Print 35 comment(s) - last by SlyNine.. on Nov 24 at 4:00 PM

The Witch is being unveiled at a ceremony at the National Museum of Computing today

The world's oldest original working digital computers has been restored and brought back to life in a UK museum. 

The computer, called the Witch (short for Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computation from Harwell), is from the 1950s and was used to replace adding machines. 

The Witch was first designed and and built in 1949 to help the UK's Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire with calculations. In 1951, the 2.5 tonne computer was ran for the first time. However, at that point, the Witch was called the Harwell Dekatron. 

The Harwell Dekatron took up to about 10 seconds to multiply two numbers, and was used about 80 hours per week. But in 1957, smaller and faster computers hit the scene, and the Harwell Dekatron was moved to the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College to teach programming. This is where it acquired its new name, the Witch. 

Later, in 1973, it was donated to Birmingham's Museum of Science and Industry, where it was displayed until 1997 when the museum closed. From there, the Witch was taken apart and stored. 

The Witch had been forgotten until a trustee from The National Museum of Computing, named Kevin Murrell, noticed the Witch's control panel in a photograph brought in by another computer conservationist. He recognized the parts after having seen the Witch many times as a teenager. 

This led to the restoration effort for the Witch, where it's piece were found in storage and reassembled. After cleaning it up and replacing a few parts, the Witch is alive again. About 480 relays and 828 Dekatron tubes are all original on the computer, making the Witch nearly completely original to its former 1950s self. 

The Witch is being unveiled at a ceremony at the National Museum of Computing today. 

Source: BBC

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RE: awesome
By Tony Swash on 11/20/2012 3:19:39 PM , Rating: 2
I share that sentiment.

Back in the very early 1980s I bought an Amstrad PC to do admin work for our company, it ran CP/M. It had no hard drive so after much consideration I forked out several hundred pounds for an external hard drive, it sounded like a hairdryer when it was turned on and it was the size of a large attached case. It's capacity was 20 megabytes. At the time I though that was more than enough storage for everything I would ever want to save :)

Now I wouldn't be able to fit a single image from my Nikon D800 DSLR onto that drive and the USB key ring I carry in my pocket holds several thousand times as much data for a trivial cost.

It's good to live through times of such visible and dramatic progress.

RE: awesome
By Sazabi19 on 11/20/2012 3:32:51 PM , Rating: 2
Early 80s? I thought you were 15 or 16... Early 80s makes you older than me... I don't see that :P"

RE: awesome
By Flunk on 11/20/2012 3:54:57 PM , Rating: 3
You don't need to be young to be a troll.

RE: awesome
By Tony Swash on 11/20/2012 6:44:08 PM , Rating: 3
Early 80s? I thought you were 15 or 16... Early 80s makes you older than me... I don't see that :P"

It's the hair dye ;)

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard
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