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EDSAC to be Rebuilt at Bletchley Park

EDSAC to be Rebuilt at Bletchley Park

EDSAC, seen here with its creators Maurice Wilkes and Bill Renwick, will live again thanks to a restoration project at Bletchley Park.

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.

15 Comments

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j_jay4 14th January 2011, 13:53 Quote
I would certainly be disappointed if I spent £250,000 on a computer the size of a room and it turned out to be less powerful than my mobile phone
Bauul 14th January 2011, 14:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by j_jay4
I would certainly be disappointed if I spent £250,000 on a computer the size of a room and it turned out to be less powerful than my mobile phone

Is that because the computer's really big, or because you've a really crap phone? ;)
paisa666 14th January 2011, 14:16 Quote
Cool... a £250,000 rig.. but... cant it play Crysis???
GravitySmacked 14th January 2011, 14:29 Quote
I love the fact they're going ahead and rebuilding this iconic machine.
TMhat 14th January 2011, 14:44 Quote
Whilst cool, I can't help but think what a colossal waste of money. Couldn't they have put the £250,000 towards a folding@home farm or something that will give some kind of benefit?
SMIFFYDUDE 14th January 2011, 15:16 Quote
A folding@home farm won't bring in the visitors
xaser04 14th January 2011, 15:19 Quote
Will it be watercooled and what colour fans are they going for?












:p
FelixTech 14th January 2011, 16:10 Quote
It's no more wasteful than touching up a castle for tourism. I hope it makes some noises otherwise is may not be the most exciting thing to look at...
Darkedge 14th January 2011, 18:30 Quote
Colossus was used for breaking the German code designated 'Fish' not Enigma which was done by the Bombes - totally different cypher but a very common mistake.
Cool news though.
HourBeforeDawn 14th January 2011, 19:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TMhat
Whilst cool, I can't help but think what a colossal waste of money. Couldn't they have put the £250,000 towards a folding@home farm or something that will give some kind of benefit?

lol our history is a waste... you know as the saying goes if we dont learn from our pass we are doomed to repeat it, I mean we spend millions on theme parks how is this anymore important to society its all a form of entertainment and in this case I think it would be cool to see one of the forefathers that have brought about what you take advantage of on a daily basis without a second thought.
Cthippo 15th January 2011, 06:57 Quote
I'm amazed they think they can do it for 250K. Seems like everything is at least a million these days.
alpaca 15th January 2011, 14:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by xaser04
Will it be watercooled and what colour fans are they going for?
no they are uber cool: this thing will be using PASSIVE COOLING cheesecake
jamesislush 16th January 2011, 03:41 Quote
They should strap some neon lights to the bugger.
L2wis 16th January 2011, 15:54 Quote
sounds great i love bletchley park!
bulldogjeff 16th January 2011, 18:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by paisa666
Cool... a £250,000 rig.. but... cant it play Crysis???

Can it play pong..lol
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