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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

UK National Archive for the History of Computing

CHSTM 069-kilburn-williams-(2)
Tom Kilburn (left) and F C Williams at the console of the Manchester Mark 1 computer, 1949. This machine grew from the 'Manchester Baby', which in 1948 first demonstrated the now-standard technique of storing both data and programming instructions digitally.

In 1948 an innovative memory device, a storage system now known as the Williams-Kilburn Tube, allowed the first electronic digital stored-program computer to be built in Manchester.

To understand the development of the information age, historians also need a storage system.

Computing machines became central to technological and social change in the twentieth century; their use determines many aspects of our lives in the twenty-first. British institutions and individuals played an important role in this process. However, the records and artefacts which might help the historian to document it are fast disappearing.

The UK National Archive for the History of Computing (NAHC) was created in 1987 as a repository for the documents and images of computer history, and a centre to encourage its study. A rich collection is now available to scholars.

CHSTM 069-icl-7500-(2)
ICL 7500-series computer, circa 1977, with 8-inch disc drive. The progressively miniaturised 'floppy disc' became a familiar household item in its 3.5-inch form for the 1990s PC, but is now passing out of use, owing to the development of solid-state media cards.

The NAHC is part of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. It aims to

  • produce a comprehensive listing of records relating to the history of computing in Britain and encourage their preservation
  • preserve records that are at risk
  • conduct and record interviews with leading figures in the history of computing to establish an oral history archive
  • undertake research into computer history and stimulate research by organising conferences and postgraduate teaching and supervision

More information

Contents of the Archive: a brief guide to our holdings, plus access to the current catalogue

History of the Archive

Accessing the Archive: directions for researchers

Further resources: relevant material held elsewhere, plus further sources of information

Contact us: if you are involved in research work on the history of computers and their users, we'd like to hear from you.

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