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Bletchley Park to rebuild ground-breaking EDSAC computer

David Ludlow
13 Jan 2011
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World's first fully operational stored-program computer to be rebuilt at The National Museum of Computing.

Bletchley Park , the historic World War 2 code-breaking site, has been commissioned by the Computer Conversation Society (CCS) to rebuild the world's first fully operational stored-program computer.

The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSCA) was used a general purpose research tool at Cambridge University in the 1940s, although it led directly to the first business computer.

EDSAC

"The EDSAC was a brilliant achievement that laid the foundations for general purpose computing and introduced programming methods adopted worldwide and still in use. By recreating EDSAC where the public can watch the process, we aim to enthuse a new generation of computer science and engineering students with the genius of those post-war pioneers at Cambridge University," said David Hartley, chairman of the CCS.

The plan now is to build a fully-working replica at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley. It's also this museum that holds a working replica of Colossus, which was the first computer ever made and more famous for helping break the Lorenz Cipher in World War 2.

Colossus

"Recreating a fully-functioning EDSAC computer is quite a challenge, but our experience in rebuilding the Colossus computer gives us confidence and insight. The project is fortunate in having the advice and support of Chris Burton who managed the reconstruction of the Manchester Baby, another CCS project. Professor Martin Campbell-Kelly, computer historian at the University of Warwick, will provide an historical and academic perspective for the recreation of EDSAC," said Kevin Murrell, a director and trustee of The Nation Museum of Computing.

Work will be as authentic as possible using as much of the technology from the time as possible. The finished EDSAC computer will take up 20 square metres of floor space and consist of 3,000 valves. Planning work is already under way and the position of Project Manager will be advertised soon.

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