Early computer project revisited

EDSAC I, W.Renwick, M.Wilkes. Copyright Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge

EDSAC I, W.Renwick, M.Wilkes. Copyright Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge

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THE first computer designed for general purpose use is being rebuilt at the National Computing Museum in Bletchley.

The highly ambitious project to build a working replica of the EDSAC was first announced 12 months ago and is scheduled for completion in 2015.

The EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) was first operational on May 6, 1949 and, continuously expanded throughout its lifetime, ran for a further nine years.

It was then scrapped and only three of its 140 ‘chassis’ have survived.

A display of original EDSAC artefacts can now be seen by visitors to The National Museum of Computing where the EDSAC recreation is to take place.

EDSAC project manager, Andrew Herbert, explained: “EDSAC marks a hugely important early milestone in computing. Until EDSAC, general purpose computers had been purely experimental systems locked away in research laboratories.

David Hartley, Museum Director at TNMOC, said: “The educational value of this machine to our many visiting education groups will be enormous.

“Pupils and students, so-called ‘digital natives’, who have grown up almost casually using computers as part of their everyday lives will gain an understanding of where general purpose computing started out and how far it has come in less than a lifetime.

“EDSAC will be an enormously important addition to our other displays of historic working computers.”

> To follow the developments of the EDSAC project, visit www.edsac.org