Five and-a-half ton dinosaur computer has tiny fraction of the processing power of the first iPhone

Dr David Hartley of TNMOC with Rod Brown, custodian of Flossie 1976-2013, receiving the first part of Flossie at the TNMOC store. Picture: Robert Dowell
Dr David Hartley of TNMOC with Rod Brown, custodian of Flossie 1976-2013, receiving the first part of Flossie at the TNMOC store. Picture: Robert Dowell
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A monster computer from the 1960s has been saved from the scrapheap for the third time and turned into a museum exhibit.

The five-and-a-half-ton first mass-produced business computer, Flossie, has a little more than 1 per cent of the processing power of the first iPhone, according to the boffins at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) where it now resides.

Flossie was the first of more than 150 ICT 1301s that were delivered for use in commercial and public organisations. Unlike a sleek iPhone, the huge machine has a footprint of 6 metres by 7 metres and arrived in three container lorries.

Kevin Murrell, TNMOC trustee, explained the significance of ICT 301 the history of computing.

He said: “The ICT 1301 marks a transition from simply knowing how to build computers, to being able to install one in almost any office without needing special facilities. It had a fixed layout and all it required was enough space and reasonable air-conditioning, whereas earlier computers required special features such as false floors for cabling.

“The ICT 1301 was ready for work! It transformed data processing in many businesses and used punched cards, magnetic tape reels and built-in printers.”

In its pomp Flossie was used at the University of London for GCE examination results for candidates in England and Wales.

After it was decommissioned at the University of London in about 1972, it was purchased at scrap metal prices by a group of students who ran an accounting bureau for about five years. They then advertised it in Amateur Computer Club Magazine and it was bought, again at scrap metal value. After languishing for a period in a barn in Kent, it was restored with the help of the Computer Conservation Society.

Last year Flossie was again at risk of being scrapped but thanks to The National Museum of Computing the machine is safe again.

Thanks to their design, some ICT 1301s took on another role in the 1970s and 1980s. They will be familiar to many film buffs, having appeared in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, Blake’s 7, The Pink Panther, and Doctor Who.

Only three other ICT 1301s are known to exist today, but Flossie is the only one ever likely to work again.