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The Industrial Era


The First Generation of computers start approximately in this era and computers were characterized by electromechanical mechanisms and partly programmable.

In this chapter the transistor will be developed and the first stored program computers come on line


pre history | antiquity | pre industrial era | industrial era

1947 1949 1950 1952 1955 1958 1961 1963 1965 1969 1970 1972 1974
1976 1978 1980 1981 1982 1984 1986 1989 1991 1993 1994 1996 2000
2002 2005                      


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BINAC 1949

BINAC Binary Automatic Computer is built for Northrop.

This computer is made by the company of Eckert en Mauchly Electronic Control Co., Philadelphia, and one of the first computers that made use of magnetic tape. It is the first computer to operate in real time. During the development of the BINAC Mauchly developed the so called Short Order Code and is thought to be the first high-level programming language (opinions differ over whether BINAC ever actually worked) The BINAC consists actually of two computers which carried out operations simultaneously and compared the results. It is the first computer to work in real time. The BINAC will be delivered in September to Northrop.

The Whirlwind computer, constructed under the leadership of Jay Forrester at MIT's Digital Computer Laboratory, to be the first real-time computer, is placed in service during the third quarter. It contains 5,000 vacuum tubes.

EDSAC 1949

EDSAC (Electronic Delayed Storage Automatic Computer), a stored-program (program and data both modifiable in storage) computer built by Maurice Wilkes and Renwick at Cambridge University, England.

It performs its first calculation on May 6. It uses paper tape I/O, and is the first stored-program computer to operate a regular computing service. In August the relocation loader is added to the "initial orders" of the EDSAC.

Alan Turing sends a letter to the London Times on artificial intelligence.

Claude Shannon of MIT builds the first chess playing machine but will never exploit it.

Manchester Mark I

From the Small-Scale Experimental Machine (also called the "Baby") a full-sized machine was designed and built, the Manchester MARK-1

By April 1949 the MARK I will be generally available for computation in scientific research in the University. With the integration of a high speed magnetic drum by the Autumn (the ancestor of today's hard disk) this is the first machine with a fast electronic and magnetic two-level store. It in turn is the basis of the first commercially available computer, the Ferranti Mark 1, the first machine off the production line being delivered in February 1951.(1)

First Germanium transistors are available.

Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons., Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science.

The EDVAC 1949 and the team who build it

EDVAC (electronic discrete variable computer) First computer to use Magnetic Tape.

This is a breakthrough as previous computers had to be re-programmed by re-wiring them whereas EDVAC could have new programs loaded off of the tape. Proposed by John von Neumann, it was completed in 1952 at the Institute for Advance Study, Princeton, USA.

Bell Computer, Model VI .

Burroughs Adding Machine Company establishes an electronics research laboratory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Pilot ACE 1949

Early this year construction is started on Pilot ACE at the National Physical Institute.

CSIR Mk I (later known as CSIRAC), Australia's first computer, ran its first test program.

It is a vacuum tube based electronic general purpose computer. Its main memory stored data as a series of acoustic pulses in 5 foot long tubes filled with mercury.

Grace Murray Hopper joins the Eckert-Mauchly Corporation as senior mathematician.


IBM CPC - Card Programmed (electronic) Calculator is introduced

Jay Forrester uses iron core memory for main computer memory storage.

Iron core storage will be used for more than two decades and is replaced by semiconductor memory in 1964.

Konrad Zuse founds the computer company Zuse KG at Neukirchen building a line of Z computers using valves vacuum tubes, and later transistors.


George Orwell (ps of Eric Arthur Blair 1903 - 1950) publishes "1984", in which computers are used to enslave the population.

The ideas in this book will become a manifest to people feeling threatened by governments that tends to administrate anything known about you, and as is felt use it against you. Since the bleak picture this book sketches becomes more and more reality governments are less and less trusted. This "big brother is watching you" gives most people an eerie feeling of privacy intrusion, and it is felt that the information gathered is never used to your advantage. Computers as usual are always blamed for this. But it is as with all tools, people are using and programming them. And the information stored and the handling there off leaves computers completely indifferent. People tend to forget these two little facts.

picture courtesy Brown University Library

The Harvard-MARK III, the first of the MARK machines to use an internally stored program and indirect addressing, goes into operations again under the direction of Howard Aiken.

Siemens AG purchases the Zuse KG company.

Work on the SWAC Standards Western Automatic Computer was begun at the National Bureau of Standards under the name "ZEPHYR."

SWAC 1949

January, The SWAC is started at the National Bureau of Standards' Institute for Numerical Analysis.

In August J. Lyons & Company, possibly the first commercial sponsors of an electronic computer, begin work on the LEO Lyons Electronic Office computer.

The LEO is based on the earlier EDSAC design. The LEO will be operational by 1951.

Mark III 1949

September, The Harvard Mark III becomes operational.

October, The Manchester Mark I final specification is completed.

This machine notably being the first computer to use the equivalent of base/index registers, a feature not entering common computer architecture until the second generation around 1955.

October, The Manchester University computer, the Manchester Baby, or officially known as the small-scale electronic machine (SSEM) is fully operational at Manchester University.


One of these famous citations of "They couldn't be wrong more"


"Computers in the future will contain 1,000 vacuum tubes and probably weigh more than 1,5 tons"

Popular Mechanics Magazine.




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