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Early Programs on the Manchester Mark I Prototype
July-September 1998 (vol. 20 no. 3)
pp. 4-15

The Manchester Mark I Prototype (or Small-Scale Experimental Machine, SSEM, as it was officially known) is generally recognized as the first stored-program computer to successfully execute a program. The SSEM was a simple machine with only seven instructions (its only arithmetic operation was subtraction) and 32 words of 32-bit memory. Two of the men primarily responsible for the SSEM, Frederic C. Williams and Tom Kilburn, published a letter in the 25 September 1948 issue of Nature describing the SSEM along with a summary of three programs that were run on it: long division, finding the greatest common divisor of two integers, and finding the largest factor of an integer. Given the very limited capabilities of the SSEM, the authors set out to discover how all three programs were actually coded.

1. M. Campbell-Kelly, "Programming the Mark I: Early Programming Activity at the University of Manchester," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 130-168, 1980.
2. F.C. Williams and T. Kilburn, "Electronic Digital Computers," Nature, vol. 162, no. 4,117, 25 September 1948, p. 487, reprinted in B. Randell, ed., The Origins of Digital Computers. New York: Springer Verlag, 1973, pp. 386-388.
3. S. Lavington, A History of Manchester Computers.Manchester, England: National Computing Centre, 1975 (2nd ed., in press).
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5. T. Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Universal High-Speed Digital Computing Machine," Nature, vol. 164, no. 4,173, 22 October 1949, pp. 684-687.
6. F.C. Williams, T. Kilburn, and G.C. Tootill, "Universal High-Speed Digital Computers: A Small Scale Experimental Machine," Proc. IEE, vol. 98, part II, no. 61, February 1951, pp. 13-38.
7. G.C. Tootill, Digital Computer—Notes on Design and Operation. National Archive for the History of Computing, Univ. of Manchester, Manchester, England, on loan to the Archive of the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester.
8. Private discussions CPB/GCT, 5 July 1997 and CPB/TK, October 1997
9. Special issue on Computing at the University of Manchester, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 15, no. 3, 1993.
10. G.C. Tootill, The "Table of Instructions" of the Original Manchester Computer Program, Revision 3, August30 1996, National Archive for the History of Computing, Univ. of Manchester, Manchester, England.
11. T. Kilburn, The First Program, voice recording made 29 March 1996, together with manuscript program, National Archive for the History of Computing, Univ. of Manchester, Manchester, England.
12. M.R. Williams, A History of Computing Technology, 2nd ed., IEEE CS Press, Los Alamitos, Calif., 1997, p. 300.

Citation:
Brian J. Shelburne, Christopher P. Burton, "Early Programs on the Manchester Mark I Prototype," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 4-15, July-Sept. 1998, doi:10.1109/85.707570
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