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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 8

I Part 1: Communications

II Epilogue

III Part 2: Early Australian Computers And Computing
i Instruments and calculators
ii The transition to the computer, 1945 to 1951
iii The first computers, 1951 to 1956
iv Concentration on large-scale systems, 1958 to 1963
v Software and microelectronics, after 1965
vi Industry, education and the computing fraternity

IV Acknowledgements



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Part 2: Early Australian Computers And Computing

Historically reliable accounts and assessments of a subject of recent developments are usually left to generations sufficiently removed from their origins. An account of computing, computing machines and devices is made particularly difficult by the high rate at which the field of automatic computing has developed since A. M. Turing created the idea of the true automatic stored program computer.

The story of the early development of computing in Australia began before the advent of the fully automatic computer that is so common today, in fact as far back as the 1920s and 1930s, when calculations of any magnitude were made with the aid of desk-top decimal mechanical or electro-mechanical calculators, or special instruments which used the mathematical properties of physical laws. The former devices were called 'digital' calculators the latter 'analogue' instruments.

At least one technically successful Australian development of the latter kind was followed up to a commercial success, namely the totalisator of Sir George Julius. Later development of instruments, while being significant, have too frequently gone unrecognised and so were not followed up to commercial success. A number of opportunities for this country's economic advantage have been lost as a result. There are many reasons for this, among them being not so much lack of realisation of their potential importance to economic and social progress as their low keyed level of presentation and the lack of interest and support at higher levels, including those industries which ought to have become involved. It seems likely that this lack of support and follow-up was a symptom of the period which the country was entering, when locally developed technology was ignored in favour of that from overseas. To a large extent this assisted the deterioration of our secondary industries.

Thus, while local computer development was having an uphill battle in the early stages of the world scene of computing generally, significant contributions were made before the field was overwhelmed by external equipment suppliers. New opportunities now exist, however, for the development of a local digital electronics and computer industry because low cost methods of design of microelectronic devices are now available. The importance of its support and promotion also appears now to be realised by management.

People in Bright Sparcs - Julius, Sir George

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© 1988 Print Edition page 613, Online Edition 2000
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