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Department of Computer Science

Widescreen view of Baby computer

History and heritage

The Department of Computer Science at The University of Manchester is one of the oldest in the UK.

The University of Manchester has made a major contribution to the development of computing. This includes many firsts including the first stored program computer, the first floating point machine, the first transistor computer and the first computer to use virtual memory.

Dai Edwards and Tommy Thomas using the Manchester Mark 1 computer
Dai Edwards and Tommy Thomas using the Manchester Mark 1 computer.

The world's first stored-program electronic digital computer - the Small-Scale Experimental Machine, known as SSEM, or the 'Baby' - was designed and built by F.C. Williams and Tom Kilburn at The University of Manchester, and made its first successful run of a program on 21 June 1948.

The Baby was the first machine that had all the components of a modern computer. Most importantly, it was the first computer that could store not only data but any short user program in electronic memory, and process it at electronic speed.

Alan Turing was the Deputy Director of the University’s Computing Machines Laboratory from 1948 to 1954 where he proposed the Turing Test and worked on biological morphogenesis among many other innovative concepts in computer science.

Following this early pioneering work the Department of Computer Science was founded in 1964, when Tom Kilburn became the first Professor of Computer Science and Head of Department. The Department accepted its first intake of undergraduates - 24 men and four women - in October 1965.

Over the past five decades we have contributed numerous innovations in technology and its integration into society. Exciting new discoveries are ahead as we take computing into the future.

Our history in pictures