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The Computation Laboratory at the University of Melbourne, 1955-1962 & Beyond

"Automation in computation" sign

Image: "Automation in computation" sign

Source: Museum Victoria

The CSIR Mk1 computer was moved to Melbourne in 1955 and reassembled in the Computation Laboratory which was located in the Physics School at the University of Melbourne.

On 14 June 1956, the Chairman of CSIRO Sir Ian Clunies-Ross officially opened the new Computation Laboratory and the rebuilt Mk1 was formally recommissioned and named CSIRAC. This occasion marked the beginning of computing in Victoria and the establishment of the first university computing facility in Australia.

At this time CSIRAC was not only the first automatic electronic computer in Victoria but still the only one operating anywhere in Australia.

The computer service at the University of Melbourne was managed by Dr Frank Hirst and Bill Flower and the regular operating and maintenance team included Frank Hirst, Ron Bowles, Jurij Semkiw, Peter Thorne and Kay Sullivan (Thorne).

In 1962 the Computation Laboratory was renamed the Computation Department and Frank Hirst designated as Reader in Charge. The Department continued to house and operate CSIRAC until it was decommissioned in November 1964 and despatched to the then Applied Science Museum (later Museum Victoria). A collection of documents and artefacts associated with CSIRAC (including the program library) was retained in the Department and its successor organisations.This collection provided the basis for the archival material accumulated in the CSIRAC History Project from 1995 onwards. The History Project was organised under the auspices of the University of Melbourne. The Archive was later transferred to Museum Victoria.

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