Designing and programming computers

Dai Edwards with the expanded Manchester 'Baby' computer, June 1949
Dai Edwards with the expanded Manchester 'Baby' computer, June 1949

During the 1940s and 1950s Britain was at the forefront of developing computers for both scientific and commercial applications. The world’s first stored program computer, the Manchester ‘Baby’ built by a team that included Geoff Tootill, was first successfully run on 21 June 1948. It was followed in 1949 by the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) built by Maurice Wilkes and his team at Cambridge. In 1951 J. Lyons and Co., whose business was primarily in catering, put a development of EDSAC named LEO (Lyons Electronic Office) to work in running their business operations. LEO was the first office computer and LEO's programmers, such as Mary Coombs and Frank Land, developed some of the earliest business software. Existing business machinery manufacturers also joined the computing market, including the BritishTabulating Machinery Company who employed Ray Bird to develop the HEC1 (Hollerith Electronic Calculator) from a prototype by Andrew Donald Booth of Birkbeck College. British computer scientists also made fundamental contributions to the development of computer software. These included Tony Hoare's Quicksort algorithm and the development of AUTOCODE, one of the first programming languages, by Tony Brooker and others. Innovation has continued through such technologies as the ARM chips that power most of the world's mobile phones,  despite the decline of the British computer industry.

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