World’s 1st Computer Program Runs in Manchester
Stuff Silicon Valley. The computer revolution started in the cradle of the earlier industrial revolution – Manchester.
It was in fact at Manchester University that the race to produce an electronic machine capable of storing both data and programs, which is one way of defining what a computer actually is, was won. Professor Freddie Williams and his assistant, Tom Kilburn, had worked together on special electronics projects during the war , their base a small room in the cricket pavilion of Malvern College . When in 1947 Williams became Professor of Electro-Technics at Manchester he ensured the gifted Kilburn was seconded to him. Williams was the mastermind behind cracking the storage problem, based on use of a cathode ray tube. But it was Tom Kilburn who drove the project, and it was he who wrote the first program for the computer they developed together, ironically nick-named ‘Baby’ – it was about 7m x 2m x 0.6m.
The first program was designed to find the highest factor of a number, in the first place a rather small number. After some false starts, a successful run was made on Monday June 21 1948. The computer age had dawned. Kilburn further developed the machine, and by 1951 Ferranti in Moston, Manchester was able to deliver the first commercially made machine based on his work.
As too often, Britain invented something and then failed to dominate its exploitation. But for every Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, we can proffer a Tim Berners-Lee , Charles Babbage , Alan Turing, and yes Tom Kilburn, a model of whose ‘Baby’ can be seen at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry .
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