The Harwell Dekatron Computer

Speakers: Kevin Murrell and Tony Frazer
Date: 18th March 2010
Time: 14.30 Room open in advance (from 14.00) – meet up with society members.

Fellows Library of the Science Museum
Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD

About the seminar

The Harwell Dekatron computer was developed at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell between 1949 and 1951. It was handed over to the Harwell computers (mainly bright young women) in 1952 and ran until 1957. It was designed to be only as fast as a group of hand computers, but to be reliable and capable of running unattended for days. The designers were influenced by developments in Cambridge and visited Wilkes' laboratory at least once. The Harwell machine can run as a true stored program computer. The machine was given a second life after Harwell at Wolverhampton College of Technology where it was named WITCH. It was the foundation of their first undergraduate course in computing. The computer was retired to Birmingham Museum of Science and Technology were it was displayed for many years.

The computer is currently being restored to working order at The National Museum of Computing.

About the speakers

Kevin Murrell is the CCS secretary and one of the trustees at The National Museum of Computing. Kevin grew up in Birmingham and spent many a Saturday afternoon staring at the computer at Birmingham Science Museum. Some thirty odd years later he rediscovered the machine in storage and began plans to have it restored to working order.

Tony Frazer is the chairman of the Harwell Dekatron Computer project and is responsible for restoring the computer to a working machine.

We hope to be joined by Dick Barnes, one of the original designers of the computer.


For much more information about the Harwell computer see the CCS pages here.


Click to see a podcast of the event