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Manual - CSIRAC Computer, Interprogram, University of Melbourne,1960 Document Reg. No: HT 4619

'User friendly' programming manual for the Automatic Electronic Computer, CSIRAC, 1960.

The manual was written by Geoff Hill of the Division of Mathematical Statistics of the CSIRO and used in the Computation Laboratory of the University of Melbourne. It is described, on the front cover, as a "manual in English language for automatic programming."

The Introduction to the manual explains:
"The time required to learn to prepare a calculation for execution by the electronic computer, CSIRAC, is greatly reduced by the INTERPROGRAM system. The user writes steps of the calculation as commands in English language, using any convenient names for values arising in the calculation. The flexible INTERPROGRAM vocabulary can be used with little training and understood with even less. The computer translates INTERPROGRAM language into its own language and executes the required calculation. Use of the computer to construct its own program of operations is known as 'automatic programming'. . . . The system can be extended by increasing the vocabulary or by replacing the arithmetic system by one providing greater precision . . ."

The manual provides a detailed description of how to program CSIRAC. The Introduction includes some explanation of what is meant by programming:
"To 'programme the calculation' means to draw up a list of commands, each of which calls on an operation that the machine can perform and which together will do what is required. For this purpose the programmer will need to know which commands the machine can perform and how to organize these operations into a complete programme. It is sometime helpful, but not necessary, to understand the physical details of machine organisation ...
In many programmes, most of the commands are copied from previously tested programmes, which have been organized into a 'library' of routines."

The donor used a machine language manual while studying at the University of Melbourne in 1962; she wrote some of the programs for CSIRAC, both in a third year physics course and in a third year maths course for which Trevor Pearcey was the lecturer. She also used Interprogram (a more user friendly program) in the maths course, but thinks the physics course focused on the machine language. She began a career in computing as a programmer in 1963 and was still working as a programming consultant in 2002, when she donated the manual to the Museum.

There are several other identical CSIRAC manuals in the Museum collection. However, this particular item is important because it represents an early example of women in computing, who were in general quite uncommon in the 1950s and 1960s. Very few women worked specifically on CSIRAC so the existence of this manual is a reminder of the social context in which CSIRAC existed. The manual also reminds us of CSIRAC's importance in shaping the careers of Australia's early computer professionals, particularly programmers. The donor was one of the few women identified with CSIRAC who has remained working with computers.

The donor also gave a copy of a programming manual to the Museum.
Grey booklet with red binding. Has Mary Hoffman's name inscribed in front and is annotated in pencil throughout.
Acquisition Information:
Donation from Ms Mary Hoffman, 2002
Discipline: Technology
Dimensions: 0.3 cm (Height), 24.6 cm (Width), 20.4 cm (Length)

More information

Tagged with: making history - csirac
Themes this item is part of: Reminiscences of a Woman Computer Pioneer, 1962 - 2002, CSIRAC - a woman programmer's view, CSIRAC Collection
Primary Classification: COMPUTING & CALCULATING
Secondary Classification: Digital Computing
Tertiary Classification: manuals
Inscriptions: Front:
Creator: Geoff Hill - The University of Melbourne Computation Laboratory, Parkville, Victoria, Australia, 1960

Geoff Hill developed Interprogram.
User: University of Melbourne (The), Parkville, Victoria, Australia, 1960
User: Ms Mary Hoffman, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 1962-1964

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