The Oldest Working Computer in the World Rebooted

Posted on Nov 22 2012 - 3:20pm by Robert

It wasn’t so long ago that the computer pictured on this page was considered a cutting edge piece of machinery.

The Harwell Dekatron is the oldest original digital computer on the planet. It was given the nickname WITCH and was put together in 1951, making it 61 years old now. It was one of the first dozen of such computers around at that time.

For the last 3 years it has been undergoing restoration work but it has now been rebooted back into life again.

It was originally designed to crunch numbers instead of using human staff at the Harwell Atomic Energy Research Establishment and would work 80 hours each week.

10 Seconds for a Multiplication

The machine has an incredible 10,000 moving parts and if you want it to multiply two numbers together then you can sit back and enjoy 10 seconds of distracted thoughts while it goes about its business.

It weights two and a half tonnes, which has been calculated as the equivalent of 20,000 iPhones.

Following on from its original mathematical use the old computer was handed over to Wolverhampton University) or Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College as it was back in those heady days. It was at this point that it got given the name WITCH, meaning Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell.

It was then donated to the Museum of Science and Industry in Birmingham in 1973 and was put on display there for the next 24 years before being dismantled and stuck into storage for almost two decades. It is now on show working again and displayed at the National Museum of Computing in Buckinghamshire.

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