Computers are changing how election results are delivered analysed and presented on television.

In 1982, elections took place in both February and November, making it three general elections in eighteen months. The first election of 1982 followed the collapse of the Fine Gael Labour coalition after the government's budget was defeated. John Bruton, Minister for Finance, had attempted to put a VAT on children's shoes and left wing independent TDs who had been supporting the government voted against the government leading to its collapse after just nine months.

The third election in eighteen months saw Fianna Fáil returning 75 seats. However, Fine Gael with 70 seats formed a coalition with Labour who had 16 seats.

Two elections in the same year put extra pressure on resources at RTÉ which covered the campaign and the election results on both television and radio. Computers played a key role in the delivery of results from the count centres and analysis of the results.

The day following the November election, Pat Kenny describes the growing role played by computers in the television presentation and analysis of election results.

It's a very complex and complicated business to get the results from all around the country and put them up on your screens. Happily, a lot of the slog has been taken out of it in recent years by the arrival of computers.

All the computer hardware used for the analysis is manufactured in Ireland, between Digitel in Galway and Apple in Cork.

Results from the count centres arrive in RTÉ by telephone line and are uploaded to computers. The VT30 machine is used to generate graphics to present the results to viewers. 

But don't forget television pictures are ephemeral. We need hard copies for the experts and the analysts.

A lot of number crunching is done using Apple computers to generate statistics of interest. 

There is still a requirement for expert human intervention in the form of Richard Synott, lecturer in Political Science at University College Dublin. He describes the work done by the computer in predicting the final outcome of the election based on the first count results and the patterns of transfers in the previous election. Richard Synott says computer generated predictions are only as good as the assumptions assigned to the data and the interpretation of the results. He believes what is needed is an alliance between the computer output and the expert analysts. 

We'd be interpreting it with a certain amount of caution.

This episode of 'Today Tonight' was broadcast on 25 November 1982. The presenter is Pat Kenny.

'Today Tonight' was an RTÉ current affairs programme with up to the minute coverage of events at home and abroad. 'Today Tonight' was first broadcast on Monday 6 October 1980 and ran for twelve years until 19992. Edited by Joe Mulholland, the original presenters included Barry Cowan, Brian Farrell and Olivia O'Leary.