How NZ connected to the internet – The University of Waikato context

Kevin Broughan
Emeritus Professor, University of Waikato, Hamilton, Mathematics and Statistics
It all began in 1980 when my family and I spent a year of study leave from the University of Waikato at Cambridge University in the UK. This presented many challenges, especially since the Kiwi dollar was weak against the UK pound and university salaries quite low. However the academic result of the leave was great, with the Corn Exchange Computing lab providing several innovative software systems for doing mathematics like algebra and calculus, not just number crunching. I was hooked. Alan Turing, with his deep insights, had shown that theorems and programs were fundamentally alike organisms, while living in different environments, and I returned to Waikato wanting to explore the consequences of this reality.

With my students we set about providing some software to make work in this area possible. In searching for tools I hooked up with Richard Fateman, a computer science prof at UC Berkeley and leader of a project with the grandious title “The representation and manipulation of mathematical knowledge”! I joined that project in 1984 and spent several profitable periods on the Berkeley campus. Along the corridor from my office in Evans Hall exciting things were happening with extensions being written to AT&T Unix by the Systems Development Project. These included protocols for things like TCP/IP, which are still being used as a fundamental part of the internet to this very day.

I returned to Waikato and discussed these developments with John Houlker, at that time a member of the computer services division. We met often, sharing a tea room and working in building sited next to one another on the Waikato campus. He had long black hair and a keen interest in mathematics and physics, as well as computing. Information about the ether-networking of the Berkeley campus was also exchanged and inspired our own developments For example the first piece of ethernet cable at Waikato, was between the Computer Centre and my office, laid through a ditch dug by my students. In the normal NZ way no one hesitated to get their hands dirty.

As it happened, the mathematical work required Unix, and together John and I persuaded the University that it would be valuable to emulate that operating system under VAX/VMS, the University computer system of that time. Before too much longer the Eunice Unix emulator written by the Wollongong Group (but based in Silicon Valley) arrived and was implemented. Oh joy – it had all of the Berkeley extensions including those needed for TCP/IP.

Thus began a period of strenuous technical activity at Waikato with John leading the charge. It was to lead to NZ becoming part of the worldwide internet with the University of Waikato as the NZ hub. That part of the story has been well documented. See for example  the book “Connecting the Clouds – The Internet in New Zealand’ by Keith Mathews.

23 January 2017

I started part time through my degree with Campus Media doing Multimedia development (I recall the “Reactor Factory” for Conan Fee – a DVD instructional software for chemical reactions.) Great project – developed using Macromedia Director. Multimedia development soon gave way to the growth of the internet and 17 years of web development followed, working both for Campus Media and then Waikato Regional Council.  Around 2016 I moved into management role and enjoying working more with people than computers these days.

Fondest memory?  Hacky sack – almost any time we could. A great group of students from our year and the enthusiasm of Dr David Bainbridge saw us take to having a pop-up hacky court … kind of a mash-up of volleyball and hacky sack. We set the court up where S block now stands.

From my time at Waikato I gained friendships and local opportunity which have served me well.

Paul Kennett

Team Leader – Environmental Data, Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton

I chose to study with CMS because I wanted to incoporate te reo Māori in interface technology and my fondest memory is of the awakening of subject areas and the engagement with staff.

To prospective students I’d say there are many opportunities to find your passions, taught by some really great people!

For me the coolest thing about CMS is the people. I have met some awesome people, from the staff in the office(s), technical support, tutors, fellow lecturers and researchers to a whole bunch of great students.

Te Taka Keegan

Associate Professor – School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of Waikato

I joined Gallagher Group as a software/firmware developer in 2008 and then joined Gallagher’s cloud team in year 2015 as development engineer and technical leader. I joined Influx Energy Data in 2020 as a senior development engineer and promoted to Senior Software Architect in 2021.

I’m leading the development team in Influx Energy Data Ltd. The development team has released services and infrastructure that provide innovative competitive advantages for Influx and customers, and lower the cost to serve.

The education I received in University of Waikato laid a solid foundation for my career so far.

I chose to study there because it is the best computer science school in New Zealand, there are excellent professors, labs and great tutors.

Zhiwei Liu

Senior Software Architect – Influx Energy Data Ltd, Hamilton

I am leading the development of the technology strategy and roadmap in support of Gallagher Security’s strategic goals, and providing Architectural leadership and coordinating the wider Architect community within Gallagher.

The BCMS (Information Systems) degree provided a good opportunity to develop technical, business, and soft skills which have allowed me to do a variety of roles and were good preparation for my leadership journey.

This was the only dedicated Computing degree in the country when I started it in 1992. I liked that Waikato was a leader in this field and had created a specific degree to recognize the importance of this area of study.

I loved the feeling of growing my knowledge in an area that was clearly developing fast on a global scale. You could see all the opportunities that were appearing in the world and how technology had the potential to change things for the better.

To prospective students:  CMS offers a wide range of opportunities inside the broad field of Computer Science and allows students to find the area within this field that they resonate the most with.

My time at Waikato gave me an excitement about what technology changes can achieve and an understanding of how technology and the business world need to come together to unlock this potential.

There were many late night lab sessions over my time at Waikato but one in particular stands out in my memory. This was a time when email was still a bit of a novelty and disk storage was extremely precious. So when my sleep deprived brain (no alcohol or drugs involved) decide to send an email with the subject “I have become comfortably numb” to “Everyone” I was unpleasantly surprised to see this actually worked and the email go to everyone at the Uni with an email address. Even less pleasant was telling off I got the next day for frivolous use of the email system and wasting precious disk space 🙂

Andrew Scothern

Chief Architect – Gallagher, Hamilton

In the early 1990s, having 24-hour access to the labs was a thing, not many people had personal desktops. I remember the late nights in the G-basement labs — alas, mainly due to playing computer games off the server using those fluorescent green or yellow screens DEC terminals. Wonder if anyone from that era — 1990/1991/1992 remembers the games we played?

I enjoyed the group projects – the connections built working together completing those don’t-think-we-can-complete-them-in-time and why-are-all-of-them-due-in-the-same-week deadlines; I am still in touch with some of my BCMS group mates! I did a summer internship working with 9 to 10 other (second and third year) SCMS statistics students at HortResearch; we were analysing fertiliser results from experiments conducted in the 1930s! It was an interesting summer — besides the Genstat work — my kiwi friends introduced me to many NZ experiences — Waingaro springs, my first (and last!) 125km bike ride to Whangamatā (they said it was going to be fun….), giant Jaffas!

There were a couple of lecturers who come to mind:

Zaidah Razak –she taught me in my second year (COBOL) and a third year Information Systems paper; I remember in the first lecture, after she spelt out the assessment items of the course, there was dead silence. She had high expectations of us, there was a LOT to do — but she gave us the belief that we could do it, and yes, the sense of achievement when we did it! (Ended working for her after my BCMS)

Bob Barbour, he supervised my 420 capstone project. Bob was a very supportive and understanding supervisor — he was happy to supervise me over the summer prior to my fourth year in which I developed a HyperCard application which tracked mouse movements — think I developed an application after the 420 too. I later returned to pursue a PhD under Bob.

To prospective students I’d say:  It’s a family-like environment; because of the smaller classes, lecturers and tutors know the students by name, and are truly supportive and encouraging of the student; also opportunities to be taught/supervised/work with world class researchers.

Alvin Yeo

Developer/Industry Engagement Manager  – University of Waikato

I am immensely grateful for having graduated from the Master of Information Technology program at the University of Waikato. The computer science and information technology subjects and the internship have been instrumental in my career growth. The university’s strong foundation and practical experience have equipped me with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in various organisations. I have confidently tackled challenges, collaborated effectively, and continuously evolved in the field.

I also started my own company, Chainiom ( Chainiom is a leading NFT Consulting Firm in New Zealand – Helping Web2 brands adopt Web3 technology.

My experience at Waikato instilled in me a deep analytical mindset, a knack for teamwork, and a solid grasp of emerging technologies. These invaluable attributes continue to guide my professional journey and contribute to my ongoing growth.

Thank you for shaping my success.

Samskar Palavarapu

Ministry of Business – Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Auckland

My degree equipped me well with the much needed foundational knowledge and latest skillset in the field. It not only helped me in establishing a strong career but also has catapulted my career progression rate.  I had heard a lot about the University of Waikato and its School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences and even before knowing about the university, I had known about the work CROW lab had been doing. I think this reputation, the support for scientific mindset and research was what made choose to study with the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences.         

For a prospective student my only words would be that the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences is like a home – a very safe, welcoming, nurturing and enabling place. It is like a fertile ground where you can grow in your own unique way. Apart from all the talents, skills and scientific mindset, the most precious things I earned at the University of Waikato are everlasting friendships, memories and a sense of belonging. I think one thing I always missed was being able to actually live my university life during my bachelors. So when I came to the uni I didn’t know that live-in university could be so much fun. The O’ Week was a delight and a cultural shock at the same time.

Akhil Chandel

Cyber Security Consultant – Datacom, Auckland

I have previously worked as a Web Developer, Team Lead, Software Project Manager, and a Mentor in Education. My degree gave me a broad range of technical and soft skills which allowed me to adapt quickly to new roles and responsibilities and begin contributing immediately.

I decided to study programming at a young age. I wanted to stay in Hamilton to be close to family and friends. I had a cousin who had completed his studies here only a year or two earlier. Studying at The University of Waikato was a no-brainer for me – It’s not easy, but if you can get a strong grasp of the fundamentals of computer science then computer science becomes extremely fun. Additionally, the work placements I completed as part of my degree were extremely helpful toward my career.

This school really helped me to see the world in a different way. It gave me a different way of thinking. The possibilities in Software Development are truly endless.

Aaron Matenga

Lecturer – The University of Waikato, Hamilton

I launched my computer science career at Waikato (in first year undergraduate before transfer to University of Adelaide) and then on return for my MSc. Lindsay Groves (first year programming) and Mark Apperley (graphics) were standout faculty from my time at Waikato.

Waikato led the way in computer science for New Zealand so it was natural that growing up in Hamilton I would study there.  A great place to get the fundamentals and to spark interest at the cutting edge. Strong fundamentals and exposure to research.

Tony Hosking

Professor and Director  – ANU School of Computing, Australian National University, Canberra

I was working in multi-national companies in the United Arab Emirates all over Middle East, Europe, Africa, India and China before struck with stroke in August 2018. The School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences gave me a strong background as a computer science and statistic majors for international job demands. I was encouraged to learn AI as it is for future undertaking.  My social participation from muslim scholars to mixed life environments with multi-racial students gave me strong background to face diversity.

Mohd Fudzail Mohd Nor

Book Publisher and Artificial Intelligence Analyst – Fudzail Publication, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It gave me insight into different areas of the field of Computer Science, and helped me to see what I would enjoy doing the most. It gave me background knowledge in a variety of subject areas, and has laid a good foundation on which to build new skills learned in the industry.

I found I enjoyed programming and learning how the devices and technologies I’d grown up around actually worked, and I wanted to learn more about subjects that were harder to learn by myself such as databases and machine learning.

The school has a lot of great lecturers who know their stuff and take an active interest in the learning of their students. You’re never alone if you get stuck, and there are lots of great things to learn through them. Apart from the knowledge and skills I acquired, I also got to develop a sense of self-confidence through the challenges I faced while studying, and the knowledge that I could get past anything I put my mind to.

Shout-out to Te Taka for making COMPX101 a fun introduction to computer science, and thanks to all the lecturers who helped me on my journey!

Narid Drake

ISP Support Engineer – Mercury NZ, Tauranga

My degree has played a significant role in equipping me with the skills and knowledge necessary for my career. Through my practical experiences, I’ve gained a solid foundation in Engineering. This has provided me with a strong understanding of the theoretical framework that underpins the industry.

In addition to the theoretical aspects, my degree has also honed my critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. I’ve been exposed to complex assignments and projects that required me to analyse information from various sources, think creatively, and develop innovative solutions. This has been invaluable in preparing me to address real-world challenges in my career.

Computing and Mathematical sciences are pivotal in shaping the future of technology, preparing students for impactful careers, and contributing to advancements that impact various facets of society.

From the moment I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, I wanted to pursue a Masters but didn’t have the chance. However 13 years after my graduation I realised dreams are renewable and here I am. No matter what your age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born. My eventful journey and continuous learning in engineering gave me an intense realisation I needed to be part of one of New Zealand’s best graduate programme and the School of Computing and Mathematical sciences offered me a research programme. I was offered an External Study Award (ESA), to undertake research in the Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences as part of my ME degree which was a huge financial support for my family.

Papitha Cader

Business Analyst – Valentia Technologies (NZ) Limited, Cambridge

A great opportunity to enhance my computer science knowledge after I graduated from Donghua University with bachelor degree. My bachelor degree is Computer Science in Donghua University, with the passion for the computer science area, I decided to choose it as my Master’s major.  This major probably is the most cutting-edge technology field but also the foundation for many other majors. The learning experience during this period has allowed me to develop good time management habits and the ability to analyse and solve problems.

Cong Li

Lecturer – Lanzhou University of Finance and Economics, Lanzhou, Gansu, China PR

Since 1980 I knew I wanted to be involved with computers – I worked with computers all through school, and then Waikato was the obvious next step.

I’d say it was inclusive, thorough, hard, but worth it, and made you feel like you had a home, while also showing the endless possibilities down the road of computing while standing on the first step toward those goals.  It was amazing to have 24 hour access to the labs. I hope that is still a thing!

Jeremy John Nicholls

Director – beweb ltd, Auckland

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

John Doe

lorem ipsum company name

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

John Doe

lorem ipsum company name

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

John Doe

lorem ipsum company name

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

John Doe

lorem ipsum company name

Share your memories of computing at the University of Waikato: