In December 1946, Freddie Williams moved to the University of Manchester to take up the chair of electrical engineering. He continued to work on the system and Tom Kilburn, who was in his group at TRE, was seconded to Manchester to continue working with him. A second TRE member was also seconded to assist Tom Kilburn, first Arthur Marsh, who left after a few months, and then from June 1947 G.K. (Jeff) Tootill.
It was known throughout the world that the provision of efficient means of electronic storage was critical to the further development of electronic digital computers. By December 1, 1947, 2048 bits were stored on a standard single 6" CRT and Tom Kilburn wrote an internal report presenting the methods of operation of a dot-dash and defocus-focus CRT. design of a hypothetical computer. This report generated considerable interest and was widely circulated in the UK and the US. The CRT storage system became known as the Williams tube, although the Williams-Kilburn tube might have been a more appropriate name.
The Baby computer was not intended as a practical computing engine, but instead was designed as a testbed for the Williams tube, the first random access memory. Described as small and primitive 50 years after its creation, it was the first working machine to contain all the elements needed for a modern electronic digital computer. Once the Baby had demonstrated the feasibility of his design, a project was initiated at the university to turn it into a full-scale, operational Manchester Mark 1 machine. The Mark 1, in turn, quickly became the prototype for the Ferranti Mark 1, the world's first commercially available general-purpose computer.
There is no simple answer to this question due to the many different classifications. The first mechanical computer, created by Charles Babbage in 1822, is not what most people think of as a computer today.
Up to this point, computers like the Colossus for cracking codes had to be physically reprogrammed and reconfigured each time they needed to perform a new task. To take the first step towards modern computers capable of performing multiple tasks on command, researchers had to develop a computer with memory.
Professor David Edwards, now 90 years old and living in Preston, worked on the Kid with these pioneers as a young graduate of his Master of Physics. But looking back on those early days, they were not even sure their car would work. He says there was considerable uncertainty in the beginning about whether it would succeed. And when we started, every single component had to be put together, and the pieces were very, very big.
When was the first program launched?
The first successfully launched program on June 21, 1948 was to determine the leading divisor of a number. The number chosen was quite small, but within a few days they got the program up to 218, and the correct answer was found in 52 minutes, including about 2.1 million instructions with about 3.5 million storage accesses.
To do this, a team at the University of Manchester developed a Williams-Kilburn tube that used a cathode ray tube of the type commonly used in old-fashioned bulky televisions. The screen was a grid of dots, each of which was the result of an electron hitting the phosphor screen of the tube. This creates an instantaneous charge that was used to write the operation to the computer memory.
It was originally just one bit - not very useful in itself, but the idea that it could be used to make a computer remember a program existed. And then there is Baby.
After developing the Colossus computer for breaking code at Bletchley Park during World War II, Max Newman devoted himself to developing a computer incorporating both Alan Turing mathematical concepts and the stored program concept described by John von Neumann. In 1945 he was appointed to the Filden chair of pure mathematics at the University of Manchester; he took his Colossus colleagues Jack Good and David Rees with him to Manchester, and there they hired Williams as a contractor for a new computer project for which he had received funding from the Royal Society.
Williams later spoke of the first successful run: the program was entered with great difficulty and the start switch was pressed. Immediately, the spots on the display tube began a frantic dance. was even worse, without giving any hint of what was wrong. But one day it stopped, and there, shining brightly in the expected place, was the expected answer. This was in June 1948.