Update of 26 July 2010: Dr Brian Napper, the author of these pages, sadly passed away in March 2009.
The Computer50 pages are now an archived record and are no longer being maintained. Links and email addresses in these pages date from the time of the event and may have changed.
For any queries about these pages or about the history of Computer Science at Manchester University please email email@example.com
The Small-Scale Experimental Machine, known as SSEM, or the "Baby", was designed and built at The University of Manchester, and made its first successful run of a program on June 21st 1948. It was the first machine that had all the components now classically regarded as characteristic of the basic computer. Most importantly it was the first computer that could store not only data but any (short!) user program in electronic memory and process it at electronic speed.
From this Small-Scale Experimental Machine a full-sized machine was designed and built, the Manchester Mark 1, which by April 1949 was generally available for computation in scientific research in the University. With the integration of a high speed magnetic drum by the Autumn (the ancestor of today's disc) this was the first machine with a fast electronic and magnetic two-level store. It in turn was the basis of the first commercially available computer, the Ferranti Mark 1, the first machine off the production line being delivered in February 1951.
These pages tell the story of the Baby and the Mark 1, and give a record of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Mark 1, and the machines that followed it.
The highlight of the 1998 Celebrations was the construction of a working replica of the Baby now on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester (see Galleries > 1830 Warehouse > Baby Computer).
You can see the latest major changes in the pages in the log -- latest entry 30th March 2005.
SSEM, the "Baby"
Manchester Mark 1
Ferranti Mark 1
Mark 1 Literature
Using the Mark 1
Maths Dept. Input
Moore School Course
Other Early History Sites
Some information on the set of four machines designed by
Tom Kilburn's team following on from the Mark 1
machines, up to 1974, is given in the
Virtual Museum of Manchester Computing. The Mark 1 and the
next three machines were all turned into commercial machines; the fifth, MU5,
major contribution to the design of the ICL VME2900
biography of Tom effectively gives a summary of
the story of the Mark 1 and his later machines.
You can also find out about
School of Computer Science.
You can also find out about Current Research in the School of Computer Science.