The CSIRAC Story

CSIRAC’s story began in 1936, when British mathematician Alan Turing described his idea for a computing machine capable of solving any numerical problem.

The first steps to building such a machine were undertaken during the Second World War (1939–45). Spurred on by military needs, British researchers built huge electro-mechanical calculators and electronic machines to decipher secret German codes.

At the same time in the United States, a series of enormous machines was constructed to solve complex mathematical problems, including calculating the trajectories of artillery shells.

After the war, scientists and engineers developed Turing’s concept into the idea of a stored-program computer. In this versatile machine, both programs and data could be entered as a digital code (0s and 1s), and the programs could make decisions, based upon the current state of the data, and draw upon further sub-programs if required.

The honour of building the first modern computer went to the British, when ‘Baby’ computed its first result on 21 June 1948, in Manchester.

During this period, a young English scientist in Sydney had already been planning the development of a machine to bring Australia into the computer age…

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