Feeds

British computer pioneer Wilkes reaches EOL

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

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Facebook's Zuckerberg in EBOLA VIRUS FIGHT: Billionaire battles bug
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contacted as site supremo coughs up
Space exploration is just so lame. NEW APPS are mankind's future
We feel obliged to point out the headline statement is total, utter cobblers
Swiss wildlife park serves up furry residents to visitors
'It's ecological' says spokesman, now how would you like your Bambi done?
Down-under record: Australian gets $140k for pussy
'Tiffany' closes deal - 'it's more common to offer your wife', says agent
Internet finally ready to replace answering machine cassette tape
It's a simple message and I'm leaving out the whistles and bells
FedEx helps deliver THOUSANDS of spam messages DIRECT to its Blighty customers
Don't worry Wilson, I'll do all the paddling. You just hang on
The iPAD launch BEFORE it happened: SPECULATIVE GUFF ahead of actual event
Nerve-shattering run-up to the pre-planned known event
Win a year’s supply of chocolate (no tech knowledge required)
Over £200 worth of the good stuff up for grabs
STONER SHEEP get the MUNCHIES after feasting on £4k worth of cannabis plants
Baaaaaa! Fanny's Farm's woolly flock is high, maaaaaan
Red Bull does NOT give you wings, $13.5m lawsuit says so
Website letting consumers claim $10 cash back crashes after stampede
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.