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Two-Ton Witch Computer Gets a Reboot

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punch tape on Witch computer

Programs are loaded into the Witch computer on paper tape which is punched out by hand.

Credit: BBC

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The world's oldest original working digital computer, the Witch, has been restored after a three-year effort and was recently put on display at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) in Bletchley Park, England.

In the 1950s, the Witch was one of the world's most advanced machines, and was a major component of the United Kingdom's atomic energy research program. The machine first ran in 1951, and was able to multiply two numbers in 10 seconds. However, by 1957 the Witch was already being out performed by smaller and faster machines.

The Witch was on display at Birmingham's Museum of Science and Industry for 24 years until 1997 when the museum closed and it was dismantled and put into storage. The restoration effort was led by conservationist Delwyn Holroyd. He says the vast majority of the machine's parts, including its 480 relays and 828 Dekatron tubes, are original.

"It's important for us to have a machine like this back in working order as it gives us an understanding of the state of technology in the late 1940s in Britain," says TNMOC's Kevin Murrell.

From BBC News
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