The Crystallographic Community

Computers in Structural Chemistry and Molecular Biology

Manchester, UK

16 June - 17 June 1998

As part of the University of Manchester 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the Birth of the Modern Computer, Professor John Helliwell organized a two-day mini-conference on Computers in Structural Chemistry and Molecular Biology.

Computer 50

The University of Manchester Celebrates the Birth of the Modern Computer

The Small-Scale Experimental Machine, known as SSEM, or the "Baby", was designed and built at The University of Manchester, and made its first successful run of a program on June 21st 1948. It was the first machine that had all the components now classically regarded as characteristic of the basic computer. Most importantly it was the first computer that could store not only data but any (short!) user program in electronic memory and process it at electronic speed.

From this Small-Scale Experimental Machine a full-sized machine was designed and built, the Manchester Mark 1, which by April 1949 was generally available for computation in scientific research in the University. With the integration of a high speed magnetic drum by the Autumn (the ancestor of today's disc) this was the first machine with a fast electronic and magnetic two-level store. It in turn was the basis of the first commercially available computer, the Ferranti Mark 1, the first machine off the production line being delivered in February 1951.

The highlight of the 1998 Celebrations was the construction of a working replica of the Baby now on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

from the Computer 50 Celebrations web pages of University of Manchester