Video Retrospective: Ferranti Atlas – Britain’s First Supercomputer

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This video celebrates the 50th anniversary of Britain’s first supercomputer, the Ferranti Atlas.

When first switched on in December 1962, Atlas was the world’s most powerful computer. Some of the software concepts it pioneered, like ‘virtual memory’, are among the most important breakthroughs in computer design and still used today. In this video you can see archive footage of the Atlas running as well as interviews with some of the engineers and researchers who used it.

The Atlas Computer was a joint development between the University of Manchester, Ferranti, and Plessey. The first Atlas, installed at Manchester University and officially commissioned in 1962, was one of the world’s first supercomputers, considered to be the most powerful computer in the world at that time. It was said that whenever Atlas went offline half of the United Kingdom’s computer capacity was lost. It was a second-generation machine, using discrete germanium transistors. Two other Atlas machines were built: one for British Petroleum and the University of London, and one for the Atlas Computer Laboratory at Chilton near Oxford.

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