Page 587
Previous/Next Page
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



Contact us

The transition to the computer, 1945 to 1951

Early in this period it was becoming clear that massive amounts of computing would be required by the sciences, both in their new theoretical work and in handling the data collected by teams of experimenters and, further, that similar effects would occur in the commercial and industrial fields. This was realised by D. M. Myers and A. E. Cornish, then Head of CSIR'S Section of Mathematical Statistics (DMS) which had large computational needs, and by T. Pearcey who had joined RP late in 1945. In this period, although interest in analogue instruments and digital calculators continued for some time, it was waning.

Up to 1951, the major activity in design and construction of mathematical devices lay within the CSIR/CSIRO. Two separate groups grew up, each taking its own line of development. The Section of Mathematical Instruments (SMI) was established initially with the Division of Electrotechnology (ET), under its Chief D. M. Myers, in 1948 in response to a proposal made in 1946 by Myers and Cornish (Myers, D. M. and Cornish, E. A., 1946) for the establishment of a Section of Applied Mathematics to research in and develop mathematical methods, devices and instruments, provide mathematical and computational assistance to research workers and advise on requirements for mathematical information and provide it where necessary. The SMI later moved from ET to the Department of Electrical Engineering, when Myers was appointed to the Chair following the retirement of Sir John Madsen in 1948. The second group was established within the RP to exploit its Second World War experience by developing electronic means of digital computation. Both groups were established in response to perceived future need. The SMI first engaged in development of a mechanical ten-integrator differential analyser with electrical stepwise transmission of shaft rotations using M-motors. The integrators were obtained from War-Time predictors. This novel means of torque transmission greatly decreased problem set-up times (Myers, D. M. and Blunden, W. R., 1952). At the same time an electrical device for the solution of polynomial equations with real coefficients (Willoughby, E. O., Rose, G. A. and Forte, W. G., 1952) was being built at the Department of Electrical Engineering of the University of Adelaide.

In the field of digital calculators a system to solve framework problems by Southwell's relaxation techniques, using a specially coupled group of mechanical decimal calculators, had been built at the CSIR'S Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL), Melbourne, by J. R. Green. A group of Hollerith punched card machines was installed at RP for performing scientific computations. These had been modified within the division to extend their functions (Pearcey, T., 1951, 1952, 1953). A relay decimal mul-tipler, using PO 3000 relays in a reduced biquinary scale, was also being built to be used to extend the card system. By far the largest user of punched card systems at that time was the Bureau of Census and Statistics (BSC) (Pearcey, T. and Bowen, E. G., 1948).

The Australian entry into the field of automatic electronic computation was to produce one of the earliest of the truly automatic stored program computers, the CSIRO Mk 1, later to be known as the CSIRAC. It was designed and built at RP by T. Pearcey and M. Beard as a logical follow-on to experimental studies in design of electronic logic components. Initial studies by Pearcey in 1946 and 1947 led to its logical design being defined by the end of 1947 (Pearcey, T. and Beard, M., 1948). It performed its first controlled program in 1949.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian Bureau of Census and Statistics; CSIRO Aeronautical Research Laboratories; CSIRO Division of Electrotechnology. Section of Mathematical Instruments; CSIRO Division of Mathematical Statistics (D.M.S.); CSIRO Division of Radio Physics; University of Adelaide. Department of Electrical Engineering

People in Bright Sparcs - Beard, M.; Blunden, W. R.; Bowden, A. T; Forte, W. G.; Green, J. R.; Myers, D. M.; Pearcey, T; Rose, G. A.; Willoughby, E. O.

Previous Page Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Next Page

© 1988 Print Edition pages 615 - 616, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher