Minor Who Ushered the Modern Computer Age


Arguably, seventy years ago was the beginning of the modern computer age. A computer that occupied the whole room at a laboratory based in Manchester University ran its first ever programme on 21st June 1948 at precisely 11 AM. The prototype managed to complete the task after 52 minutes having gone through over 3.5 million calculations. The so-called Manchester ‘Baby’ was formally known as the Small –Scale Experimental Machine. It was the globe’s first ever programmed computer. The machine was the pioneer that flagged the approach for the first commercially available computers in a certain city. The town was well known for years as an innovation and science city.

By this time, Dr. Thomas was only 19 years in his final year in Manchester University. Thomas was pursuing a physics degree when he had the opportunity to meet Freddie Williams. Together they designed the ‘Baby’ with other colleagues; Geoff Tootill and Tom Kilbum. Today, Gordon is aged 90 years. He was able to share information with BBC news from his home that is based in New South Wales, Australia. He was so excited to remember the groundbreaking memories of the time they were brainstorming and inventing ways to develop the machine.

Thomas said that his primary goal was to develop a cradle for the ‘Baby.’ Dr. Thomas remembered that it was a group of people that were working as a unit during the Second World War that introduced the idea and the process of doing the job. It was a great adventure for them. Dr. Thomas joined the rest of the group in the project after the machine made its first unbeaten run. He was to work on the computer for his master’s degree. Thomas vividly remembered an old abandoned laboratory that was filled with dirt. The lab was in a neglected building of the then Victoria University of Manchester.

The group managed to get proof that the ‘Baby’ could run. The doctor’s main job was to construct the computer’s memory. The group needed other features to add to their work. The unit went into a different room and they managed to build a memory for the machine. After the memory became functional, they moved the whole equipment from the different rooms into one cramped little room. By then, Manchester was covered in dust and smoke. This was the period after the war was over. Miraculously, the group managed to get all things done and all parts operated.


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