Capacitor used in the development of the 'Baby' computer

Made:
1948 in Manchester

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Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Capacitor with two crocodile clips, assembled by Geoff Tootill in Manchester, 1948, and used for testing during the development of the 'Baby' computer or Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine. Accompanied by a handwritten note explaining that Geoff found it in the pocket of one of his brown lab coats.

This small piece of computer science history was found in a pocket of one of Geoff Tootill’s long abandoned lab coats.

Geoff Tootill (1922 – 2017), computer scientist and electronic engineer, was part of the team that developed the ‘Baby’ computer at the University of Manchester in the 1940s. Baby was the first computer to execute a program stored in addressable read-write electronic memory. It was the precursor to the computers we use today. The machine, large and primitive by today’s standards, was to have an impact on all our lives.

This capacitor is a small piece of homemade test gear. It shows how problem solving was used in the development and evolution of the first computers. Tootill’s note says, ‘it was in constant use during the development of [the] baby computer’.

Details

Category:
Computing & Data Processing
Object Number:
2018-228
Materials:
metal (unknown), paper (fibre product), plastic (unidentified) and wax
Measurements:
overall: 580 mm x 40 mm 12 mm,
type:
capacitor
credit:
From the estate of Geoff Tootill