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Issue No.01 - January-March (2011 vol.33)
pp: 22-37
B. Jack Copeland , University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand
ABSTRACT
<p>The logical design of the 1948 Manchester Baby was virtually identical to a 1946 Princeton design. However, thanks to F.C. Williams' and Tom Kilburn's groundbreaking cathode ray tube (CRT) memory and their innovative engineering, the universal electronic digital computer made its world debut in Manchester. This article reassesses the place of Williams and Kilburn in the history of computing.</p>
INDEX TERMS
Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), Bletchley Park, Colossus, Manchester Baby Computer, Manchester Mark I Computer, Moore School, Princeton Computer, Royal Society Computing Machine Laboratory, Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), Turing-Wilkinson Lecture Series, Williams tube (cathode ray tube memory), J.P. Eckert, I.J. Good, T. Kilburn, R.A. McConnell, M.H.A. Newman, A.M. Turing, J. von Neumann, F.C. Williams.
CITATION
B. Jack Copeland, "The Manchester Computer: A Revised History Part 2: The Baby Computer", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.33, no. 1, pp. 22-37, January-March 2011, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2010.2
REFERENCES
1. P. Hilton interview by B.J. Copeland, June 2001. See B.J. Copeland, "Colossus and the Dawning of the Computer Age," Action This Day, R. Erskine, and M. Smith eds., Bantam Books, 2001, pp. 365ff.
2. Hilton interview by , Copeland, June 2001; quoted in B.J. Copeland ed., The Essential Turing, Oxford Univ. Press, 2004, p. 371.
3. F.C. Williams interview by C. Evans, "The Pioneers of Computing: An Oral History of Computing," Science Museum, 1976, (copyright of Board of Trustees of the Science Museum); transcription by B.J., Copeland, 1997. As far as I know, Williams' tape recorded statements that "neither Tom Kilburn nor I knew the first thing about computers when we arrived in Manchester University" and that "Newman explained the whole business of how a computer works to us" first appeared in print in B.J. Copeland, and D. Proudfoot, "Enigma Variations," Times Literary Supplement,3 July 1998, p. 6 (published on the 50th anniversary of the Manchester Baby). In this article we said, "Not that history has been particularly kind either to Newman or to Turing. Their logico-mathematical contributions to the triumph at Manchester have been neglected, and the Manchester machine is nowadays remembered as the work of Williams and Kilburn." We explained that, contrary to the received history of the Manchester computer, Newman had played a substantial role, and we emphasized the importance of Colossus in the history of the Manchester computer: "Flowers' racks of high-speed electronic digital equipment led Newman to think seriously about building an electronic universal Turing machine. The war over, he accepted a chair at Manchester [and] applied to the Royal Society for a grant to establish his Computing Machine Laboratory." (David Anderson has recently quoted these same statements by Williams and made similar points to those we made in 1998; see the British Computer Society's website, http://www.bcs.orgserver.php?show=ConWebDoc.17134 .) The present account dwells on the incompleteness of the picture painted by Williams in these quotations and fills in the missing terrain.
4. B.J. Copeland, "A Lecture and Two Radio Broadcasts on Machine Intelligence by Alan Turing," Machine Intelligence 15, K. Furukawa, D. Michie, and S. Muggleton eds., Oxford Univ. Press, 1999, p. 454.
5. F.C. Williams, "Early Computers at Manchester University," , The Radio and Electronic Eng., vol. 45, 1975, p. 328 (quoted in Copeland, "A Lecture and Two Radio Broadcasts on Machine Intelligence by Alan Turing," p. 456).
6. "The Turing-Wilkinson Lecture Series (1946–7)," Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, B.J. Copeland ed., Oxford Univ. Press, 2005. See also B.J. Copeland, "The Turing-Wilkinson Lecture Series on the Automatic Computing Engine," Machine Intelligence 15, K. Furukawa, D. Michie, and S. Muggleton eds., Oxford Univ. Press, 1999, pp. 381–444.
7. See my Introduction to "The Turing-Wilkinson Lecture Series (1946–7)," Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, , Copeland ed., pp. 459–464. Womersley's handwritten notes concerning the arrangements for the lectures, Woodger Papers, catalogue reference M15, also available at http://www.AlanTuring.netwomersley_notes_22nov46 .
8. M. Woodger to B.J. Copeland25 Feb. 2003; quoted on p. 57, Copeland ed., Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine.
9. G. Bowker, and R. Giordano, "Interview with Tom Kilburn," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 15, no. 3, 1993, p. 19.
10. B. Napper to B.J. Copeland16 June 2002.
11. Bowker and Giordano, "Interview with Tom Kilburn," p. 19; quoted in Copeland, ed., The Essential Turing, p. 373. (I am grateful to Napper for drawing this passage to my attention, in correspondence during 2002.)
12. T. Kilburn, "A Storage System for Use with Binary Digital Computing Machines," report for TRE, 1 Dec. 1947, Nat'l Archive for the History of Computing, Univ. of Manchester.
13. T. Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Universal High-Speed Digital Computing Machine," Nature, vol. 164, no. 4173, 1949, p. 687.
14. Williams interview by Evans, 1976, transcription by B.J. Copeland, 1997.
15. Kilburn, "A Storage System for Use with Binary Digital Computing Machines." Kilburn's block diagram is available at http://www.computer50.org/kgill/mark1/TR47diagrams f1.2.png.
16. Kilburn, "A Storage System for Use with Binary Digital Computing Machines," section 1.4.
17. J. von Neumann, "First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC," Moore School of Electrical Eng., 30 June 1945 (reprinted in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 15, no. 4, 1993, pp. 27–75); see in particular sections 10.4 and 11.1. A.W. Burks, H.H. Goldstine, and J. von Neumann, "Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument," Inst. for Advanced Study, 28 June 1946 (in A.H. Taub ed., Collected Works of John von Neumann, vol. 5,Pergamon Press, 1961); see especially section 5.5.
18. I.J. Good to M.H.A. Newman8 Aug. 1948, reproduced in I.J. Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers,", compiled in 1972 and 1976, Nat'l Archive for the History of Computing, Univ. of Manchester, MUC/Series 2/a4, pp. 63–64.
19. For example, I.J. Good, "Rough Classification of the Components of the Machine,"3 June 1947 (in Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers," pp. 31–32). (Good noted that a copy of this was "given to Kilburn on 10 June 1947" (p. iv).) In his "Rough Classification," Good ambitiously specified a centralized machine with memory that consisted of a "set of a few hundred cathode ray tubes, selectrons, or mercury tanks [delay lines]" (p. 1). In comparison, the Pilot Model ACE, which first worked in 1950, had a memory of only 18 delay lines. Like Kilburn's hypothetical computer, Good's Princeton-type machine was no baby.
20. Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers," p. 37.
21. Other types of destination included trigger circuits and the card punch; the sources also included the card reader and circuits that provided constants (such as a stream of zeroes).
22. The overview of Kilburn's machine in this and the three following paragraphs is based on Kilburn, "A Storage System for Use with Binary Digital Computing Machines," section 1.4. See also B. Napper, "Covering Notes for Tom Kilburn's 1947 report to TRE," http://www.computer50.org/kgill/mark1report1947cover.html . I am indebted to Napper for helpful correspondence.
23. For a complete discussion of ACE instruction formats, see Copeland ed., Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, chaps. 4, 9, 11, 22.
24. I.J. Good, "Rough Classification of the Components of the Machine," p. 1; von Neumann, "First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC," section 15.6.
25. "The Turing-Wilkinson Lecture Series (1946–7)," Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, Copeland ed., pp. 482–483.
26. A feature of Kilburn's block diagram not found in the ACE is his distinction between the instruction store and the number store; Kilburn pointed out, however, that the "separation of the main store into number and order stores is purely artificial, and has been done to simplify the description"( Kilburn, "A Storage System for Use with Binary Digital Computing Machines," section 1.4).
27. "The Turing-Wilkinson Lecture Series (1946–7)," Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, Copeland ed., pp. 477, 478, 489.
28. F.C. Williams and T. Kilburn, "A Storage System for Use with Binary Digital Computing Machines," Proc. Institution of Electrical Eng., vol. 96, 1949, pp. 81–100.
29. F.C. Williams and T. Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Computing Machine," Rev. of Electronic Digital Computers: Joint AIEE-IRE Computer Conf., Am. Inst. of Electrical Engineers, 1952, p. 57.
30. Redrawn by P. Bright and B.J. Copeland, from the diagram in Williams and Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Computing Machine," p. 57.
31. F.C. Williams to B. Randell, 1972, letter reproduced in B. Randell, "On Alan Turing and the Origins of Digital Computers," Machine Intelligence 7, B. Meltzer, and D. Michie eds., Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1972, p. 9.
32. Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers," p. iii.
33. Williams, and Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Computing Machine," pp. 57–58; F.C. Williams, T. Kilburn, and G.C. Tootill, "Universal High-Speed Digital Computers: A Small-Scale Experimental Machine," Proc. Institution of Electrical Engineers, vol. 98, 1951, section 3.5.
34. G.C. Tootill, "Digital Computer—Notes on Design & Operation," 1948–1949, Nat'l Archive for the History of Computing, Univ. of Manchester.
35. This section describes research reported in my publications listed in note 12 of Part 1 (see especially Copeland, "A Lecture and Two Radio Broadcasts on Machine Intelligence by Alan Turing," and Copeland ed., The Essential Turing, pp. 371ff).
36. M.H.A. Newman, "General Principles of the Design of All-Purpose Computing Machines," Proc. Royal Society of London, Series A, vol. 195, 1948, pp. 271–274. The quotations in this section are from pp. 272–274.
37. "The Turing-Wilkinson Lecture Series (1946–7)," Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, Copeland ed., pp. 499–500.
38. J.H. Wilkinson, "The Pilot ACE at the National Physical Laboratory," Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, Copeland ed., p. 95.
39. Conditional "branching" was described in detail in A.M. Turing, "Proposed Electronic Calculator," , Copeland ed., Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, where it was also called "discrimination" (see pp. 382–383, 406), and "The Turing-Wilkinson Lecture Series (1946–7)," Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, Copeland ed., pp. 488–489.
40. M.H.A. Newman interview by C. Evans, "The Pioneers of Computing: An Oral History of Computing,", Science Museum (copyright of Board of Trustees of the Science Museum). This interview was supplied to me on audiotape in 1995 by the archives of the London Science Museum (and transcribed by me in 1997). I am grateful to the Science Museum for permission to quote from the tape recording.
41. F.C. Williams, M.H.A. Newman, T. Kilburn, and G.C. Tootill patent specification 734073, p. 1.
42. T. Kilburn, "From Cathode Ray Tube to Ferranti Mark I," Computer Resurrection, vol. 1, 1990, pp. 16–20.
43. T. Kilburn interview by B.J., Copeland, July 1997.
44. The quote is from Good's revised typescript of his acceptance speech delivered on 15 Oct. 1998, p. 31 (I am grateful to Good for sending me a copy of this in Jan. 1999). Good also explained in his speech that in 1947 he invented what is now called microprogramming, a concept usually attributed to M. Wilkes, who reinvented it in 1951. Good's term for microprogramming was machine building. Good discusses microprogramming in "From Hut 8 to the Newmanry" (in B.J. Copeland et al., Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers, Oxford Univ. Press, 2006, p. 221), where he says that it was the "Boolean programming on Colossus" that led him to the idea.
45. I.J. Good, "The Baby Machine," note, 4 May 1947, in Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers."
46. Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers," p. iv. In an earlier note ("Fundamental Operations," circa 16 Feb. 1947, in Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers"), Good had listed a larger and considerably more complicated set of basic instructions. These included multiplication, division, | x |, two forms of conditional transfer of control, and an instruction transferring the number in the accumulator to the "house number in" house x. These instructions were intended for a machine with two instructions per word. (The Williams and Kilburn Baby had only one instruction per word.)
47. J.A.N. Lee, Computer Pioneers, IEEE CS Press, 1995, p. 744.
48. M. Croarken, "The Beginnings of the Manchester Computer Phenomenon: People and Influences," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 15, no. 3, 1993, p. 15.
49. Good, "The Baby Machine," p. 1.
50. F.C. Williams and T. Kilburn, "Electronic Digital Computers," Nature, vol. 162, no. 4117, 1948, p. 487. The letter is dated 3 Aug. 1948.
51. Anderson has argued that the Baby was based on a different instruction set, written down by Good in Feb. 1947 ( "Was the Manchester Baby Conceived at Bletchley Park?" Univ. of Portsmouth Research Report number UoP-HC-2006-001, 2006, http://www.tech.port.ac.uk/staffweb/andersod HoC). This claim is incorrect. It was the May instruction set, not the more complex February set (described in note 46), that Kilburn received from Good and simplified to five instructions (plus stop). The February instruction set, unlike the May set, was intended for a machine with two instructions per word. Good made it completely clear that it was the May set, not the February set, that he suggested in response to Kilburn's request "for a small number of basic instructions"( Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers," p. iv). (The February instruction set is presented in Appendix 2 of "Was the Manchester Baby Conceived at Bletchley Park?" pp. 46–48, http://www.tech.port.ac.uk/staffweb/andersod HoC. There is no mention of Good's May 1947 note "The Baby Machine" nor the instruction set it contained.)
52. Good, "The Baby Machine," pp. 1–2.
53. Good, "The Baby Machine," p. 1; Williams, and Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Computing Machine," p. 57.
54. Kilburn, "A Storage System for Use with Binary Digital Computing Machines," bibliography.
55. Redrawn from the 1957 diagram by Olwen Harrison and Jack Copeland (from Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, , Copeland ed., p. 150).
56. G.C. Tootill to B.J., Copeland18 Apr. 2001.
57. G.C. Tootill to B.J. Copeland16 May 2001.
58. Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers," pp. vii, ix; D. Michie interview by B.J., Copeland, Oct. 1995.
59. D. Rees to B.J. Copeland2 Apr. 2001.
60. W. Newman, "Max Newman: Mathematician, Codebreaker and Computer Pioneer," Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers, Copeland, 2006.
61. Burks, Goldstine, and von Neumann, "Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument." The Manchester copy of the report is in the Nat'l Archive for the History of Computing, Univ. of Manchester.
62. I.J. Good to S.H. Lavington7 Apr. 1976, in Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers."
63. I.J. Good four sheets of notes, headed "Abbreviations," "Fundamental Operations," and "Underlining etc," circa 16 Feb. 1947, in Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers."
64. Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers," p. 10.
65. Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers," p. 31.
66. Good, "Early Notes on Electronic Computers," p. iv; see also Burks, Goldstine, and von Neumann, "Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument," section 6.
67. Burks, Goldstine, and von Neumann, "Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument," section 6.6.
68. Burks, Goldstine, and von Neumann, "Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument," Table 1 and section 6. The operation "transfer the number in A to R" is discussed in subsection 6.6.3, where it is pointed out that this operation can be made basic at the cost of "very little extra equipment". The two shift operations L and R are introduced in subsection 6.6.7.
69. "Report by Professor M. H. A. Newman on Progress of Computing Machine Project," Minutes of the Council of the Royal Society, 13 Jan. 1949, Royal Soc. of London archives.
70. H.D. Huskey, "The State of the Art in Electronic Digital Computing in Britain and the United States," chap. 23, Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, Copeland ed., p. 536.
71. M. Wilkes, Memoirs of a Computer Pioneer, MIT Press, 1985, p. 127.
72. Burks, Goldstine, and von Neumann, "Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument," especially section 5.5.
73. Williams and Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Computing Machine;" F.C. Williams, T. Kilburn, and G.C. Tootill, "Universal High-Speed Digital Computers: A Small-Scale Experimental Machine," Proc. Institution of Electrical Engineers, vol. 98, 1951, pp. 13–28.
74. This is made clear by a comparison of Burks, Goldstine, and von Neumann, "Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument," section 6.4 with Williams, and Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Computing Machine," pp. 57–58 and Williams, Kilburn, and Tootill, "Universal High-Speed Digital Computers: A Small-Scale Experimental Machine," pp. 17–18.
75. Burks, Goldstine, and von Neumann, "Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument," section 4.3.
76. An account of the Princeton machine as built is given by Willis Ware (one of von Neumann's engineers), W.H. Ware, "The History and Development of the Electronic Computer Project at the Institute for Advanced Study," tech. report P-377, RAND, 10 Mar. 1953.
77. Huskey, "The State of the Art in Electronic Digital Computing in Britain and the United States," p. 535.
78. J. Bigelow, "Computer Development at the Institute for Advanced Study," A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century, N. Metropolis, J. Howlett, and G.C. Rota eds., Academic Press, 1980, p. 304.
79. H.H. Goldstine, The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann, Princeton Univ. Press, 1972, p. 310.
80. Bigelow, "Computer Development at the Institute for Advanced Study," pp. 305–306.
81. Goldstine, The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann, p. 96.
82. Goldstine, The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann, p. 265.
83. Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Universal High-Speed Digital Computing Machine," p. 687.
84. Goldstine, The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann, p. 308.
85. With an operating speed of 1 MHz, the Pilot Model ACE was for some time the fastest computer in the world. Despite having only a few percent of the memory capacity that Turing had specified, the Pilot ACE in other respects adhered closely to version V of Turing's ACE design.
86. R., Gandy interview by B.J. Copeland, Oct. 1995.
87. A.M. Turing, "Programmers' Handbook for Manchester Electronic Computer," Computing Machine Lab., Univ. of Manchester, no date, c. 1950; also available at http://www.AlanTuring.netprogrammers_handbook .
88. See for example the Manchester "programme sheet" in Turing's hand on p. 511 of The Essential Turing, Copeland ed.
89. Williams and Kilburn, "The University of Manchester Computing Machine," p. 61.
90. T.H. Flowers, "Colossus," Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers, Copeland, 2006, p. 100. Further to the speed of the Manchester computer, R. Vowels points out that scanning a 32-digit line (that is, 32-bit word) in the Baby's CRT memory required 272 microseconds, as compared to the 32 microseconds required to take a 32-bit word out of the delay-line memory of the Pilot ACE (whereas it was often alleged that serial-access delay-line memory was at a serious disadvantage in comparison with random-access memory such as the Williams-Kilburn tube). The instruction time of the Manchester Mark I, 1.8 milliseconds, was nearly twice the maximum access time for a 32-word delay line in the Pilot ACE.( R. Vowels to B.J., Copeland14 Dec. 2007 and 13 July 2009; S.H. Lavington, A History of Manchester Computers, 2nd ed., British Computer Soc., 1998, pp. 13, 17.) The floating-point multiplication time of the Pilot ACE was a mere 7.5 percent of that of the Mark I ( M. Campbell-Kelly, "The ACE and the Shaping of British Computing," Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, Copeland ed., p. 161).
91. Kilburn interview by , Copeland, July 1997; G.C. Tootill, "Informal Report on the Design of the Ferranti Mark I Computing Machine," Nov. 1949, Nat'l Archive for the History of Computing, Univ. of Manchester.
92. G.C. Tootill to B.J. Copeland18 Apr. 2001.
93. "The Turing-Wilkinson Lecture Series (1946–7)," Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine, Copeland ed., pp. 482–483; J. H. Wilkinson, "Turing's Work at the National Physical Laboratory and the Construction of Pilot ACE, DEUCE, and ACE," A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century, N. Metropolis, J. Howlett, and G.C. Rota eds, Academic Press, 1980, p. 104.
94. A.M. Turing, "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis," The Essential Turing, , Copeland ed.
95. See Turing's papers 9–13, The Essential Turing, , Copeland ed.
96. Minutes of the Council of the Royal Society, 16 May 1946 (minute 8).
97. M.H.A. Newman to J. von Neumann8 Feb. 1946, von Neumann Archive, Library of Congress; also available at http://www.AlanTuring.netnewman_vonneumann_8feb46 .
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