SSEM (Baby) and the Manchester Mark I

There are slides devoted to this topic: Lecture 0, pp. 36-37.


Read an overview of stored-programming computing on the Computing History Museum’s “The Stored Program” page, which briefly discusses both the Baby (or Mark I prototype) and the Manchester Mark I.

Want more information on Baby? Visit Digital 60, produced by the University of Manchester for the 60th anniversary of the Baby’s construction. The site includes a history of the Baby’s development, an explanation of the Baby’s reconstruction in 1998, and some additional interactive applications.

Read a two-page overview about “The Baby- The World’s First Stored-Program Computer,” which briefly discusses the history, replication of, and technical information regarding the machine.

For another, longer overview of the Baby, read the “SSEM Computer of Frederic Williams and Tom Kilburn” article on History of Computers. The article gives some biographical information on Williams, discusses his invention of the Williams tube, and the development of the Baby itself.

The e-Book A Brief History of Computers includes a section on the “The Manchester Machine.” The chapter discusses the Baby and the Ferranti Mark I, largely through the claim that Alan Turing and Max Newman contributed as much to the development of these machines as did F. C. Williams and Tom Kilburn, who are remembered now as the creators of the Manchester Machine.

For a more detailed overview of the entire production process, read the University of Manchester’s five-part Mark I Story, which begins with an introduction and continues with both historical and technical overviews of the Baby, the Manchester Mark I, the Ferranti I, and the Ferranti I*.

Read a facsimile of the Programmer’s Manual for the Manchester Mark II, written by Alan Turing in 1951.

The advertising brochure for the Ferranti Mark I provides an interesting contemporary perspective on the functions and possibilities of computing.

Other Media

The Digital 60 Multimedia page hosts a number of videos, recordings, and other resources about the Baby and its developers. Some highlights from the collection include a Q & A with Tom Kilburn, composed of questions submitted  by the interested public; a recording of the Manchester Mark I playing several songs (the very first recorded computer music!); a detailed interactive tour of the Baby, based off of a photograph of the machine in its work station; and a 1948 BBC news clip of the Baby’s mathematical talents.


In their brief 1948 letter to Nature magazine, Williams and Kilburn profile the Baby and describe its components, functions, and examples of programs run on the machine.

Read “Electronic Digital Computers,” by F.C. Williams and T. Kilburn

Kilburn’s “Digital Computing Machine” article, written for Nature in 1949, discusses the Baby’s use of the binary system, its electronic storage capacity through cathode ray tubes, its computing circuitry, and how all these components of the machine work in syncrasy.

Read “The University of Manchester Universal High-Speed Digital Computing Machine,” by T. Kilburn

IEEE: “The Manchester Computer: A Revised History Part 1: The Memory,” focuses on the history of the Williams-Kilburn tube memory used in the Baby. Relying on cathode ray tubes, it was an important advance in memory. This section covers the origins of the memory, as well as the history and personnel involved in the Baby.  “The Manchester Computer: A Revised History Part 2: The Baby Computer,” Part 2 covers the history of the logical design of the Baby and “reassesses” the role of Williams and Kilburn–the inventors of CRT memory–in computer history.