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Bill Thompson puts out a call for more programmers

Discussion in 'Programming' started by gkd_uk, Apr 2, 2008.

  1. gkd_uk

    gkd_uk Moderator Moderator Webmaster

    Sixty years ago, on June 21 1948, the Small-Scale Experimental Machine, or Baby, ran its first program and the age of the stored program digital computer properly began.

    Built by a team led by Tom Kilburn and Freddie Williams at Manchester University, Baby showed that storing the instructions for a computer in the same memory as the data it was working on was both feasible and effective.

    Baby was too small to do any useful work, but its success prompted the development of the Manchester Mark I, which in turn inspired the Ferranti Mark I, the first general purpose commercial computer.

    At the same time as Kilburn and Williams were working on Baby and the Mark I a team at the Mathematical Laboratory in Cambridge led by Maurice Wilkes was building EDSAC, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator.

    EDSAC went into operation in May 1949 and marked the point when electronic computers began to shape the world because although it was not the first stored-program computer, since Baby had all the features which we would recognise in a modern computer, it was the first system designed to be used by people who had not been involved in its creation.

    In that respect it marked a transformation in our relationship with computing machinery, one whose impact has been immeasurable.

    Right from the start EDSAC provided a service to mathematicians, engineers and, most notably, chemists.

    In the mid 1950s John Kendrew used it in his work to describe the structure of the blood protein myoglobin, for which he won the 1962 Nobel Prize.

    The line from EDSAC and the Mark I, through the first commercial computers built by Ferranti and Lyons, and on to IBM and the age of the mainframe, is quite clear.

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