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Work starts on the recreation of the Edsac computer

Six decades on and parts are being assembled
Wed Jan 09 2013, 10:40

WORK HAS BEGUN on the recreation of Edsac, a very early British computer.

Edsac, or the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, is being remade at the National Museum of Computing, which is located at Bletchley Park and is already home to the world's oldest working digital computer, the Harwell Dekatron or 'Witch'.

The Museum's Edsac Replica Project is a registered charity and is a project of the UK's Computer Conservation Society. It has just started getting the first parts of the computer together and wants to have it working by May 2015. If you cannot wait that long there are some original parts on display at the museum.

Those involved are sure of the importance of Edsac and its place in computing history.

"Until Edsac, general purpose computers had been purely experimental systems locked away in research laboratories But the late Professor Sir Maurice Wilkes, now widely regarded as the father of British computing, had the vision and the drive to realise the potential of computers to take on the mathematical calculations that underpin scientific research," said Edsac project manager Andrew Herbert.

"The impact of Edsac has been profound, so we aim to celebrate the achievements of its creators and to inspire future generations of engineers and computer scientists."

Edsac was operational in May 1949 and ran for nine years until it was scrapped. Only three of its 140 chassis have survived. One of these is being used by Cambridge based Teversham Engineering to build reproduction copies.

"Over the past year we have researched Edsac's design and original construction, so this week marks the exciting transition from research to production," added Herbert.

"It has been inspiring to see in detail the chassis design and manufacture using computer techniques that Edsac effectively paved the way for. With this important step accomplished we are confident that we can complete the daunting task of replicating Edsac as it was in 1949."

Visitors to the museum also get access to Bletchley Park, home of UK codebreaking. µ


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