EDSAC Tape Reader

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The family of the late Sir Maurice Wilkes has donated an historic 1950s tape-reader to TNMOC.

On behalf of the Wilkes family, Sir Maurice's son, Anthony, presented the original paper-tape reader built for EDSAC 2 to TNMOC trustee Kevin Murrell. Sir Maurice Wilkes had been given the tape reader as a retirement present in 1980.

The photo-electric tape reader, developed at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, was first used with EDSAC 2 in 1958. It was especially fast (reading at a rate of 1000 characters per second) and had the ability to stop on a single character.

The reader was the first of a few models built in Cambridge University. Later, Sir Maurice gave the design to Elliott Brothers in exchange for several production models. Elliott Brothers subsequently produced and marketed versions of it for other computers throughout the UK and abroad and the readers continued to be used until the 1970s and perhaps even the 1980s.

Kevin Murrell, a trustee of TNMOC, said: "We are especially delighted to receive the tape reader because of its significance in early computing. It will form part of our display of EDSAC 2 components and in time complement our story of the recreation of the EDSAC, the forerunner of general purpose computing. And of course, as with most equipment in our Museum, we will attempt to get it working again after decades of dormancy."

More on Sir Maurice Wilkes:

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