[SIGCIS-Members] Britain’s first mass-produced business computer

Brian Randell brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk
Mon Apr 4 02:51:33 PDT 2016


> Britain’s first mass-produced business computer
> More than 60 years after it was first revealed to the public, Britain’s first mass-produced business computer, the Hollerith Electronic Computer (HEC), is now on display at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) on Bletchley Park.
> The HEC was the prototype for the range of computers that were to become Britain’s best-selling first-generation computer and, as the first computer installed in many countries including India, New Zealand and East Africa, the machine played a key role in starting the global computer revolution.
> Today, the first version of the two by three metre HEC with its highly innovative magnetic drum store can be seen by visitors to the First Generation Gallery at TNMOC where it stands alongside other machines of the period: the ongoing reconstruction of the 1949 EDSAC computer and the original 1951 Harwell Dekatron / WITCH computer.
> The HEC was commissioned by the British Tabulating Machine Company (BTM). Dr Raymond Bird, a skilled and enthusiastic electronics engineer, was tasked with its development.
> Dr Bird explained the development process: “BTM was one of Britain’s largest suppliers of pre-computing punch-card systems and the company realised that computing was the company’s future. BTM had been approached by Professor Andrew Booth of Birkbeck College, London, who needed input and output technologies – punch cards – for a computer he was designing. A deal was struck and I was sent to make copies of Booth’s computer design.

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Brian Randell

School of Computing Science, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne,
EMAIL = Brian.Randell at ncl.ac.uk   PHONE = +44 191 208 7923
FAX = +44 191 208 8232  URL = http://www.cs.ncl.ac.uk/people/brian.randell

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