Mark 1 Documents

in this page:

A Storage System for Use with Binary Digital Computing Machines

T. Kilburn

A Report submitted to TRE in December 1947

This Report was the key document written by Tom Kilburn to describe the work done in 1947 to investigate the possibility of using a conventional Cathode Ray Tube to provide a storage system for electronic computers.

The Report was widely disseminated to interested parties, and the first detailed paper published on this work was closely based on it, i.e.
Williams, F C and Kilburn, T : A Storage System for Use with Binary Digital Computing Machines, Proc. IEE, Vol. 96, part 2, No 30, 1949

These pages provide a transcription of the 1947 Report. There is also a covering description for the report, which provides some background, a description of the associated material provided, and summaries of the editing done for the transcription and of the differences between the Report and the 1949 Paper.

Electronic Digital Computers

(Nature, Vol 162, Sept 1948, 487)
F.C. Williams & T. Kilburn

This is the first published report of a working stored-program computer, published as a letter in Nature three months after the first successful run of the "Baby". Note that the capacity of the store should be "32 'words' each of 32 binary digits" not 31 as given.

The University of Manchester Universal High-Speed Digital Computing Machine

Nature, Vol 164, Oct 22 1949, p164.
T. Kilburn

This is a formal paper to Nature written soon after the "Intermediary Version" of the Manchester Mark 1 was working, i.e. with paper tape Input/Output and programmable drum transfers still to be added.

The New Universal Computing Machine at the University of Manchester

Nature, Vol 168, 1951, p95.
T. Kilburn

This is a follow-up paper to Nature describing the improvements made on the Ferranti Mark 1.

Universal High-Speed Digital Computers: A Small-Scale Experimental Machine

Proc. of the I.E.E., Vol 98, Part II, No. 61, Feb. 1951
F.C. Williams T. Kilburn & G.C.Tootill

This is the definitive paper on the "Baby", with a technical description preceded by a simple guide to computers. Note that although this paper was published in 1951, and first received in March 1950, it reads (see the Conclusion) as if it was written in late 1948.

The 22 gif figures have been placed in separate files, rather than in situ, to reduce the size of the page being brought up. Links are provided for each reference, and a separate index is provided, to help if you want to study the text more carefully in conjunction with the figures.

The University of Manchester Computing Machine

Manchester University Computer Inaugural Conference 1951 : p5-11.
F.C. Williams & T. Kilburn

Written for the conference celebrating the installation of the Ferranti Mark 1, this gives a good technical description of the four-stage progression from the Baby to the Ferranti Mark 1 (with section headings Prototype Machine, Improved Machine, Large-scale Machine and Present Machine corresponding respectively to the Baby, Intermediary Version, Manchester Mark 1, Ferranti Mark 1 in these Web pages).

Ferranti Mark 1 Sales Brochure

August 1952.

A fascinating document, giving some history, some details of the machine, a summary of what a computer can do in general, and a list of 9 types of applications for which the Mark 1 has already been used.

Programmers' Handbook for the Manchester Electronic Computer Mark II

1st edition, 1951
A.M. Turing

The first edition was written by Alan Turing, presumably mostly in the half year gap between the dismantling of the Manchester Mark 1 and the delivery of the Ferranti Mark 1 in February 1951 -- the description makes clear that at the time of writing not all the final details are known of the computer and the system software (e.g. the CRT store size!).

A transcription of the manual, with accompanying notes, has been carried out by Robert S. Thau of MIT. Copies of his transcription are available in PDF format included on this website with his kind permission.

A page-by-page facsimile of the manual can be seen on the The Turing Archive for the History of Computing website maintained at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. A similar facsimile can be seen in The Turing Digital Archive.

A separate Table of Contents for the 1st edition is also provided on this website, on the same page as the Table of Contents for the 2nd edition. This contains the set of section headings and subheadings of the 1st edition, each linked into the appropriate point of the HTML transcription, and it is annotated with numbered links giving the corresponding page in the University of Canterbury facsimile. The manual's index has also been transcribed, with the page numbers turned into links to the facsimile pages.

Programmers' Handbook for the Manchester Electronic Computer Mark II

2nd edition, 1952 -- Chapter 1 only
A.M. Turing, revised R.A. Brooker

The 1st edition was written by Alan Turing. The 2nd edition is a major rewrite involving a number of authors, led by R.A. Brooker, who took over leadership of software development from Turing in 1951. The first chapter of the 2nd edition has been transcribed for these pages. It describes the Ferranti Mark1 and its order code, with an initial section describing a computer and binary for the uninitiated, taken almost verbatim from Turing's 1st edition. Also provided is a Table of Contents from the document, giving a summary of the material and authorship in the whole manual (9 Chapters + Appendix), with links from the Chapter 1 summary into the full Chapter. And there are summary tables of the instruction set, both in numerical order (copied from the Appendix) and logical order.

There is also a summary of the changes made in the Ferranti Mark 1* relative to the Mark 1, and summary tables of the instruction set, both in numerical order and logical order.

There has been some inevitable change in layout and notation in the Mark 1 handbook; also various typographical and technical errors have been corrected. A set of footnotes have been added, of form (8), making comments on some less obvious points in the description and design, and indicating where technical corrections have been made in the original manual. A technical correction has a ! appended, e.g. (5!), where I am confident of the correction; ? indicates I am less sure of a comment or correction.

(Note that at the time the Manchester Mark 1 was referred to as the "Mark I" to distinguish it from the Ferranti Mark 1, known as the "Mark II". As can be seen from this selection of papers, there was no clear naming of the various machines at the time. This website consistently uses "Mark 1" rather than "Mark I", partly to distance it from the early confusing naming, and partly to avoid the use of a Roman numeral that serves little useful purpose)