Computer engineer who developed ‘Baby’, the world’s first stored-program computer
In 1998 Manchester University and the City of Manchester celebrated the 50th anniversary of one of the scientific breakthroughs that define the modern era – the world’s first electronic stored-program computer. For the occasion, a team of volunteer engineers had built a working replica of that original computer. The replica was inaugurated by Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill, its two surviving creators, and is now a permanent exhibit in the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. Tootill has died aged 95.
The original developed from second world war radar work done at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) at Malvern, Worcestershire, where Tootill was involved in installing and trouble-shooting airborne radar systems. In another laboratory at TRE, a rising academic star, Frederic Calland Williams, and Kilburn, his assistant, were working on an electronic data storage system intended for use in radar. The system used a conventional cathode ray tube to store the data.