Computer whizz kid breaks new ground
by Carmel Hayes
A Kilkenny computer whiz kid has invented a unique software product, which could soon be in worldwide demand.
Walter O’Brien from Callan has just graduated with honours in two BSc. degrees from Brighton University in England.
But he is more excited by his new invention, which goes where no computer program has gone before.
The software product, WinLocX, can help a software company to translate the sentences and commands displayed within its programs into other languages.
This process used to be very slow, expensive, error-prone and restricted the programming languages to a select few. This meant that it was not economically viable for small firms to “localize” software in order to sell it abroad.
According to Walter, WinLocX allows companies to translate their software quickly, cheaply, safely and with total flexibility as, uniquely, it can work on any language and any computer platform.
When he first came up with the idea for the new software, his lecturers at Brighton said it was mathematically impossible. All previous attempts had failed.
But the 21-year-old wasn’t deterred by mere mathematical impossibility – although he admits to having had doubts when the core programming designs failed fourteen times!
He persisted and finally developed a design which provided the world’s first working prototype.
According to the young Callan man, the worth of the first prototype has been estimated at $3.6 million and has been valued by industry experts as an $11 million franchise. He is currently considering purchase offers from companies in Ireland, Italy, Poland, England and the US.
The development of WinLocX was a final year project at Brighton, where Walter has just graduated with BSc. Degrees in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. This double major is the only three year course of its kind in the UK, and his lecturers included Dr. Steve Easterbrook, one of the foremost international experts in Artificial Intelligence.
Computers have dominated Walter’s life since he bought his first machine at the age of 12. He was entirely self-taught and did not receive his first formal lesson in computing until he entered university at the age of 18.
Yet at 15 he came first in the prestigious Wisconsin International Computer Problem Solving Competition in Ireland.
He repeated that success in 1991 and went on the represent Ireland on the team which contested the Information Olympics in Argentina in 1993.
After a few years working in the computer industry, Walter hopes to do full-time Virtual Reality “Blue Sky” research in the US.
“Virtual Reality has the power to change almost every aspect of our lives and is totally uninhibited. Its prospects excite me,” he says.