The computer, smartphone or tablet you’re reading this on owes its existence to one very special machine.
Today, Google is celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Manchester Small Scale Experimental Machine – or the Manchester Baby as it’s become know. It’s importance can not be understated as it was the first computer to run a program electronically stored in its memory. Before it, computers performed instructions by either hardwired storage media or punch cards that had to be constantly switched out.
Google notes that the Manchester Baby’s ability to run programs stored in its memory was due to its novel use of RAM. The machine, which weighed a ton, only had 1,024 bits of memory from which it could execute programs. Of course, its form of RAM isn’t what we’re used to today. Instead, it used a cathode ray tube to store data.
The Baby was only ever experimental, but the work done on it led to the creation of the Ferranti Mark 1. This was the first computer to ever be sold commercially. From there, computers became faster, smaller and even started to take on new forms in smartphones and tablets.
In short, the modern computing experience is in the Manchester Baby’s debt. Without it, we wouldn’t have what we call software today.
As bonus, Google put together a short video that details the history of this revolution in computing: