Advertisement

Contested Histories: De-mythologising the Early History of Modern British Computing

  • David Anderson
Conference paper
  • 816 Downloads
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 325)

Abstract

A challenge is presented to the usual account of the development of the Manchester Baby which focuses on the contribution made to the project by the topologist M.H.A. (Max) Newman and other members of the Dept. of Mathematics. Based on an extensive re-examination of the primary source material, it is suggested that a very much more significant role was played by mathematicians than is allowed for in the dominant discourse. It is shown that there was a single computer-building project at Manchester in the years immediately following World War II and that it was conceived, led, funded, supplied and staffed by Newman who was supported throughout by his long-time friend P.M.S. (Patrick) Blackett. In the course of the paper three persistent myths, which lend support to the dominant narrative, are identified and debunked.

Keywords

Manchester Baby SSEM Max Newman Patrick Blackett British Computing Historiography 

References

  1. 1.
    Hilbert, D., Ackerman, W.: Grundzüge der theoretischen Logik. Springer, Berlin (1928)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Davis, M.: Computability and Unsolvability, 3rd edn. Dover, New York (1982)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Evans, C.R.: Interview with Maxwell Herman Alexander Newman (Transcript by D.P. Anderson). Science Museum/National Physical Laboratory (1975) (unpublished interview)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem. Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, Ser. 2 42 (1937)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Anderson, D.P.: Was the Manchester ‘Baby’ conceived at Bletchley Park? BCS eWIC (2008), http://www.bcs.org/upload/pdf/ewic_tur04_paper3_OnlinePDF.pdf
  6. 6.
    Newman, M.H.A.: Letter to Colonel Wallace, D.D.(A), Government Communications Headquarters, Bletchley Park, August 8 (1945) (unpublished letter)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Newman, M.H.A.: Letter to John von Neumann. In: Box 6 Folder 2 Item 2 The Newman Digital Archive, the History of Computing Group and St John’s College Cambridge, February 8 (1946a) (unpublished letter)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Evans, C.R.: Interview with Frederic Calland Williams (Transcript by David P. Anderson). Science Museum/National Physical Laboratory (1976a) (unpublished interview)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Evans, C.R.: Interview with Donald Michie (Transcript by David P. Anderson). Science Museum/National Physical Laboratory (1976b) (unpublished interview)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hodges, A.: Alan Turing: The Enigma. Simon & Shuster, New York (1983)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Lavington, S.H.: A History of Manchester Computers, 2nd edn. British Computer Society (1998)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Napper, R.B.E.: The Moore School Lectures and the British lead in stored program computer development 1946- 1953 (2004), http://www.virtualtravelog.net/entries/2003/10/the_moore_school_lectures_and_the_british_lead_in_stored_program_computer_development_1946_1953.html (retrieved December 11, 2005)
  13. 13.
    Napper, R.B.E.: Newman’s Contribution to the Mark 1 Machines (1998), http://www.computer50.org/mark1/newman.html (retrieved December 6, 2005)

Copyright information

© IFIP 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Portsmouth, “The Newmanry”PortsmouthUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations