Researchers bring back world’s oldest working computer

Nov 20, 2012
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Researchers at the National Museum of Computing in the UK have restored a massive computer operated in the 1950s known as "The Witch," and it's now the world's oldest working computer. A team of computer scientists has restored the computer to its former glory, and now it's on display for the public to see.

The Witch was originally built in 1949 at the UK's Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire. The computer weighs in at a whopping 2.75 tons, and it was designed to crunch calculations for nuclear scientists, so they didn't have to use mechanical adding machines. However, it was soon replaced by newer and faster technology.

The old computer was put on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Birmingham from 1973 to 1997, where it was then dismantled and put in storage. However, researchers have recently dug it out of storage and restored the historical computer to working condition. The computer uses valves as its memory store, and it takes up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers, but it regularly cranked out up to 80 hours of service in a typical week. A lot of the parts were covered in dust and needed cleaning, but the researchers say that they didn't need to replace as many parts as they originally thought.

While The Witch was replaced by quicker and better technology, it continued to be used as a teaching resource. In fact, it was loaned to a different educational institution where it received its nickname, known as the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell -- or WITCH. The computer will be on display at The National Museum of Computing in Buckinghamshire, UK starting today.

[via BBC News]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


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