EDSAC computer to be rebuilt at Bletchley Park

The first working stored-program computer is set to be rebuilt at Bletchley Park.

The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) was built at Cambridge University by a team led by computing pioneer Sir Maurice Wilkes.

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It ran its first programme in 1949 and its success lead to the creation of the first business computer, the LEO.

The EDSAC was two metres high and its 3,000 vacuum tubes took up four metres of floor space. It could perform 650 instructions per second and all data input was via paper tape.

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It used mercury-filled tubes for memory, but in the interests of safety, the replica will use an alternative non-toxic substance.

“Recreating a fully-functioning EDSAC computer is quite a challenge, but our experience in rebuilding the Colossus computer gives us confidence and insight,” said Kevin Murrell, a director and trustee of The National Museum of Computing.

The replica of the EDSAC was commissioned by the Computer Conservation Society, part of the BCS, and will be built over the next four years at Bletchley Park, home to the National Museum of Computing, where visitors can watch the work as it happens.

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