CSIRAC – Australia’s First Computer

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CSIRAC - Australia's First Computer
Source: Museum Victoria

The world’s oldest complete computer.

CSIRAC (pronounced sigh – rack) stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Automatic Computer.

The first automatic electronic stored-program computer in Australia and one of the first in the world, CSIRAC is practically intact and is the only first-generation computer still in existence.

Developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR, later renamed CSIRO) at its Radiophysics Laboratory in Sydney, CSIRAC ran its first program in November 1949.

Transferred to the Department of Physics at the University of Melbourne in 1955, it remained in service from 1956 until 1964.

After being decommissioned, CSIRAC was donated to Museum Victoria. The computer now forms part of the Museum’s Technology Collection and is on public display on the Lower Ground Floor of the Melbourne Museum.


Event Type: Permanent Exhibition

Daily, Now Showing
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Museum Theatre Foyer

Included with museum entry.
Museum Members receive FREE museum entry.

Comments (15)

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Peter Smith 8 September, 2010 11:58
"CSIRAC (pronounced sigh – rack) stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Automatic Computer." is not 100% correct - when it was created the, now CSIRO, had not gained the word "Organisation", so a more accurate description is "CSIRAC (pronounced sigh – rack) stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Automatic Computer." PS: I worked on it ion an undergradute in the early 1960s.
Discovery Centre 14 September, 2010 13:04

Hi Peter, Thanks for your comments. CSIRAC’s name we referred to ‘The last of the first’ by Doug McCann and Peter Thorne (available at the Museum bookshop), page 4:“The new University of Melbourne Computing Laboratory was officially opened by the Chairman of the CSIRO Sir Ian Clunies-Ross and the Mk 1 was formally recommissioned and named CSIRAC (an acronym derived from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Automatic Computer).”



Tim 20 April, 2011 12:54
Where is the CSIRAC exhibition located?
Richard McEwen 2 August, 2011 16:25
I spent the afternoon at Melbourne museum and could not find the CSIRAC valve computer....Where is housed? Regards Richard
Irene Comer 23 February, 2015 14:49
CSIRAC for me is one of the most interesting and important exhibits in the museum. I too was dismayed to see it relegated to such an obscure place. In my opinion it definitely deserved it's former prominence and its own exhibition space. I am curious to know the reason for it being sent to Coventry. I am neither a tech. head nor a computer nerd, but see CSIRAC as a hugely relevant example to young people, of historical process and its legacy
Discovery Centre 27 February, 2015 13:49

Hello Irene, CSIRAC is a key showpiece of Museum Victoria's Technology Collection, hence it remains on public display. Our current exhibitions do not provide adequate space to house CSIRAC and the associated multi media, nor is the use of alternate public spaces viable at this time. So, for the time being the Lower Ground Floor remains the most suitable location for this much beloved collection item.

Discovery Centre 3 August, 2011 14:51

Hi Richard and Tim,

CSIRAC is currently on public display on the Lower Ground Floor of the Melbourne Museum, under the left hand escalators as you enter the Museum.
Greg 11 November, 2011 15:19
The CSIR became the CSIRO under the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 (coincidentally the same year that the first program was run on the computer). The Act came into commencement on 19 May 1949 so it is reasonable to assume that by Nov, the organisation had gained the acronym CSIRO. It is also reasonable to assume that the computer was named well before this though.
Garry Woods 17 June, 2012 09:01
I have a chassis from SILIAC that Messel did in Sydney about the same time. When I was about 12 I watched Prof Messel being interviewed on TV. He was asked what was going to happen to SILAC now that it was going to be dismantled. He replied something along the line of "I suppose if people want a bit of it they can ask". A few weeks later a chassis arrived in the post. It is now in the hands of the University of New England ( loaned it when I was studing maths there). BUT on my last visit it was no longer on display and in storage somewhere. If you guys would like to have it with SILIAC, it could be arranged.
Discovery Centre 17 June, 2012 09:34
Hi Garry, thanks for your comment. If you could lodge your donation offer through our  Donations page (click on the Ask the Experts link at left) after reading the donation guidelines, we will forward your offer on to our curators.
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Tex Pepper 19 April, 2013 18:45
Could you possibly show CSIRAC's technical specifications on this webpage along with the writeup? You know, for us hardcore geeks? How much RAM (not likely), clock speed, power consumption, bus width? Speed? Milliflops? (just kidding)
Chris Chaundy 5 May, 2013 11:43
I found these specs and they sound correct: CSIRAC - 1949 Speed .001Mhz Word size 20 bit RAM 768 words Disk capacity 2048 words Power consuption 30,000 watts Weight 7,000 Kg
Peter Thorne 16 July, 2014 16:40
Chris Chaundy is pretty right. (hi Chris). Actual execution speed more like .0005 MHz (500 per second) Memory 768 20 bit words. The disk was 1024 20 bit words for most of its life until Jurij Semkiw implemented the other side of the platter (using germanium transistors for the read circuit). The actual weight is probably about 2,000Kg.(estimates in the 1990s did suggest 7,000Kg. Bus width - one bit as it is a serial machine. Power about 30,000 Watts.
Peter Byford 19 December, 2015 14:14
Over from the UK, I would like to see the CSIRAC machine is it still viewable please?
Discovery Centre 19 December, 2015 14:39
Hi Peter, CSIRAC is currently on display on the lower ground level at Melbourne Museum. The Museum is open from 10 until 5 daily, (except Christmas Day and Good Friday).

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