The ‘Baby’ that ushered in modern computer age

“Seventy years ago was arguably the start of the modern computer age,” Helen Briggs writes for BBC News. “A machine that took up an entire room at a laboratory in Manchester University ran its first programme at 11am on 21 June 1948. The prototype completed the task in 52 minutes, having run through 3.5 million calculations.”

“The Manchester Baby, known formally as the Small-Scale Experimental Machine, was the world’s first stored-program computer,” Briggs writes. “Dr ‘Tommy’ Gordon Thomas was 19 and in the final year of a physics degree at Manchester when he met Sir Freddie Williams, who designed The Baby with colleagues Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill. Now aged 90, he talked to BBC News from his home in New South Wales, Australia, about his memories of the ground-breaking machine… The Baby machine was made up of a series of equipment racks running over five metres along the length of the room and weighed about a tonne.”

Replica of the Baby at the Museum of Science and Industry in Castlefield, Manchester
Replica of the Baby at the Museum of Science and Industry in Castlefield, Manchester

“‘My job was to build a cradle for the baby,’ says Dr Thomas. ‘It was a group of people who had worked together during the war who introduced us youngsters into the same process of getting on with the job… It was really an adventure for us all.’ The physics graduate joined the project just after its first successful run, working on the computer for his MSc,” Briggs writes. “‘After the original proof of The Baby we needed various other features and my work was mainly in constructing the memory, and we went into another little room and we built that,’ he says… The scientists behind The Baby worked with the company Ferranti to develop the Manchester Mark 1, which in turn led to the Ferranti Mark 1, the world’s first commercially available general-purpose computer.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: And nobody put her in a corner, either. Happy 70th, Baby!


    1. Sorry to be pedantic , but you guys are missing the point – as stated in the article, the Baby was the first “stored-program computer”.

      If you dont know the difference, look it up, the author is 100% correct.

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