961, where he joined the newly created Computer Centre at Monash University. In the early 1980s Dr Whittle turned his attention to developing software which would optimise mining operations, with Whittle Consulting mining software considered to be an international industry standard. It is said that mining engineers around the world know that their pits are not optimally designed until they have been ‘Whittled’.

In 1983 he wrote Three-D, the first implementation of a pit optimisation algorithm that could be used with any mining software package on any computer. This later became Four-X, which has become an industry standard for open pit design, used by many mining companies worldwide and sold to Canadian mining software house Gemcom in 2002. More erecently his interest has been in optimising the schedules of very large mining complexes. His software can produce optimal, or near-optimal, long-term schedules for complexes with hundreds of pits, multiple processing options, multiple products that have to be blended, and multiple stockpiles.

Grant Petty founded Melbourne-based Blackmagic Design as a side project in 2002. It is now an einternational digital cinema company with more than $350 milllion in revenues and employing 1000 people worldwide. Blackmagic software and equipment is used for broadcasting, live streaming, editing, special effects and sound engineering, and BlackMagic technology has been behind many Oscar-winning movies over the years.


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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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