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In 1947, Maston Beard and Trevor Pearcey led a research group at the Sydney-based Radiophysics Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research [known as CSIRO* today], to design and build the first Australian electronic computer.

The resources they had available included the vacuum tube or "valve" technology and the pulse techniques developed for radar systems during World War II. Their developments paralleled, but were to a considerable extent independent of computer developments in Europe and the USA.

The CSIR Mk1 ran its first test programs in late 1949 and it was the fifth electronic stored program computer ever developed. It embodied many features novel at the time and was able to operate more than 1000 times faster than the best mechanical calculators. The machine was officially opened in 1951 and used to solve problems both for the Radiophysics Laboratory and outside organisations. It was decommissioned in 1955 and shipped to Melbourne.

On 14 June 1956 the Mk1 was recommissioned and renamed CSIRAC and the new Computation Laboratory at the University of Melbourne was officially opened. It was in Melbourne that CSIRAC came into its own as a general computing workhorse - from June 1956 to June 1964 over 700 computing projects were processed.

In November 1964, Dr. Frank Hirst switched CSIRAC off for the last time and donated it to the Museum of Victoria. It is now at the Melbourne Museum, and was modified to blink its lights on and off for the exhibition, although it isn't actually turned on.

Information taken from the detailed page of the University of Melbourne dedicated to the CSIRAC computer.

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I remember first seeing this computer in the Melbourne Museum when I was only 3 - and I can remember all the lights flickering although it wasn''t turned on. If it had been, the Melbourne Museum''s circuit breakers would have all tripped.

Thursday 22nd September 2011
Erik N (Australia)

Not so funny-one of the programmers who worked on it has developed an emulator!

It was also the first computer used to play music, believe it or not....

Monday 13rd September 2010
JBH (Australia)

Well, it might be interesting.

Thursday 5th May 2005
Sam (UK)


TYPE  Professional Computer
ORIGIN  Australia
YEAR  1949
KEYBOARD  Switch panel
CPU  No CPU, 2000 vacuum-tubes
SPEED  About 500 instructions per second, later raised to 1000 i/s
RAM  768 x 20-bit words stored in mercury delay lines
TEXT MODES  16 columns x 20 lines display
SOUND  Built-in speaker able to play primitive music
SIZE / WEIGHT  several tons
BUILT IN MEDIA  1024-word drum disk, Teletype

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