London: 1949. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS OF THE 1st SUBSTANTIVE DISCUSSION OF THE EDSAC, THE FIRST STORED-PROGRAM COMPUTER. “EDSAC was the first practical general purpose stored program electronic computer” (The National Museum of Computing). Earlier machines were either dedicated to a single task (e.g. Colossus and code breaking) or were purely experimental “Baby."
Immediately following the 2nd World War, Maurice Wilkes, director of the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory was briefed “to provide 'mechanical' aids that would assist mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the university to perform complex and time-consuming calculations… [Wilkes] “had observed research workers doing laborious computations with the aid of mechanical desk calculators and mathematical tables. His prime motive in building EDSAC was to provide them with faster and better facilities” (ibid).
Wilkes’ “vision was to create a computer… that was accessible and practical, rather than to push the boundaries of technology. To reach that goal, he adopted very conservative design principles and the result was a reliable machine that did useful and significant work through its life… Like all computers of its time, EDSAC was based on thermionic valves which Wilkes knew well from his wartime work on advanced radar systems. He sketched out the main elements of the design during a five day voyage from the USA to the UK…
”Construction was led by Bill Renwick, appointed by Wilkes as Chief Engineer. A team quickly grew around Wilkes and Renwick as they refined the design and gradually brought EDSAC to life. “EDSAC ran its first program on 6th May 1949 and was soon pressed into service to support research in the university. It provided a computing service for over nine years, until it was superseded by EDSAC 2, built by the same team.
“During that period a substantial number of users had their research transformed and their horizons extended through the increase in computer power that EDSAC and EDSAC 2 gave them. Among these were future winners of [four] Nobel Prizes – John Kendrew and Max Perutz (Chemistry, 1962) for the discovery of the structure of myoglobin, Andrew Huxley (Medicine, 1963) for quantitative analysis of excitation and conduction in nerves and Martin Ryle (Physics, 1974) for the development of aperture synthesis in radio astronomy. All acknowledged EDSAC in their Nobel Prize speeches” (ibid). Item #1525
CONDITION & DETAILS: 4to. (10 x 7 inches). Original wraps. No library markings. Ex-libris with a stamp on the front wrap (see photo). In-text illustrations throughout. Light toning at the inner margin of the front wrap. The wrappers are tightly attached. Exceptionally clean inside.