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British Industrial History

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Metropolitan-Vickers: Computers

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Note: This is a sub-section of Metropolitan-Vickers

1953 Manchester University produced a prototype computer using transistors, as a way of getting round the problem of reliability with valves; this used 92 point contact transistors.[1]

1954 Lord Chandos returned as Chairman of AEI. Soon afterwards he told shareholders that the future expansion of AEI would be equipment for nuclear power stations, railways and automation. The Radio Engineering Department, previously concentrated on military radar and control systems, started to develop a digital computer for solving mathematical and scientific problems.

Metrovick engineers had been some of the first to make use of the Mark 1 computer at Manchester University for calculations such as the stability of transmission networks, radar aerial design, turbine blade design and critical speed calculations - this proved to be a suitable environment for development of computers.[2]

1955 A full-scale version of the transistor computer was completed at Manchester University but there was a problem with unreliability of the transistors which was solved with the arrival of junction transistors.

The transistor computer, even in its original form, had enough potential to interest Metropolitan Vickers. The outcome was its commercialisation as the Metrovick 950, of which seven were built. The later six production units used junction transistors.

1956 The company commercialised the "Manchester Transistor Computer" as the 950, claimed to be the world's first transistor (rather than valve) commercial computer; the 950 was based on STC transistors[3]

The company produced six of these machines for its internal use, and they were employed extensively in engineering and research departments for everyday design calculations.[4]

1957 The growth market for computers was seen to be data processing and the company began to think about a successor to the 950. Continuing the use of the transistor, the basis of the design was also ferrite cores for fast access memory. This machine became the AEI 1010 computer.

1965 AEI decided to concentrate on industrial process controls and the data processing activities were closed.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Early Manchester Computers [1]
  2. Computers at Metrovick: the MV 950 & AEI 1010, by Ron Foulkes [2]
  3. The Metrovick 950 Computer [3]
  4. The Transition From Valves To Transistors, by R.L. Grimsdale[4]