9th September 2002. Post-War (Digital) Revolution.

A 1940s advertisement below, showed ‘Mrs Futura’, having a ‘Talki-Vision’ Conference.


It was a decade which saw the Yorkshire born Professor Kilburn’s  collaboration on the first stored and programmable computer.

First running in 1948, it was nicknamed the ‘Baby’.(1)

Whilst the Author was struggling through long-division, little did he know that people were beavering away to eradicate the drudgery, people such as Geoffrey Dummer who died Today in 2002, aged 93.

Dummer had worked at Malvern in 1940, later the Royal Radar Establishment, and trained at Manchester College of Technology.(2)

It was a time when he was conceptualising the integrated circuit (microchip) which envisaged multiple circuit components etched onto silicon, 

The age of the valve

The age of the valve which was always getting hot and exploding in radios.

In 1945 electronics was valve orientated as Mullard said: ‘Give a girl a million tiny metal objects to count and you will never get a correct answer. Electronic counters handle such tasks with ease and valves solved many industrial problems’.

The first generation of computers 1945-1957 were bulky vacuum tubes as a means of transmitting electrical impulses, programmed in machine-code.(2)

One of the first uses the computer technology was in payrolls, taken up by J.Lyons the catering company, operating the 18.000 valve, Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC).

It was in May 1952 that Dummer had read a paper, the new age of the transistor, which envisaged electrical equipment in a solid block, with no connecting wires; a block consisting of layers of insulating, conducting, rectifying, amplifying materials- the electrical functions being connected by cutting out various layers of the block.

Though Dummer failed at a practical realization, by 1959 his concepts came to fruition, with the invention of the integrated circuit, then came the silicon chip, a piece of silicon containing electronic circuit components packed and interconnected in layers below the surface.(3)

On top of the chip, a grid of metallic wires connected to other devices responsible for the  central arithmetic and logic unit, that would process information from a bank of cathode-ray memory tubes, and that stored on magnetic tape reels, each holding as much information as a large telephone directory.

The current flow was controlled by millions of transistors, the key active component of modern electronics.

Printed circuit tracks and integ circuits

Printed circuit tracks and integrated circuits.

Later developments saw a calculator in the late 1950s from Sumlock Comptometers of Uxbridge, called Anita, as big as a cash register.

Then Sinclair Radionics marketed the first pocket calculator and microprocessor on a single silicon chip in 1972.

The process reduced large diagrams to microscopic size which were overlayed and etched with acid on to a finger-nail sized, silicon chip, having four components: chip, battery, read-out and key-pad. Then came the mobile phone as big as a brick, and the digital camera.

The revolution in the last 20 years has been the mass take-up of digital technology previously the preserve of the rich.

(1) ‘Baby’ ran 21st June 1948.

(2) A Vacuum Tube (of mercury), is a device from which most of the gas is removed allowing the storing of information.

(2b) Another who worked on Radar in WWII was Professor Sir Maurice Wilkes, of Cambridge who built the first operating, programmable stored computer (EDSAC): Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator.

EDSAC was used in 1952 for the OXO Nought and Crosses Tic-Tac-Toe, computer game.

Written by Alexander S Douglas for his Cambridge Ph.D thesis, it was the first digital-graphical game to run on a computer.

The output was displayed on the computer’s 35 x16 pixel cathode-ray screen, using a short code.

(3) Silicon (Si) AN 14, rarely occurs as a free element. It is the most common metalloid.

Able to carry an electrical charge, it is used in computers and fibre optics and most semi-conductors, though germanium, gallium arsenide and silicon carbide are also used.

Conductivity is changed by dopants, through introducing impurities by melting boron and phosphorus.

Ref: en.wikipedia.org/integrated_circuits.

Ref: wikipedia.org/geoffrey_dummer.

Ref: photaki,com/image of circuits.

Ref: pinterest.com/mullard advert image.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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