Happy 60th Birthday to the First Computer


No doubt many readers, particularly Americans, will disagree with this, but the BBC points out that "Baby", born sixty years ago in Manchester, was the first "modern" computer that one could program:

"Baby was the successor to machines such as the American ENIAC and the UK's Colossus. Both computers were able to be reprogrammed but this could involve days of rewiring. Baby was designed to overcome this limitation.

"It was the earliest machine that was a computer, in the sense of what everyone today understands a computer to be," explained Chris Burton of the Computer Conservation Society (CCS). "It was a single piece of hardware which could perform any application depending on what program you put in."


A page from Geoff Tootill's notebook shows a program written for Baby. All the data and programs had to be written in 1024 bits.

Using just 128 bytes of memory, it successfully ran its first set of instructions - to determine the highest factor of a number - on 21 June 1948.

Baby morphed into the Manchester Mark I and eventually the first commercial general purpose computer, the Ferranti Mark I.

"It really must have been an extraordinary, exciting and heady time," said Mr Burton.

A working replica of Baby is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. ::BBC

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