RIP, Tom Kilburn, Brit computing hero

Developed first digital computer program

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boost IT visibility and business value

Professor Tom Kilburn, the man who developed the first ever digital computer program, died yesterday, seven months before his 80th birthday.

He suffered a long illness before his death, but the cause has not been made public.

Kilburn worked both on the development of the Mark I computer, and helped to found the Computer Science department at Manchester University.

His academic career began with a degree in mathematics at Cambridge, which he completed in 1942, winning first class honours. He worked on Radar during the war at the Telecommunications Research Establishment in Malvern.

He left Malvern in 1946 for the University of Manchester. There he developed a random access storage system that could hold 2048 bits of data, based on a standard cathode ray tube.

He worked with the same team on "Baby", the world's first stored program computer. This was used as a springboard for the development of a full sized computer. Kilburn was awarded his PhD for his work on Baby and Mark 1. He later said that the first time the machine ran was the best moment of his life.

By 1951 he was running the Computer Group at Manchester, he oversaw the development of MEG, the first floating point computer. This was followed up with MUSE (from MicroSEcond), a machine that would be capable of one million instructions per second.

The Department of Computer Science was founded at Manchester University in 1964, a year after MUSE reached full power. It was the first computer science department in the UK.

During his career he received a number of awards including being made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1965, awarded a CBE in 1973 and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1978.

Kilburn stayed at Manchester University until his retirement in 1981. ®

A more complete biography is available here

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
prev story


Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.