Because the tedium of the calculating task was such that mistakes inevitably crept in, it was thought that automation would be the way forward for more precise results. In 1951 the Harwell Computer became a reality.
A slow and somewhat plodding reality I grant you, but speed was never a priority here. What was important within the design goals were simplicity and reliability. The Harwell delivered on both counts.
"Its promises for reliability over speed were certainly met" Kevin Murrell, a trustee of TNMOC admits "it was definitely the tortoise in the tortoise and the hare fable. In a race with a human mathematician using a mechanical calculator, the human kept pace for 30 minutes, but then had to retire exhausted as the machine carried on remorselessly".
The promises for automation were also well met, with the machine once running for ten unattended days over a Christmas holiday period.
The computer continued to be operational until 1957 when it ended up being a prize in a competition, being 'won' by the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College and renamed as the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell - or WITCH.
What happened to the WITCH next, how does it work, and how can you own a piece of it?
The story continues on page 2.