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Attention all geeks! This e-book is for you

By Tim Benson 17 October 2017 1
Trevor Pearcey with the CSIR Mark 1 in 1952 (University of Sydney)

Trevor Pearcey with the CSIR Mark 1 in 1952 (University of Sydney).

Can you tell the difference between a CSIR Mark 1, R2-D2, SILLIAC and a UTECOM? If you said three were some of the earliest computers in Australia (and the world) and one is a fictional robot out of Star Wars, you would be correct.

This, and many other interesting facts about the history of computers in Australia, can be found in the e-book ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing’, launched by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) at the National Library of Australia in Canberra last week.

People with book and cake.

ACS CEO Andrew Johnson, Kate Ross National Library of Australia, ACS President Anthony Wong, ACT ACS President Michael Hawkins and author Graeme Philipson at the launch of ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing’.

Other facts gleaned from the book include:

  • The word ‘computer’ derives from ‘compute’, a word that entered the English language in the 17th century from the Latin computare – meaning to come together, or to settle an account.
  • Trevor Pearcey designed Australia’s first computer, the ‘CSIR Mark 1’. It was only the third or fourth true computer in the world and is the oldest still in existence.
  • In its January 1970 edition, Australian business magazine Rydge’s (which would later become Business Review Weekly) published a special feature on computers. It was based on a major survey the magazine had conducted of the 813 computers installed in Australia. The survey divided them up into four price ranges: under $100,000; $100,000 to $250,000; $250,000 to $500,000; and over $500,000.
CSIRAC, preserved at the Melbourne Museum (Museums Victoria)

CSIRAC, preserved at the Melbourne Museum (Museums Victoria).

The ACS commissioned this timely book about the evolution of Australia’s computer industry.

“Technology in Australia has many facets – academic, government, private industry, society and the many individuals within those sectors. In the 21st century, information and communications technologies are around us,” said ACS President, Anthony Wong.

“But it also has an important history, that until now hasn’t been told. Many of our early pioneers and innovators were ACS members who made important contributions to major technological advances.

“This book acknowledges the significant accomplishments of the many talented and visionary Australians who played critical roles in the global developments of computers.

“This single text encapsulates the full history of the IT Industry in Australia from its early inception through to the current day, and beyond, with reference to the ACS and its participation in its growth, and beyond.”

Cirrus computer (University of Adelaide)

Cirrus (University of Adelaide).

The book was researched and written by Graeme Philipson, a leading Australian computer journalist, and computer historian.

“We were delighted that an author of Graeme’s calibre collaborated with ACS to write this book,” continued Mr Wong.

“Graeme has brought to life many of the people and events that have shaped computing in Australia. We thank him for his efforts and we thank those who have assisted him.

“But it is a story that will never end, and in a sense, the project will never be finished. We invite anybody with the knowledge of historical events in the industry to share their recollections and insights. We intend this book to be a living document; it will grow and evolve as more people add to it.

“At the heart of the project is the story of the computing profession in Australia and the many talented and dedicated people who have been a part of this history,” concluded Mr Wong.

Man sitting at big old computer.

The Bendix G-15 (Bendix Corporation.)

A copy of “A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing” was presented to the National Library of Australia and is available on www.acs.org.au/publications.html

So there you have it, an e-book on the history of computing in Australia.

There are plenty of Canberrans that are leading the way in Australian computing. Can you name someone that should be included in the next chapter of this living e-book?

What’s Your opinion?


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Attention all geeks! This e-book is for you
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Tom Worthington 4:18 pm 20 Oct 17

I started in Canberra as a Programmers Assistant (Class 2) at the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1982. At the time they had a new “FACOM” mainframe. This was controversial being Japanese, not American (or British). To sweeten the deal, it came with a large amount of training, provided by world class Australian computer professionals. These were an entertaining cast of characters. One was Graeme Simsion, of Simsion Bowles and Associates, who later transitioned from data-modeling, to become a best selling romantic comedy author. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graeme_Simsion

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