May News


Australian Computer Center down to last mouse

May is dedicated to the creative minds who first developed the CSIRAC and the folk who reassembled the exhibition with a touch of humour. As for working? What were the data center cooling budgets? How much do computers contribute to global warming (it is winter here, and we are not feeling any warmer).

Last September we visited Melbourne for ElectroneX. As King Tut was widely advertised, we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to see him again. During a brief stay in London (1985 to early 1986), the British Museum had the King Tut exhibition on loan from Cairo. Well, King Tut never made it to Oz, so some of the misrepresented advertising like the Naracoorte Fossils caught us off guard. The little that was shown cost more than a visit to the Louvre in Paris or the British Museum in London. (Cameras were allowed in the Louvre and the British Museum, but not in the MUCH scaled down King Tut exhibition in Melbourne).

In the basement of the Melbourne Museum, however, there was a “working” early Australian computer. Always hopeful of using a photo in some brochure later to show how technology has progressed or to convince a customer to go with some newer technology, we snapped a few shots of the beast. At least cameras were not forbidden here. (There was nobody around and no “verboten” signs, so the iPhone camera took a few photographs).

The CSIR Mark 1 ran its first test program in November, 1947

Super Computer with Mouse

Due to eyes filled with tears after being ripped off to see King Tut (who was not there), the most important part of the fourth computer in the world, the first in Australia, was missed. When the photo was opened on a larger screen, the teleprinter looked a little different. For the benefit our our readers, we provide some “zoomed in” photos with a couple of possible captions.


A little history

It weighed 2500kg (not sure if that included the mouse and corporate ladder), consumed 30kW, and had 2000 valves. It ran between 500 → 1000Hz with 2000 bytes of memory in a 40m3 package.

Besides being the first evidence of a mouse being attached to a computer, it was Australia's first computer (locally designed and built — by an English scientist, Trevor Pearcey on the logic design, and Maston Beard led the electrical engineering). It is the only intact first generation computer left on the planet. It was also the fourth stored-program computer in the world.

The CSIRAC had the dates 1949 — 1964. After numerous debates over the photographs, the following scenarios bubbled to the top of the flip charts during the brain-storming sessions (which went on well into the night by non-union staff members).

Early computer mouse

One of the first recorded cases of a computer mouse. We could not find any reference to the mouse or the function of the ladder, however, it deserves another level of zoom.

Industrial spies have asked which of the following scenarios are the most likely

Early Computer Mouse zoomed in