Ustus Agur (1929-1997), the grand old man of Estonian computer science, was a man of many trades. Throughout his prolific career, he mentored computer engineers, worked as a researcher, developed vernacular IT terminology, and laid the basis for Estonia’s IT sciences as well as authoring over 500 publications. A number of his works were ground-breaking and pioneering in the Estonian context.
Ustus Agur became fascinated with the possibilities offered by electronic computing as early as the 1950s, when he published the first introduction on the subject available in Estonian. In 1967, Agur founded Tallinn University of Technology’s computer faculty, at roughly the same time computing sciences were first institutionalised in England, Germany and other selected European countries. During his tenure as a lecturer and head of the faculty between 1966-1976 Ustus Agur gave lectures on a range of subjects, including general principles of electronic technology, electrical actuator theory, fundamentals of informatics, data processing devices, data transmission and computer networks. Agur’s annual academic output included tens of articles covering fields such as higher education pedagogical methods, programming courses, relationships between literature, art and cybernetics, efficiency and quality of computation. Agur published a number of textbooks on informatics, with the most popular work being his work entitled People and Automation, which was intended for a non-specialist audience.
A new chapter in Agur’s life opened after he accepted a position in Estonia’s Institute of Informatics, a body tasked with developing Estonian science and technology information systems. Agur headed the institute task force responsible for formulating the underlying principles and concepts used in founding Estonia’s national scientific and technological information grid. Under Agur’s curatorship, a number of annual national conferences and roundtable discussions were held to discuss topical issues pertaining to information flows and carrier grids. 1988 was the year when efforts led by Estonia’s foremost computer scientist resulted in the formulation of a concept for the informatisation of Estonia – an initiative that was met with widespread public acclaim. Agur was also instrumental in formulating Estonia’s IT policy through establishing the Estonian Informatics Council and Informatics Foundation, two institutions which he personally managed in his later years.
Agur’s innovative and multi-faceted undertakings left an enduring legacy of a devoted researcher, a populariser of computing sciences, a developer of IT vocabulary, a creator of numerous IT dictionaries and an author and translator of pioneering works in computing sciences. As such, he has left an indelible mark on Estonia’s cultural heritage. The Ülemiste City complex building located at Lõõtsa 8 is named after Ustus Agur.