Baby, The World's First Modern Computer Turns Sixty

The SSEM (Small Scale Experimental Machine) turned sixty on Saturday. Dubbed the Baby, it was turned on - literally - on the 21st of June 1948 in a small room in Manchester University and ran its first program with 128 bytes of memory and ran at 800Hz.

The 1-ton computer was the forerunner of today's computing generation, from iPods to iMacs and calculators; although there were other computers built before - the Colossus, ENIAC, Anatasoff-Berry Computer or Turing's Automatic Computing Engine - but the Manchester Machine, as it came to be known, was the first general-purpose stored-program electronic digital computer.

It worked thanks to a bewildering array of valves and wires and the only output was a monochrome CRT monitor

The brainchild of engineers F.C. Williams and Tom Kilburn, Baby, evolved to give birth to the first general purpose commercial computer, the Ferranti Mark 1 which later ran the first working Articificial intelligence software, a checkers player game.

Speaking to the BBC, Chris Burton, from the Computer Conservation Society, said ""It was the earliest machine that was a computer, in the sense of what everyone today understands a computer to be."

A working model of the SSEM can still be seen on display at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry.