The 50th Anniversary of the Atlas computer
The high-performance Atlas computer was developed in the period 1956 – 1962 by a team led by Professor Tom Kilburn at the University of Manchester. The local company Ferranti Ltd. joined the project in 1959. The first production Atlas was inaugurated at Manchester University on 7th December 1962 by Sir John Cockcroft, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who was Director of the UK’s Atomic Energy Authority. At the time of its inauguration, Atlas was reckoned to be the world’s most powerful computer. A total of six Atlas 1 and Atlas 2 computers were delivered between 1962 and 1966.
A section of the Manchester University Atlas in 1963.
See more pictures of Atlas in the gallery.
To mark the 50th Anniversary, celebrations were organised in Manchester from 4th to 6th December 2012. The main event was a Symposium on 5th December in the Kilburn Building, The School of Computer Science, University of Manchester. Speakers included Dai Edwards, Brian Hardisty, David Howarth, Keith Jeffery, Barry Landy, Simon Lavington and Dik Leatherdale. There was an accompanying exhibition and demonstrations of an Atlas emulator and an Atlas simulator.
An illustrated booklet (PDF) has been prepared to
mark the 50th anniversary. This gives the overall story of the Atlas
project from its inception to the switching-off of the last working
Google have produced a short documentary film, featuring interviews with some of the key people in the Atlas story
A 75-page book (PDF) about the London Atlas, published in 1973, has recently been transcribed. The author is Iain Stinson, an M.Sc student at the University of London Institute of Computer Science.
Some additional historical accounts, available as PDFs at the links below, have been prepared by former Atlas people:
The authors welcome comments and discussion on these, and other historical matters, via our Atlas blogsite.
A summary of the talks given in the symposium will be published later in the Computer Conservation Society’s quarterly bulletin Resurrection.
More about Atlas
For more information on the Atlas computer, see: Chilton computing and Computer Heritage.
For more information on the Atlas 50th Anniversary events, contact Simon Lavington.