2014 Tony Sale Award
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The result of the 2014 Tony Sale Award for computer conservation has been announced. Entry level was so high that there are two winners -- a virtual mechanical computer and a restoration of a computer that marked a change in the whole industry. The two outstanding and contrasting entries represent computing in the 1930s and the late 1950s.
The winners are the IBM 1401 Demo Lab, a restoration of one of the most significant machines in computer history by the Computer History Museum in California, and Z1 Architecture and Algorithms, a virtual reconstruction of the 1930’s Konrad Zuse mechanical computer, by the Free University of Berlin.
Run by the Computer Conservation Society (CCS) and sponsored by Google UK, this is the second Tony Sale Award for computer conservation. The first was won in 2012 by Dr David Link for LoveLetters, a computer art installation that continues to tour the world. The award is in honour of Tony Sale (1931-2011), who led the team that rebuilt Colossus, the world's first electronic computer, and who co-founded TNMOC and the CCS. He was also a key figure in starting the campaign to save Bletchley Park in the early 1990s.
In announcing the 2014 winners, Martin Campbell-Kelly, computer historian and head of the CCS judging panel, said: “The eight excellent entries for the 2014 Tony Sale Award from four different countries clearly demonstrates how computer conservation is flourishing more than 20 years after Tony Sale embarked on his pioneering and awe-inspiring reconstruction of a Colossus Mk II, a world-famous exhibit at The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park.”
The IBM 1401 Demo Lab is a classic reconstruction of a 50-year old commercial computer. It marked the transition of IBM as a supplier of accounting machines to it becoming the dominant supplier of the mainframe era. Announced in 1959, the IBM 1401’s success took everyone by surprise. The company had expected to sell or lease about 1,000, but went on to deliver 15,000 and by the mid-1960s they amounted to half of the computers in the world. Its high-speed chain printer was a key to its success -- punched card machines were eagerly traded in for the IBM 1401 and business computing took a huge stride forward.
In a project involving 20 volunteers over ten years, two 1401s have been restored at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. The computers and the ancillary equipment including the famous 1403 chain printer are on permanent display and the working system is demonstrated twice a week. See http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/restoring-the-ibm-1401/ for more information about the project.
The judging panel said: “The IBM Demo Lab is a flawless restoration of a machine that signalled a turning point in the computer industry and the use of computers in business.”
Z1 Architecture and Algorithms, the other joint-winner, is a virtual reconstruction of one of the world’s earliest computers, the Z1. Originally built in 1936-38, the Z1 was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1943. In the 1980s and then in his 70s, Konrad Zuse embarked on a reconstruction of the Z1 which is now a remarkable but static exhibit at the Technology Museum in Berlin. However, with 30,000 parts the reconstruction of the mechanical computer was unlikely to be robust or reliable enough for regular operation, so a team led by Professor Raul Rojas began a virtual reconstruction with a technical description.
Through the meticulous research of Professor Rojas, a team of his students was able to construct a 3D visual simulation of the arithmetic unit for deployment on the web. In addition, hundreds of high resolution photos of the Z1 enable web users to explore the machine from any angle at very high resolution. See http://zuse-z1.zib.de/ for the virtual reconstruction.
The judging panel said “Z1 Architecture and Algorithms is a remarkable vision of how such complex artefacts might be delivered to a worldwide audience. It is a project that will undoubtedly give museum curators pause for thought.”
Rachel Burnett, Chair of the CCS, said “The late Tony Sale would have been delighted with the entries that we have had in the year of the silver jubilee of our Society that he co-founded with Doron Swade.
“The computer conservation movement is dynamic and growing apace. Through the Tony Sale Award, we salute the computing pioneers of the past and the dedication of those today who breathe vibrant life into our incredible computing heritage.”