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Hardware Technology

UK's Oldest Computer To Be "Rebooted" 153

Posted by timothy
from the just-like-star-trek dept.
Smivs writes with this interesting piece of computer history, excerpted from the BBC: "Britain's oldest original computer, the Harwell, is being sent to the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley where it is to be restored to working order. The computer, which was designed in 1949, was built and used by staff at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, Oxfordshire. It first ran in 1951 and was designed to perform mathematical calculations. It lasted until 1973. When first built the 2.4m x 5m computer was state-of-the-art, although it was superseded by transistor-based systems. The restoration project is expected to take a year. Although not the first computer built in the UK, the Harwell had one of the longest service lives. Built by a team of three people, the device was capable of doing the work of six to ten people and ran for seven years until the establishment obtained their first commercial computer. 'We didn't think we were doing anything pioneering at the time,' said Dick Barnes, who helped build the original Harwell computer."
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UK's Oldest Computer To Be "Rebooted"

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  • hindsight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:51AM (#29298935) Homepage

    We didn't think we were doing anything pioneering at the time

    This is why the article we had yesterday, which argued that technological growth is slowing down, was a total hogwash. Technological growth is speeding up! What is constant is our inability to recognize great technological advancement except in hindsight.

  • Vaccum Tubes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A. B3ttik (1344591) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:51AM (#29298943)
    The article is extremely light on details. Where are they going to get vaccum tubes or other antiquated apparatuses from? How much will they cost?
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ciderVisor (1318765) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:20AM (#29299359)

    Oldest surviving computer, perhaps ?

  • by value_added (719364) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:42AM (#29299633)

    A: They couldn't figure out a way to make it leak oil.

    And that's a bad thing?

    My first car was a 2-seater Triumph convertible. It suffered from electrical system problems, leaking hydraulics, and when it rained, the top would leak (even if you managed to snap all the buttons downs correctly). But was it fun! Wind through my hair, wet shoulders, the smell of hydraulic fluid dripping on my left shoe, being pulled over and cited for "overcrowding" when I had more than 3 passengers in the car ...

    The cars I've owned since have all been what you'd call dependable if not "top of the line", but I can't remember a single interesting about them.

  • Turing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @11:01AM (#29299939)

    Looking back, hardly any of us were computer literate and it's astonishing that we managed stored computing at all.

    Yeah, it's funny how that happens when you persecute your best people.

    I guess this was '49. But still. These guys are getting media attention while Turing rots in his grave.

  • Well, yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @11:33AM (#29300383)
    Most modern computers (by quantity) are basically communications devices. Although we have converted the processes of communication to mathematical operations, this is to fit in with the way a computer works. We manage to speak to one another without the use of mathematics. We do not see the function of a mobile phone or a netbook as being "to perform mathematical calculations".

    Early data processing machines (like Hollerith card analysers) were designed to perform select and sort operations which they did using logical functions, but they did not do calculations. You wanted to know who in a brigade had a particular skill, you fed in the punched cards for the brigade, and the output stack delivered the ones whose holes coincided with the setup. Colossus was intended to do code breaking by high speed (for the time) data processing, but it did not do general purpose calculation. So yes, this is a meaningful distinction.

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