Britain's oldest computer gets a 'reboot'

Nov. 20, 2012 at 7:53 PM

BLETCHLEY PARK, England, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The world's oldest original working digital computer has been brought back to life and is going on display at a British computer museum, officials said.

Dubbed The Witch, the computer was the workhorse of Britain's atomic energy research program in the 1950s, but has spent the last 15 years gathering dust in a storeroom, the BBC reported Monday.

Restored to noisy, light-flashing life in a three-year restoration effort, The Witch will reside at the National Museum of Computing in Buckinghamshire.

The 2.5-ton machine was built in 1949 to help researchers in Britain's atomic energy program by speeding up calculations once performed by a bevy of humans with adding machines.

Though achingly slow by modern standards -- it could take up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers -- it proved very reliable and was in use until 1957 when it was outstripped by faster, smaller computers.

"It's important for us to have a machine like this back in working order as it gives us an understanding of the state of technology in the late 1940s in Britain," said Kevin Murrell, a trustee of The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park.

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