'The Witch', The World's Oldest Working Computer, Restored In Britain

The World's Oldest Working Computer Restored In Britain

The world's oldest computer has been resurrected and rebuilt.

'The Witch' was first designed in 1949 as part of Britain's atomic energy research effort.

It first ran in 1951, under the name 'Harwell Dekatron' after the valves that it used to store information.

While it was slow - it took around 10 seconds to multiply two numbers - it was able to be used for long periods, often up to 80 hours per week, according to the BBC.

In 1957 it was donated to Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College, now Wolverhampton University, where it was called the Witch (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computation from Harwell).

But by 1973 it was on the downhill path. It was first tonated to Birmingham's Museum of Science and Industry, then eventually placed in storage in 1997 when the museum closed.

There it languished for 15 years, until Kevin Murrell from The National Museum of Computing spotted it in a photograph, and began restoration.

Three years later, the computer is back up and running. Most of the machine is made of the original parts, and it still weighs 2.5 tonnes, just as it did back in the 50s.

It will be unveiled at Bletchley Park on Tuesday, at a ceremony attended by some of its creators and students who used it to develop their early computing skills.


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