EDSAC to be Rebuilt at Bletchley Park

January 14, 2011 | 12:42

Tags: #edsac #maurice-wilkes #the-national-museum-of-co #vintage-computing

Companies: #bletchley-park #history #the-national-museum-of-computing #tnmoc

EDSAC, one of the first computers in the world, is to be rebuilt at the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park, thanks to a replica commissioned by the Computer Conservation Society.

The room-sized system, named the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC), was developed by Sir Maurice Wilkes and Bill Renwick at the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory in order to help researchers and staff perform complex calculations. However, despite its size, the machine was considerably less powerful than your mobile phone.

First activated in 1949, it was one of the first electronic computers on record, having been based on John von Neumann's First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC, but sadly few parts of the original implementation of EDSAC remain, bar a single chassis.

Despite this, computer conservationists believe they will be able to source the parts required to build a working replica of EDSAC, which will be be housed at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. The only exception will be the machine's eponymous delay lines because of modern restrictions on the use of mercury; the material used in the original design.

The project is expected to cost around £250,000 to complete, and funding has been promised from a consortium of companies and computing pioneers led by Acorn co-founder Hermann Hauser. The rebuild is expected to take three years to complete, during which time visitors to the Museum will be able to see the project take shape.

Once complete, the EDSAC replica will join other classic computing devices on show at the Bletchley Park Codebreaking Museum and the National Museum of Computing. These include the Colossus electromechanical computer, which was used to break the German Enigma cipher during the war.

Are you pleased to see a classic piece of computing history being resurrected for all to see, or are more important systems that could have been selected for the honour? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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