History of Computing beyond the Computer
The Oxford Mathematics Institute and the British Society for the History of Mathematics
host “History of Computing beyond the Computer” on 21-22nd March,
with speakers Marie Hicks, Andrew Hodges, Adrian Johnstone, Cliff Jones,
Julianne Nyhan, Mark Priestly, and Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze,
with a focus on the people and the science underpinning modern programming,
from Charles Babbage's hardware design language to the systematic exclusion of women.
Full programme below and booking at
The event is colocated with HAPOP, the Fourth Symposium on the History
and Philosophy of Programming, taking place on 23rd March 2018 -
The events coincide with the Oxford Literary Festival, where Ursula
Martin and Miranda Seymour will be talking about their new books on
Ada Lovelace on 19th March 2018 -
LEO Exhibition in Cambridge
To mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the LEO Computers project,
The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge is holding an exhibition starting
11th November 2017 to explore how developing the LEO Computers
allowed Lyons to take the lead in applying computers to the world of business.
The first LEO was heavily based on the Cambridge EDSAC and, in fact, the
forward-thinking Lyons part-funded EDSAC’s development so that they could
produce a version themselves for commercial purposes.
Lyons handed over the funds to Maurice Wilkes on 11th November 1947
and this exhibition opens on the 70th anniversary of that event.
Members of the LEO Society will be at the museum for the weekend of 11/12th
November to talk to visitors about what is was really like working with
the LEO computers and there’ll be some rare LEO hardware and
documentation on display.
The exhibition will bring together the objects CCH holds along with some items
on loan from the LEO Society and Corby Heritage Centre to tell the story of
this extraordinary company and the computerised business world they helped create.
Admission to the exhibition is free as part of the standard museum entry charges
so you can see the whole museum when you visit.
Making IT Work Conference Proceedings
The edited proceeding of last May’s Making IT Work
conference are now available at
http://www.computerconservationsociety.org/miw/Proc MIW 2017.pdf.
Annual General Meeting
This year’s AGM was held at 14:00 on October 26th 2017
preceeding the lecture at the BCS in Southampton Street in London.
The agenda and other details can be found at
Hamish Carmichael 1934-2017
It is with a deep sadness that the Computer Conservation Society has received
news of the passing of Hamish Carmichael.
Hamish came into the IT industry in the late 1950s when he joined Powers Samas
not long before it merged with the British Tabulating Machine Company
to form ICT.
After serving for many years in “Corporate Systems”,
ICT/ICL’s internal IT division, he turned his attention to ICL’s
well-regarded Content Addressable FileStore (CAFS) product.
These days Microsoft employ people called “evangelists”.
Their job is to enthuse people about this or that Microsoft product.
That’s what Hamish did for the last decade or so of his ICL career.
He often began his presentations with “My name is Hamish Carmichael
and I’m a CAFS enthusiast”.
The success of CAFS was due in no small measure to Hamish’s evangelism.
His championing of the related INDEPOL software took him all over the world.
After retirement he threw in his lot with the CCS, serving for ten years
as its secretary and for a similar period volunteering at the London Science Museum
to catalogue their extensive collection of ICL documents to which he added
numerous items donated by his wide circle of ICL and ex-ICL colleagues.
It was a tour de force amounting to more than 200 meteres of shelf space,
the Museum’s biggest collection of documents.
He also served as the unsung proof reader for Resurrection.
But perhaps his proudest achievement was his editorship of two volumes of
An ICL Anthology
Another ICL Anthology.
Hamish was working on a third volume and wanted this work to continue.
Please send more ICL and CCS anecdotes and scurillous stories to
A few years ago, at the usual Christmas CCS film afternoon, there was a showing of
an ICT publicity film from the mid 1960s in which Hamish had been unaccountably
cast in the rôle of ignorant customer playing against a professional actor
explaining some of the joys of the 1900 Series.
As the film ended, audience shouts of “Speech!” brought Hamish to his
feet and, off the cuff he proceeded to keep us all in stiches for 10 minutes
with witty tales of how the film was made.
Such are our fond memories of this most amusing of companions.
The funeral on August 11th was attended by over a dozen of Hamish’s
Friends from the Soiciety.
Roger Johnson presented to Hamish’s partner Kathy,
the BCS Lifetime Achievement Award which was to have been given to Hamish had he not been taken from us.
There was also an interrment commencing from at The Inn at Kippen near Stirling,
on Sepember 11th.
Hamish was a lovely man, a real gentleman who you couldn’t help but like.
It wasn’t just a privilege to have known him, it was a pleasure, a joy.
The Society has instituted a system of recognising outstanding
service to the practice of computer conservation by making formal awards
to individuals whose contributions have been particularly meritorious.
The initial two awards have been presented to Doron Swade and to
Go to our new Honours Page
for more details.
Making IT Work Conference
Making IT Work, a meeting on the practice of computer conservation,
will be held on 22-23rd May 2017.
The international meeting will be the first of its type and is organised
by the Computer Conservation Society and The National Museum of Computing.
Conference sessions with international speakers be on Monday 22nd
May at the BCS HQ in London and workshop sessions at
The National Museum of Computing on Tuesday 23rd May 2017.
For details, see miw.htm and
CCS Visit to the Deutches Museum in Munich
Following the success of our Berlin visit we have booked a tour
of Computers and Microelectronics at the Deutsches Museum
in Munich at 11:00 on 8th April.
As with the previous trip there will only be two fixed points:-
Dinner on the 7th
The Tour on 8th.
To keep things simple, members are booking their own hotels and
making their own travel arrangements to allow for their own tourist activities.
Dinner will be at individual expense as will entry to the Museum,
the cost of the guide will be divided between those taking the tour.
The list for this trip is now closed.
Tony Sale Award
On the 17th of November, the 2016 Tony Sale Award was won by
The Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum in Paderborn, Germany for their recreation
of part of the ENIAC early computer/calculator which has been built as
an interactive exhibit to demonstrate the workings of this early machine.
For details, see
TNMoC Member’s Christmas Social
will be held immediately following the November CCS
meeting at The Mad Hatter in Stamford Street (near the junction with Blackfriars Bridge).
CCS members who are not members of TNMoC are also welcome.
The details are:
Thursday 17th November 2016 from 16:30 till 21:00.
We have a private room booked for the event.
There will be a selection of canapés served at 18:00.
£15 for each member or guest, payable in advance please:
By PayPal to www.paypal.me/TNMOCXMAS/15 (you do NOT need to register for PayPal).
Or you may use bank transfer to sort code 40-47-86 account 11419110
Or pay in advance by personal cheque
In all cases, please email Doug Neilson to say how you have booked
For your convenience, the RV1 bus plies a somewhat serpentine route from the end of
Exeter Street (back door of the BCS) to The Mad Hatter taking a leisurely 41 minutes so to do.
You could walk it in 26 minutes but you would miss the opportunity to pass by the
site of the first headquarters of the British Tabulating Machine Company.
A pint awaits the first person to point it out as we pass by, otherwise you’re buying!
This November marks 100 years since the birth of Christopher Strachey.
The University of Oxford is holding a symposium to celebrate his life
and research in Oxford on Saturday 19th November.
There will also be an exhibition of material from the Strachey archive
on Friday 18th November, followed by a banquet dinner
at Hertford College on the evening of Friday 18th November.
For more information and to register for attendance, please go to
Christopher Strachey (1916-1975) was a pioneering computer scientist and the
founder of the Programming Research Group, now part of the
Department of Computer Science at Oxford University.
Although Strachey was keenly interested in the practical aspects of computing,
it is in the theoretical side that he most indelibly left his mark,
notably by creating with Dana Scott the denotational (or as he called it,
‘mathematical’) approach to defining the semantics of programming languages.
Strachey also spent time writing complex programs and puzzles for various computers,
such as a draughts playing program for the Pilot ACE in 1951.
He developed some fundamental concepts of machine-independent operating systems,
including an early suggestion for time-sharing, and was a prime mover
in the influential CPL programming language.
Strachey came from a notable family of intellectuals and artists, perhaps most famous
for Christopher’s uncle Lytton, a writer and member of the Bloomsbury group.
We will be marking the occasion of 100 years since Christopher Strachey’s
birth on Saturday 19th November 2016, three days after his birthday,
with a symposium of invited speakers.
The morning will look back at Strachey’s life and works from a historical
and technical perspective, and the afternoon will concern the future of
Strachey-inspired theoretical computer science at Oxford University.
There will also be a display of related archival material on
Friday 18th November for anyone interested, and
a banquet dinner at Hertford College on the evening of Friday 18th November.
CCS Annual General Meeting
The Computer Conservation Society will hold its Annual General Meteing on the 17th
of October at 14:00 at the BCS London headquarters in Southampton Street.
The AGM will be followed by a “normal” meeting (see left).
Details may be found as follows -.
2015 AGM Minutes
Notes on proposed revisions to the CCS Constitution
Pegasus at the V&A
The Computer Conservation Society has, until recently, been working with the
London Science Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester
on the Pegasus computers which each of these institutions own.
Sadly both these projects have had to be halted for want of museum resources.
You might wonder what has happened to these two historic machines.
The Science Museum Pegasus has gone into store and there are at present,
no plans to exhibit it again.
The Manchester machine has been lent to the Victoria & Albert Museum
(just accross the road from the Science Museum — the irony is not lost on us)
to be a part of
Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design
a new exhibition which runs until the 6th of November.
It is understood that Ove Arup used a Pegasus (not the same one) to help design
the Sydney Opera House.
Saturday 24th September 2016 – Guided Visit to the
Ferranti Argus 700 Restoration Project - RAF Cosford
Meeting point at 11:30 am.
The tour is estimated to last for about two hours.
The Argus 700 is a computer that gained a reputation from industrial control
and a variety of simulators, both civilian and military.
Following a four-year restoration project, a Cold War simulator,
with its Argus 700, has been fully restored.
The restored simulator at RAF Cosford was used in the Bloodhound missile
system to train controllers in the defence of the United Kingdom during
the Cold War.
The visit will include an overview of the Argus 700 and the challenges
faced in restoring it to full working order, why it was used in the
and how the Argus architecture meets the requirements of control systems.
The simulator will be operating, lifting the lid on one aspect of the
Cold War of which the general public knew very little.
Please note that it is located in a hangar on the airfield, where it
can be cold and damp, and where toilet facilities are limited
(Reception is a better bet!).
RAF Cosford is a secure area (and a completely separate site to the RAF Museum,
about 10 minutesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ drive away, where there is a cafÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© for before or after the visit).
Specific instructions for checking in will be issued nearer the time.
As this an MOD site, visitors must be registered in advance, and security passes
must be issued on arrival.
RAF Cosford will need to know full names of attendees, and car details if you
are coming by car (there is a car parking charge).
Any queries, please contact Peter Harry, Bloodhound Missile Preservation Group
The website is www.bmpg.org.uk
The visit is now fully subscribed.
Visit to the Berlin Technical Museum
It is planned to visit the Berlin Technical Museum on 16th April 2016.
We will view, amongst other things, the replica Z1 automatic mechanical calculator built
by Konrad Zuse.
Our host will be Prof. Horst Zuse who has memorably spoken at CCS meetings on the subject
of his father’s work.
We will gather for dinner on the evening of Friday 15th April at 7 pm.
Saturday 16th April would be spent at the museum, followed by another group dinner.
You should make your own arrangements for travel and hotels.
Partners and friends will be welcome.
It is suggested that hotels in or near Alexanderplatz in the centre of Berlin will be convenient
and that we make our way to and from the museum by U-bahn.
“Welcome Cards” are available in Berlin which can be purchased on-line before arrival and cover
differing times and travel zones to suit each visitor.
They also offer discounts for entrance fees.
If you are intending to come, please contact Dan Hayton at
so that we know numbers and names for the visit and for the restaurants.
Poem for Ada Lovelace
Marion Whistle has submitted at poem to celbrate
the Lovelace bi-centenary here.
Fujitsu Sponsers TNMoC
Fujitsu, the global ICT provider, is supporting The National Museum of Computing
(TNMOC) by becoming a Foundation Sponsor.
The move reflects the pioneering role that Fujitsu’s predecessor companies
in the UK, such as ICL, played in the early days of the UK computer industry.
Today that history is reflected at TNMOC in the form of the Museum’s
largest computer, the ICL 2966 of the 1970s and 1980s, and its forerunners
the Elliott systems of the 1960s.
These systems have or are being restored and can be seen in operation
at the Museum..
ICL Technical Journal available on the web
The ICL Technical Journal was a significant series with articles about
computer and system developments in ICL and beyond.
It was published between 1978 and 2000, with 43 issues in 14 volumes.
A collaboration between Fujitsu and the National Museum of Computing
has now enabled the original journals to be published online.
Many ICL engineers, designers, developers, and technical managers wrote
articles on their work and innovations.
The articles demonstrate the enormous contribution made by ICL people
to the development of modern computing, in many cases forming the basis
of practices still in use today.
The journals can be viewed on the
The contents for each issue are shown and each issue can be searched using
the Adobe search tool, and you can search across the set.
There are some articles on computer history topics,
and CCS members may find the following of interest.
On ICL research and development there are three articles by
Prof. Martin Campbell-Kelly (in Volume 5 Issue 1 for 1904-1959,
Volume 6 Issue 1 for 1959-1968, and Volume 6 Issue 4 for the New Range.
These articles were subsequently published in Martin’s book on the
history of ICL).
And on the origins of the 2900 series mainframes there is an article from
1978 by John Buckle (in Volume 1 Issue 1).
Ada Lovelace 200th anniversary celebrations at Oxford University
In 2015 the University of Oxford will celebrate the 200th
anniversary of the birth of computer visionary Ada Lovelace.
The centrepiece of the celebrations will be a display at the
University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library (13 October - 18 December 2015)
and a Symposium (9 and 10 December 2015), presenting Lovelace’s life and work,
and contemporary thinking on computing and artificial intelligence.
For more information or to register your interest see
Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), is best known for a remarkable article
about Charles Babbage’s unbuilt computer, the Analytical Engine.
This presented the first documented computer program, to calculate the
Bernoulli numbers, and explained the ideas underlying Babbage’s
machine and every one of the billions of computers and computer programs
in use today.
Going beyond Babbage’s ideas of computers as manipulating numbers,
Lovelace also wrote about their creative possibilities and limits:
her contribution was highlighted in one of Alan Turing’s most famous papers
Can a machine think?.
Lovelace had wide scientific and intellectual interests and studied with
scientist Mary Somerville, and with Augustus De Morgan,
a leading mathematician and pioneer in logic and algebra.
The display, in the Bodleian’s new Weston Library, will offer a chance to
see Lovelace’s correspondence with Babbage, De Morgan, Somerville and others,
and her childhood exercises and mathematical notes.
The Symposium, on 9th and 10th December 2015,
is aimed at a broad audience interested in the history and culture of
mathematics and computer science, presenting current scholarship
on Lovelace’s life and work, and linking her ideas to contemporary thinking
about computing, artificial intelligence and the brain.
Confirmed speakers so far include Lovelace’s direct descendent the Earl of
Lytton, Lovelace biographer Betty Toole, computer historian Doron Swade,
historian Richard Holmes, computer scientist Moshe Vardi and graphic novelist
Other activities will include a workshop for early career researchers, a
“Music and Machines” event, and a dinner in Balliol College
on 9th December, the eve of Lovelace’s 200th birthday.
Oxford’s celebration is led by the Bodleian Libraries and the University
of Oxford’s Department of Computer Science, working with colleagues in
the Mathematics Institute, Oxford e-Research Centre, Balliol College,
Somerville College, the Department of English and TORCH.
Oxford has a remarkable history of programming research, with two winners of
the ACM A M Turing Award, the Nobel Prize for Computer Science,
and the unique breadth and depth of Oxford’s expertise brings a variety
of perspectives to understanding Lovelace and the remarkable intellectual
community around her, whose ideas underpin modern computing.
New Arrangements for Distribution of Resurrection
For the last 25 years Resurrection has been distributed free of charge
to all CCS members and generously paid for by
BCS The Chartered Institute for IT.
Over time, the membership of the CCS has increased from a few dozen
to well over a thousand, around half of whom are not BCS members.
Understandably it has been decided that this arrangement is no longer
sustainable and starting with edition number 71 we will be asking
most non-members of BCS who wish to continue to receive paper copies
of Resurrection to pay a small annual subscription of £10
for four issues of Resurrection
Current BCS members will continue to receive paper copies of
Resurrection as will former BCS members aged 60 and over who had at
least five years continuous membership of the BCS.
Of course Resurrection will continue to be freely available on the web at
If we have your email address you will be notified each time a new edition
If you received an explanitory note with Resurrection 69 recently
then this means that we had NOT identified you as a qualififing recipient for
free copies Resurrection in the future.
If no such enclosure was found, then you will continue to recieve Resurrection
The next edition of Resurrection (Resurrection 70) will be the
last one which will go to everybody.
Non-qualifying members who want to continue to receive paper copies of
Resurrection can subscribe using the BCS online booking system at
CCS Members’ Email Addresses
We have recently discovered that the BCS, who maintain the CCS membership list
on our behalf, does not have email addresses for around 300 CCS members.
Until now this has been of little account, but we would like to be able
to email as many CCS members as possible,
not least to inform members each time a new edition of Resurrection
If you do not receive occasional email from us telling you about forthcoming
lectures then we don’t have your email address.
We would be grateful if you would email our esteemed membership secretary at
enclosing your name and address (so that he can accurately identify you).
Delay in Production of Resurrection 69
Although Resurrection 69 has been completed and is available on this website
here, there has been a
problem over funding for the printed version.
As members will know, Resurrection has hitherto been paid for by the BCS.
Questions have arisen within the BCS as to whether this arrangement can be allowed
to continue and whether Resurrection ought not to be an exclusively
online publication as befits a society devoted to IT.
Rest assured that relevant members of the CCS committee are addressing this
problem as a matter of urgency and we hope to bring you a printed
Resurrection 69 in due course.
In the meanwhile, please bear with us.
Annual Turing Lecture
On 23rd February, the annual Turing Lecture took place at the Royal Institution.
A recording was made and can be seen
Of particuar interest to CCS members was a short introductory speech by
Alan Turing's nephew Dermot (between 2:15 and 5:30 minutes) during which
he was kind enough to give a complementary mention to “our”
replica Bombe at Bletchley Park.
New Gallery at the Science Museum opens
The impressive new gallery at the London Science Museum was opened at the end of
October by H.M. the Queen.
Entitled The Information Age it contains an interesting collection
covering the history of telecommunications and computing.
Of particular interest to many CCS members, will be the NPL’s Pilot Ace,
the Control Data 6600 and its Russian equivalent, the BESM6 -
each, in their time the muscle of scientific computing.
Tony Sale award winners announced
The 2014 Tony Sale award was awarded to two entries (from a field of eight) -
the IBM 1401 restoration at the Computer History Museum in California and
the creation of a virtual replica of the Zuse Z1 mecanical computer of 1938.
The Imitation Game
The new film about Alan Turing was released on 14th November.
CCS 25th Anniversary
This month marks a quarter of a century since the Society was
founded by Doron Swade and Tony Sale.
Now boasting over 1,000 members we feel great pride that the Society continues
to prosper and earn its place as a centre of expertise and excellence.
Bombe Rebuild voted top Engineering Heritage award winner
The Bombe code-breaking machine has been voted the favourite artefact
ever to have won an Engineering Heritage Award.
Termination of two MOSI Projects
It is with a heavy heart that we have to report that the authorities at the
Manchester Museum of Science and Industry have decided to terminate the
Hartree Differential Analyser Project and the Pegasus Peripherals Project
as they no loinger fit in with the museum's future plans.
We understand that the Computing Gallery will be closed.
A sad day for us all especially for Charles Lindsey, Brian Russell, Dave Wade
and the other team members.
Forthcoming Redesign of the Maths/Computer Gallery at the London Science Museum
On September 12th, it was announced that the present Computer/Mathematics
Gallery at the London Science Museum has attracted a donation of no less that £5,000,000
from one David Harding founder of Wilton Capital Management, a hedge fund company.
The new gallery which is due to open in late 2016, will replace the current gallery.
Planning is at an early stage, but we hear that Pegasus is not likely to remain,
nor the Babbage Difference Engine.
On the other hand the Powers-Samas punched card office is thought to have been
included in the initial plans and there is a possibility that the Elliott 401
may be put on public display for the first time.
Announcement of The Alan Turing Institute
In his budget speech, the Chancellor, George Osborne announced the creation of
The Alan Turing Institute which is to be a new research organisation to
investigate methods of analysing huge quantities of "Big Data"
to find patterns.
A budget of £42,000,000 has been allocated to support this work.
Organisations, including existing universities, will be invited to bid for the new
institute later in the year.
At least two Alan Turing Institutes have been set up previously, one in Holland and
another by the late Donald Michie in Glasgow in 1983 which latter closed in 1994
(a fact which seems to have escaped the notice of the Daily Telegraph)
due to lack of clients.
Manchester MP John Leech immediately suggested that Manchester University would be an
appropriate site for the new organisation, saying
"Alan Turing's contribution to Manchester was enormous...".
CCS members will, no doubt, have their own views about that.
Disagreements at Bletchley Park/National Museum of Computing
At the end of January a dispute between TNMoC and the Bletchley Park Trust which has been brewing for some
time burst into the open as a result of a BBC News report which can be viewed at
A comprehensive summary of the dispute may be found at tinyurl.com/tnmocvsbpt.
CCS is closely related to both TNMoC and BPT and feels that it would be inappropriate at this stage to comment.
We hope the dispute can be resolved without further adverse effects to both parties.
In the meantime, we feel obliged to let members know what is going on.
Alan Turing Pardon
Alan Turing was granted a posthumous Royal pardon on Christmas Eve.
This follows a long campain to have his 1952 conviction for gross indecency set aside.
Reaction was generally positive.
Iain Standen, head of the Bletchley Park Trust opined
"Turing was a visionary mathematician and genius whose work contributed
enormously both to the outcome of the war and the computer age"
Turing's biographer, Andrew Hodges was less effusive -
"Alan Turing suffered appalling treatment 60 years ago and there has been a very well intended and deeply
felt campaign to remedy it in some way.
Unfortunately, I cannot feel that such a 'pardon' embodies any good legal principle.
If anything, it suggests that a sufficiently valuable individual should be above the law which applies to everyone else.
...... For me, this symbolic action adds nothing.
A more substantial action would be the release of files on Turing's secret work for GCHQ in the cold war.
Loss of security clearance, state distrust and surveillance may have been crucial factors in the two years
leading up to his death in 1954."
The National Museum of Computing
has been pledged its largest-ever single donation of £1 million and is seeking
the required matched funding to double its value.
The donation will be phased as matching funding is received and will enable the Museum
to develop its enormous potential.
Early priorities include refurbishing the Museum and increasing its capacity for
visitors and exhibits.
The donor, Matt Crotty, a technology entrepreneur and a trustee of TNMoC, said;
"To help the development of a Museum such as this is an exceptional opportunity
that comes once in a lifetime.
I have watched this organisation grow and make astonishing achievements with very
My decision to donate has also been motivated by the increasing public awareness
of the significance of digital heritage and the role and understanding it can play
in inspiring current and future generations to become engineers and
The Centre for Computing History
has recently completed its long-awaited relocation from Haverhill to Cambridge.
Their website gives details.
A poem of praise for Alan Turing
CCS member Marion Whistle has composed a short poem remembering
the life of Alan Turing here.
The Science Museum and other similarly distinguished organisations have recently held
a poll to determine the most important British innovation of the last 100 years.
Turing's notion of the "universal" computer was voted first out of 87
with the World Wide Web coming in at number six.
More details here.
A History of the History of Bletchley Park and Colossus
In February Professor Brian Randell visited the National Museum of Computing at
Bletchley Park and, in front of the rebuilt Colossus,
gave a fascinating talk on how, in the early 1970s,
he uncovered the then secret of Bletchley Park and Colossus.
Crossing swords with the security services and the then Prime Minister,
Professor Randell slowly teased out the truth of the long hidden world of Bletchley Park.
Now available on video here.
Harwell Decatron ReBoot
After a three-year restoration project at The National Museum of Computing,
the Harwell Dekatron (aka WITCH) computer was rebooted on 20th November 2012
to become the world's oldest original working digital computer.
Now in its seventh decade and in its fifth home,
the computer with its flashing lights and clattering printers and readers provides
an awe-inspiring display for visiting school groups and the general public
keen to learn about our rich computer heritage.
The 2.5 tonne, 1951 computer from Harwell with its 828 flashing Dekatron valves,
480 relays and a bank of paper tape readers clattered back into action in the
presence of two of the original designers,
one of its first users and many others who have admired it at different times during
its remarkable history.
Kevin Murrell, trustee of TNMOC who initiated the restoration project, said:
"In 1951 the Harwell Dekatron was one of perhaps a dozen computers in the world,
and since then it has led a charmed life surviving intact while its contemporaries
were recycled or destroyed.
As the world's oldest original working digital computer,
it provides a wonderful contrast to our Rebuild of the wartime Colossus,
the world's first semi-programmable electronic computer."
The Harwell Dekatron computer first ran at Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment
in 1951 where it automated the tedious calculations performed by talented young
people using mechanical hand calculators.
Designed for reliability rather than speed, it could carry on relentlessly for days
at a time delivering its error-free results.
It wasn't even binary, but worked in decimal -- a feature that is beautifully
displayed by its flashing Dekatron valves.
By 1957, the computer had become redundant at Harwell,
but an imaginative scientist at the atomic establishment arranged a competition
to offer it to the educational establishment putting up the best case for its
continued use. Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College won,
renamed it the WITCH (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computation from Harwell)
and used it in computer education until 1973.
After a period on display in the former Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry,
it was dismantled and put into storage,
but "rediscovered" by a team of volunteers from The National Museum
of Computing in 2008.
With the blessing of the Birmingham museum and in conjunction with the
Computer Conservation Society,
the team developed a plan to restore the machine and to put it once again to
educational use at TNMOC.
Kevin Murrell recalls its rediscovery:
"I first encountered the Harwell Dekatron as a teenager in the 1970s when
it was on display in the Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry --
and I was captivated by it.
When that Museum closed, it disappeared from public view,
but four years ago quite by chance I caught a glimpse of its control panel
in a photograph of stored equipment.
That sparked our ideas to rescue it and we hunted it down."
"The TNMOC restoration team has done a superb job to get it working again
and it is already proving to be a fascination to young and old alike.
To see it in action is to watch the inner workings of a computer --
something that is impossible on the machines of today.
The restoration has been in full public view and even before it was working again
the interest from the public was enormous."
Delwyn Holroyd, a TNMOC volunteer who led the restoration team, said:
"The restoration was quite a challenge requiring work with components like valves,
relays and paper tape readers that are rarely seen these days and are certainly not
found in modern computers.
Older members of the team had to brush up on old skills while younger members had
to learn from scratch!"
Here is a report from
the BBC news website featuring Kevin and Delwyn talking about the machine.
You can find more information on the machine here.
Tony Sale Award 2012
The Tony Sale Award, sponsored by Google, was set up to recognise singular
engineering achievements in the area of computer conservation achievements
in the growing area of computer conservation.
The first Award was presented at a ceremony held on 11th October, at the BCS, London.
The winning project is the Ferranti Mark 1 LoveLetters, reconstruction of software
for text generation submitted by Dr David Link who is based in Cologne.
This computer art installation is a functional replica of the 1951 Ferranti Mark 1
David Link reconstructed software developed by one of the very first software developers.
In 1953-1954, using the programming system devised by Alan Turing,
Christopher Strachey used the built-in random generator of the Ferranti Mark 1
to generate texts intended to express and arouse emotions - or,
automated 'love letters'.
The project's fusion of art, engineering and history celebrates one of the first
artistic applications of the computer in a visually attractive way.
It is conceptually brilliant and technically impressive in its research and
reconstruction, with wide cultural appeal, originality and a touch of genius.
Even more details here.
Wonderful news from Len Hewitt, Project Leader for Pegasus. He writes:
We had our first switch on of Pegasus for 3¼ years yesterday.
Peter Burton the engineer the Science Museum is employing
to prove the machine is safe to run needed to have the machine running for a couple
of hours for him to record temperatures and voltages in various areas.
Chris Burton, Peter Holland, Rod Brown and I attended from the C.C.S. with
Charlotte Connelly from the Science Museum.
We had some minor problems which were overcome.
One was a fuse blowing episode in the CPU caused by the back wiring being
disturbed in cleaning but this was rectified.
We ran with HT on for over an hour with some packages unplugged just to
check voltages and temperatures.
Then, after some minor repairs, we ran for another hour with all packages in
and we were able to do drum transfers,
execute instructions on the hand switches and Start And Run attempted
to read paper tape from the Tape Reader.
The machine appears to be 95% working.
The air conditioning engineers need to gas up the system and we are trying to
persuade the Museum to let us do this before I leave on the 1st November
as the air conditioning engineers need power on to gas up the system.
We were all delighted at the progress and it speaks volumes about the initial design of the system.
Meanwhile members will also be interested to hear that a new book on Pegasus by
Hugh McGregor Ross and Colleagues has just been published.
Entitled "Pegasus The Seminal Early Computer" it traces the ancestry of the design back
to Elliotts and forward to the ICT 1900.
Full of technical detail, it costs a modest £9.95.
The Society was saddened to learn of the death of its past Chairman, BrianOakley CBE on Friday 17th August.
Brian Oakley spent most of his career as a highly regarded civil servant in the 1960's Ministry of Technology and its successors specialising in information technology. He was the chief official of the Science and Engineering Research Council, BCS President (1988-9) and chaired the board of the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC). He is best known as the Director of the Alvey Programme (1983-7) the UK government's response to the Japanese 5th Generation Computer project.
But it is as our Chairman from 1996 to 2000 that we shall remember him. He remained on the Society's committee until 2003 and was still attending meetings in 2012. In due course a full obituary will appear in Resurrection.
||Another Vintage Computer Festival? - See here for more details about this exciting event!
Tony Sale 1931-2011
The CCS is sad to announce the death of Tony Sale. Tony was a founder member of the CCS and has been a committee member since. Tony is of course most well known for his rebuilding of the Colossus code-breaking computer at Bletchley Park.
There is more information on the BBC”s website here.
Computer Conservation Society Projects feature in royal visit to Bletchley Park
On Friday 15 July, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited Bletchley Park to meet some of the veterans involved in the World War II code-breaking achievements. As part of the visit, the Bombe reconstruction was demonstrated to the Queen by Jean Valentine, one of the veterans who regularly shows the machine to visitors; while John Harper, leader of the Bombe team, explained about the machine's reconstruction to the Duke of Edinburgh.
The visit also included a visit to the National Museum of Computing which included a demonstration of the Colossus rebuild by Tony Sale.
Britain´s largest celebration of vintage computing is to be held at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC)
in Bletchley Park from 19-20 June 2010.
Vintage Computing Festivals originated ten years ago in California´s Silicon Valley to celebrate our computing heritage, and are now regular events held across the USA and in Germany. The June 2010 event at TNMOC will be the first in the UK and will pay particular tribute to the British contribution to the development of computing.
The festival is open to all, and will be of particular interest to CCS members. The event includes many exhibition stands, a full lecture programme, machine demonstrations, computer games and challenges, bring-and-buy sale, and performances of electronic music.
|17th September 2009
We have decided to reschedule our CCS event marking the 50th anniversary of the Pegasus computer in the Science Museum from December to May 2010. There is a risk that the repairs would not be completed in time - see the following statement from the Science Museum.
"On Wednesday 29th July 2009 there was a small electrical fire in the Pegasus computer during its demonstration by CCS volunteers on gallery. As a result of the incident all demonstrations of the Ferranti Pegasus computer, and the 401 working party at Blythe House, are currently suspended. The museum is conducting a formal investigation into the actions of staff post incident, the management of hazards, particularly asbestos within the Museum's collection, and the supervision and training of volunteers. At the end of this investigation a report will be completed, so that NMSI management can have complete assurance that any future activities of the CCS or other operators are planned, operated and supervised within legal requirements of Health and Safety and NMSI Health and Safety policy. CCS volunteers are thanked for their patience and cooperation during the investigation and in the implementation of its outcomes."
|5th September 2009
||Joint event between the CCS and the BCS Edinburgh Branch to be held on 22nd September at the University - on JANET - the first 25 years. See event page.
|3rd September 2009
||A new CCS working party has been formed to restore the Harwell Dekatron Computer - which in later life became known as the WITCH computer. The machine has been moved from storage in Birmingham to The National Museum of Computing where the project is based. Click here more information about the computer, and click here for more information about the museum project.
|12th August 2009
||Demonstrations of the Ferranti Pegasus computer are currently suspended, following an electrical fault in the machine. The Science Museum is investigating the causes of this fault and its implications. On completion of the investigation we hope to be able to repair the machine in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary. If repair is possible we currently anticipate that gallery demonstrations will recommence according to their regular schedule: fortnightly on a Wednesday, between 11 - 3pm on a date to be decided.
|22nd July 2009
||A new issue of Resurrection has been posted to all members - No 47 Summer 09
|1st July 2009
||CCS founder Tony Sale honoured by The Open University for his work on Colossus - more here
|12th June 2009
||The Science Museum announces Centenary Events (dead hyperlink - http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/Centenary/Home/Whats_on.aspx) - and you can vote for one of 10 Centenary Icons (dead hyperlink - http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/Centenary/Home/Icons.aspx) - computers are represented by the Pilot ACE.
|14th May 2009
||The CCS held it's AGM on May 14th - Click here for more details.
|12th May 2009
||Early ICT 1301 computer alive and well in Kent - now a CCS working group and demonstrated on a CCS visit.
||Bombe Restoration Project receives major Heritage award - click here for more
|1st March 2009
||Issue 45 of Resurrection has now been posted to all members.
|1st January 2009
CCS Founder honoured - Dr Doron Swade awarded a MBE for services to the History of Computing.
Doron Swade inspired the founding of the Computer Conservation Society, and has been on our committee since the birth of the Society in 1989.
Doron is best known for his research and leadership on projects to build historically accurate 'Babbage Engines' - for more see a recent BBC news item.
Doron's recent work on exhibiting and communicating the overall history of computing was then topic of a recent talk to the Society - and stimulated much discussion among members.
The Society congratulates Doron on this award.
|20th November 2008
||Issue 44 of our bulletin`Resurrection' has been posted to CCS members.
A contents list for previous issues of Resurrection has also been added to the society web site.
|25th August 2008
||Issue 43 of our bulletin`Resurrection' has been posted to CCS members. Please contact the society secretary if you have not received your copy.
|15th August 2008
||The Summer 2008 Issue of our bulletin`Resurrection' has been posted to CCS members.
|21st July 2008
||CCS chairman David Hartley, acting on behalf of the President of the BCS, presented medals to UK computer pioneers at the Digital60 day Manchester.
Chris Burton was also presented with a medal to to mark his leadership of the of the Baby replica re-build, on the 10th anniversary that achievement.
|30th June 2008
||Our CCS events page now has details from Autumn 08 onwards.
|20th June 2008
David Caminer - Computer Systems Pioneer and personality - died 19th June aged 92
The Leo Society website has a web document with links to a number of obituaries.
|18th Jun 2008
Other events open to CCS members
9th July National Archive of Educational Computing event in London - New Learning '08 - Connecting the Future to the Past - free but booking required.
13th July Visit the restored ICT 1301 computer - a working second generation mainframe from the 1962 era, on public display in a barn at a classic car show in Kent.
22nd - 24th July BCS Computer Arts Society Specialist Group - EVA London 2008 conference on Electronic Visualisation and the Arts at the BCS Southampton Street, London - booking required.
|27th May 2008
||New CCS event in Manchester on Friday 20th June at 14:30 - a Celebratory Seminar open to all on the history of computing and the influence of Manchester computer designs - part of the Digital 60 anniversary celebrations of the first stored program computer.
|27th May 2008
||Announcement about the CCS Bulletin - a tribute to our editor.
Thanks to Nicholas Enticknap for his excellent work as editor of our publication 'Resurrection', for 42 issues over 18 years.
Nicholas is handling over to our new editor, Dik Leatherdale.
Issue 42 has been completed by Nicholas, and will soon be sent out to Society members. You can also view Resurrection issues online.
|18th Apr 2008
||The CCS March seminar on the legacy of the BBC Microcomputer is the subject of an article in Personal Computer World (dead hyperlink - http://www.pcw.co.uk/personal-computer-world/news/2214644/beeb-helped-conquer-world-3924960) - it includes a story about the origins of the ARM chip. There was also a leader story in The Guardian.
|20th Mar 2008
||An excellent CCS event on Thursday 20th March about the innovative BBC computer education and Computer project, and what it led into - from the people who made it all happen - for more in the BBC news coverage click here for the interviews and also here for more coverage.
|7th Mar 2008
||Manchester CCS meeting on 18th March - start time brought forward to 17:00 - click here for more details
|4th Mar 2008
||The Bombe rebuild web site has been updated with additional material following completion of the rebuild project - click here for more details
|28th Feb 2008
||A BCS Oral History Project meeting on 'Women of Station X' on 7th March may be of interest to CCS members - click here for more details
|27th Jan 2008
||Our new CCS Events page has been updated with details on events in February and March - click here for more details
|14th Jan 2008
||Our links page now includes a link to the ICL archive catalogue housed at the Science Museum
|17th Dec 2007
||John Harper, leader of the Bombe Rebuild team receives Honorary Fellowship of the BCS - Click here for more details
|14th Nov 2007
||The National Museum of Computing launch their cipher challenge - Click here for more details from the museum
For more information about the project click here for a BBC Page covering the Colossus Challenge
|3rd Sep 2007
||More detail is now available for each of our public lectures.
|17th Jul 2007
||Completed Bombe rebuild Project officially opened by the Duke of Kent - click for more details