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Ferranti Recollections (1950-1955)

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129954D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 6 page(s) / 25K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

John M. Bennett: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

I joined Ferranti Ltd. in September 1950 from the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory, where I had been Maurice Wilkes's first research student. I had just spent three years in Cambridge -- one helping to design and build EDSAC and two using it -- having arrived in the United Kingdom from Australia in September 1947. The Ferranti computing group was part of the sales section associated with the Instrument Department located at Moston, Manchester, and Ferranti had just won a contract, surely a record for its brevity, to ";construct an electronic calculating machine to the instructions of Professor F.C. Williams."; The contract (to construct the Ferranti Mkl) was signed a few days after the successful demonstration of the Manchester University prototype to Sir Ben Lockspeiser, then the United Kingdom Government Chief Scientist. The Manchester prototype was developed from a test rig for the original Williams CRT store and began operating in June 1948. The Ferranti machine, when installed in the Royal Society Computing Laboratory at Manchester University, was known as MADM (Manchester Automatic Digital Machine). I was required to build up a programming group to interface with users and possible purchasers of successors to MADM. The computer industry was then not as rigidly compartmentalized as it is now, and everything one did was new and exciting. So I found myself involved in a potpourri of tasks, including marketing assignments, machine specification, and running a programming group.

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Ferranti Recollections (1950-1955)

John M. Bennett

John M. Bennett

Introduction

I joined Ferranti Ltd. in September 1950 from the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory, where I had been Maurice Wilkes's first research student. I had just spent three years in Cambridge -- one helping to design and build EDSAC and two using it -- having arrived in the United Kingdom from Australia in September 1947.

The Ferranti computing group was part of the sales section associated with the Instrument Department located at Moston, Manchester, and Ferranti had just won a contract, surely a record for its brevity, to "construct an electronic calculating machine to the instructions of Professor F.C. Williams." The contract (to construct the Ferranti Mkl) was signed a few days after the successful demonstration of the Manchester University prototype to Sir Ben Lockspeiser, then the United Kingdom Government Chief Scientist. The Manchester prototype was developed from a test rig for the original Williams CRT store and began operating in June 1948. The Ferranti machine, when installed in the Royal Society Computing Laboratory at Manchester University, was known as MADM (Manchester Automatic Digital Machine).

I was required to build up a programming group to interface with users and possible purchasers of successors to MADM. The computer industry was then not as rigidly compartmentalized as it is now, and everything one did was new and exciting. So I found myself involved in a potpourri of tasks, including marketing assignments, machine specification, and running a programming group.

What follows is an expansion of a section of an article [1] I published in 1990 in the Annals of the History of Computing. Part of that article described, in brief, activities with which I was concerned during the time I spent with Ferranti Ltd. in Manchester (1950 1953) building up the programming team and later in London (1953-1955) as a logical designer/computer architect with Ferranti's London Computer Laboratories. Matters dealt with more fully in the article will be briefly summarized to provide continuity, but readers are referred to the earlier article for a fuller treatment.

I was prompted to write this article by my attendance at a very enjoyable Ferranti programmers' reunion organized by one of the team, Olaf Chedzoy, at Cordon Mill, Somerset, on Apr. 21, 1993. Subsequently Olaf has edited and circulated a newsletter entitled Stroke E. The title comes from the character equivalents of the first two (in binary) code characters used on the Manchester machine (/, E, @, A, :, S. I, and U. for example, corresponded to 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 in binary code). Olars address is: Aire & Farthings, Pardlestone Lane, Holford, Bridgwater, Somerset TA5 ISQ, U.K. His forebears fr...