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Issue No.04 - October-December (2007 vol.29)
pp: 90-102
David Anderson , University of Portsmouth
Janet Delve , University of Portsmouth
1. This biographical piece examines the life and work of the inventive researcher, memory maker, and electrical engineer par excellence, Frederic Calland Williams, whose contribution to the building of the Manchester Baby—the world's first electronic stored-program computer—was so invaluable. Williams is commonly, but incorrectly, characterized as the overall leader of the project while his engineering contribution is, equally often, understated. Based on a detailed re-examination of the historical evidence, Williams is resituated in his correct role as the project's chief engineer. 2. Jacques Vaucanson made a significant contribution to the development of the textile industry in the 18th century, particularly with his automatic perforated-cylinder-driven loom, which was later improved upon by Jacquard. His work on automata is also noteworthy. 3. Up until now there have been few reliable biographical details available concerning Jacquard. Recent research by a local Lyons historian has unearthed Jacquard's true identity as Joseph Marie Charles, together with a welter of new information about this mysterious but influential figure who developed punched-card looms.
Patrick Blackett, Tom Kilburn, Manchester Baby, Max Newman, SSEM, Frederic Calland Williams, automata, android, Jacquard, perforated-cylinder, Babbage, punched-card, Vaucanson
David Anderson, Janet Delve, "Biographies", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.29, no. 4, pp. 90-102, October-December 2007, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2007.54
1. F.C. Williams, "The Bakerian Lecture, 1964. Inventive Technology: The Search for Better Electric Machines," Proc. Royal Society of London, Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, vol. 283, no. 1392, 1965, p. 2.
2. "Bumping races are processional races in which the aim is to catch up with the boat in front and so exchange places in the starting order. Crews are grouped into divisions, with each division racing four times in one day. A consistently successful crew will rise up the starting order until it reaches the top, earning the title of Head of the River."
3. For further details about Blackett's career and the role he would later play in the development of computers at Manchester, see D. Anderson, "Patrick Blackett: Physicist, Radical, and Chief Architect of the Manchester Computing Phenomenon," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 29, no. 3, 2007, pp. 82-85.
4. "IFF enables radar operators to make the critical distinction between friendly and enemy aircraft."
5. F.C. Williams interview by C.R. Evans, 1976, "Pioneers of Computing 7: F.C. Williams," audio recording, Science Museum, London; transcription, C.D.P. Anderson, 1998.
6. A.M. Turing, "Proposed Electronic Calculator 1945. The original copy is in the (British) National Archives, in the file DSIR 10/385. The report was first published as the NPL report, Com. Sci. 57 (1972), with a foreword by D.W. Davies," For further information, see
7. Turing, "Proposed Electronic Calculator," p. 48.
8. S.H. Lavington, Early British Computers: The Story of Vintage Computers and the People Who Built Them, Butterworth-Heinemann, 1980, pp. 18-19.
9. "Newman to J. von Neumann, letter, 8 Feb. 1946, box 6, folder 2, item 2," The Newman Digital Archive,; the History of Computing Group, Cambridge, and St. John's College, Cambridge, UK.
10. "I.J. Good to Dr. S.H. Lavington, letter, 7 Apr. 1976," National Archive of the History of Computing, John Rylands Library, Univ. of Manchester Library (Special Collections), NAHC/MUC/2/A4. Newman had also discussed the vacancy with Williams during the summer of 1946.
11. "Notes of a meeting held in the Director's room 22nd November 1946;," available at archive/l/l24L24-001.html.
12. R.A. Smith, "Notes on a visit to the NPL to discuss the Automatic Computing Engine with the Director 25 Nov. 1946, TRE internal memo D.4070."
13. Lavington, Early British Computers, p. 28.
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