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January 10, 2013

UK's Historic Edsac Computer Being Recreated

British scientists and engineers are recreating what is believed to be the first machine to offer general purpose computing. The original version was called Edsac (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator), and the replica is going to be virtually identical.

The original Edsac was made at Cambridge University. It started working on May 6, 1949 and was operated for nine years. It was made up of 140 chassis, and just three of the original chassis survive to this day.

This week, one of the three was used as a model for the manufacturing of parts on the replica at Teversham Engineering Ltd in Cambridge. The replica is identical looking to the original thanks to computer-generated design.

The first Edsac was designed by Professor Maurice Wilkes – who recently died, and was described as the father of British computing.

The original Edsac was over two meters in height. It spread out to four meters by five meters. It had 12 racks. The replica is expected to be operational by 2015, according to BBC.

Edsac components are now on display at the UK-based National Museum of Computing, which is located at Bletchley Park. It was here during WW2 that some of the greatest minds of the century broke the Nazi code, and also used early computing techniques in their secret work. The museum features a rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic programmable computer.

The Edsac is key in understanding the history of computing. "Edsac marks a hugely important early milestone in computing. Until EDSAC, general purpose computers had been purely experimental systems locked away in research laboratories,” Andrew Herbert, a project manager on the Edsac replica, said in a museum statement.

“But the late Professor Sir Maurice Wilkes, now widely regarded as the father of British computing, had the vision and the drive to realise the potential of computers to take on the mathematical calculations that underpin scientific research. He led the team that built the original EDSAC for the Mathematical Laboratory at Cambridge University. The impact of that new facility contributed quickly and directly to Nobel (News - Alert) prize-winning scientific research, and to LEO, the first computer used in business. The impact of EDSAC has been profound, so we aim to celebrate the achievements of its creators and to inspire future generations of engineers and computer scientists.”

The museum expects the replica will be highly prized by educators and historians. Tech entrepreneur Hermann Hauser and Google (News - Alert) both donated money to fund the replica project.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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