Obituary: Paul Tate
Tuesday 28 February 2023
Paul Tate (photo), who has died aged 66 after a short illness, was a software engineer whose work on the Reuter Monitor for delivery of real-time information led to him becoming known amongst colleagues as "Mr Monitor".
Monitor had been operational for about five years when he joined Reuters in London in 1978 as part of a recruitment campaign for computer science graduates. Lily Teo, Tommy Ho, Kim Looi, and I were part of the same intake, writes Howard Rice-Smith.
Work to upgrade, expand and enhance the service was under way and when jobs were allocated to the new starters Paul was assigned to the Monitor Host Development team as an assistant programmer, reporting to Jan Atkins. He had landed a role that would help shape not just his career for the next 20 years, but the rest of his life.
He became a key contributor to the success of the Monitor platform, and therefore to the prosperity of Reuters through that period. He travelled the world many times over, making life-long friends wherever he went, and he would be remembered for helping to make the whole Monitor team, development, operations, file maintenance, engineering, sales, marketing, technical management, senior management, and even many clients, feel like a close-knit family, to the benefit of Reuters as a whole. He helped keep the money flowing in, and he gave many of us a good laugh as he did it.
The team was given the overall mission of keeping the platform running for as long as it took until the next generation Reuters platform - IDN - was ready to take over. Paul was quick to grasp the importance of Monitor to Reuters. He took to the task with gusto and showed leadership qualities, though in his own style. “A happy team is a productive team” and “work hard, play hard” were his mottos.
The Monitor Host used DEC PDP-11 series 16-bit minicomputers, eventually upgrading to the top of the range PDP-11/70. The operating system was “home-made”, having been developed by Scicon for Reuters in the early 1970s. The system had only small amounts of memory and disk space, and initially relied on punched paper tape for software installation and file maintenance. The Monitor Host application software was built using 16-bit machine code. Paul and Dick Cleaver used to show off in the pub after work by conversing only in Binary.
Through the late ‘70s, the ‘80s and for most of the ‘90s, the work involved running the Monitor Host patch and release production line, liaising with those they needed to, visiting data centres for installations, implementing additional Monitor nodes as the network expanded, and more.
Occasionally there were emergencies, sometimes crises. When the network seemed to be on its last legs, running out of capacity and performance, or with reliability problems, just in time an initiative like “Monitor Dualling” would emerge, to give the product a new lease of life.
At its peak, the network consisted of 72 live/standby pairs of host computers in 11 data centres serving approximately 100,000 directly connected workstations, with terminals located in almost every country with an active economy. The Monitor service was formally turned off in 1999 at completion of the Monitor end of life project.
Paul died at his home in Ryhill, West Yorkshire on 9 February. He will be remembered for his enthusiasm, infectious laughter and bonhomie.
The funeral will take place on 14 March at Pontefract Crematorium with a wake to be held afterwards at Farmer Copleys, just across the road. ■