Feeds

British computer pioneer Wilkes reaches EOL

/etc/init.d/halt for time sharing pioneer

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

Maurice Wilkes, British computer pioneer, has died at the age of 96. Wilkes was head of Cambridge University's computer lab from 1945, when it was known as the Mathematical Laboratory, to his retirement 1980. In recent years he published his memoirs and consulted for DEC and the Oracle-Olivetti lab in Cambridge.

In 1949, Wilkes designed the Edsac (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) computer that inspired J Lyons' Leo, one of the first commercial computers in operation. The Edsac was powered by 3,000 vacuum tubes and could carry out 650 instructions per second.

"We had to fight a number of major battles in order to get radio engineering along with the rapidly developing subject of electronics ⎯ dubbed in the IEE light current electrical engineering ⎯ properly recognised as an activity in its own right," Wilkes reminisced (pdf) six years ago. "I remember that we had some difficulty in organising a conference because the power engineers’ ways of doing things were not our ways. A minor source of irritation was that all IEE published papers were expected to start with a lengthy statement of earlier practice, something difficult to do when there was no earlier practice."

Maurice Wilkes with Edsac

In later years, after what Wilkes called the "heroic age" (or what Verity Stob called the "Robbie the Robot era") of computing was over, research focused on higher level programming languages, time sharing, computer memory (virtual and cache) and networking topologies. Thanks to academic work in Manchester and Cambridge, Britain had a lead in all these areas, but lost out to marketing-led American companies such as IBM.

After his retirement, Wilkes was a consultant to DEC and the Olivetti Research Lab. He returned to the University of Cambridge in 2002.

You can find a list of his papers here, and two recent(-ish) talks at his Labs home page here. And if you're a colleague or alumni, share your memories with us here. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
WRISTJOB LOVE BONANZA: justWatch sex app promises blind date hookups
Mankind shuffles into the future, five fingers at a time
Every billionaire needs a PANZER TANK, right? STOP THERE, Paul Allen
Angry Microsoftie hauls auctioneers to court over stalled Pzkw. IV 'deal'
Apple's Mr Havisham: Tim Cook says dead Steve Jobs' office has remained untouched
'I literally think about him every day' says biz baron's old friend
Flaming drone batteries ground commercial flight before takeoff
Passenger had Something To Declare, instead fiddled while plane burned
Cops apologise for leaving EXPLOSIVES in suitcase at airport
'Canine training exercise' SNAFU sees woman take home booming baggage
Oi, London thief. We KNOW what you're doing - our PRECRIME system warned us
Italian boffins' Minority Report style system sees the future
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.