1 The First Computers

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Stored-Program Computers

In June 1948 Max Newman and F.C. Williams and their team at Manchester University in England completed a prototype machine called Mark I. This is probably the first machine everyone would call a computer, being the first with a true stored-program capability.

Eckert and Mauchly realized that a usable computer should have an addressable program and a data memory. The new project to construct such a computer was named EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer). Herman Goldstine raised money for the project and John von Neumann was added to the team. An early draft of the design solely signed by von Neumann and giving him too much credit for the new design split the team and the EDVAC computer was finished by another team in 1951, well a year after the first computer with stored program, EDSAC, was in operation in England.

EDSAC, which was based on the EDVAC concept, was designed by M.V. Wilkes and his team at the University of Cambridge in June 1949. EDSAC is considered the first operational stored-program computer that was not a prototype.

In Febr 1951 Ferranti Ltd. of Manchester, England completed the first commercial computer also called Mark I, of which 8 were sold.

In March 1951 Eckert and Mauchly, having sold their company to Remington Rand, completed UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer), the first US commercial computer. It was followed upon their BINAC (Binary Automatic Computer) a tandem processor computer developed for the US Air Force.

In 1952 the IBM "Defense Calculator", later renamed the "701", enters production. The first one is delivered in March 1953; 19 are sold altogether. The machine is available with 2048 or 4096 36-bit words of CRT memory; it does 2200 multiplications per second.