Pat Kenny describes the growing importance of computers in the television presentation and analysis of election results.

In 1982 elections took place in both February and November, making it three general elections in eighteen months.

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 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. 

Pat goes on to describe television pictures as ephemeral, and hard copies are needed by the experts. Printouts are produced using an Apple computer which is linked to a printer.  

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. Richard 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. For Mr Synott, the computer generated predictions are only as good as the assumptions assigned to the data and the interpretation of the results. He believes that 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.