to benefit the company persuaded the
Science Research Council (SRC) to assist the project by awarding the university a £630,000 grant over a five-year
It was a fruitful collaboration. However, an initial failure by International
Computers Limited (ICL) (which by
then had merged with ICT) to acknowledge the extent to which the MU5 had
influenced their 2900 series concerned
the SRC, outraged Kilburn, and led to a
long-running dispute that was not fully
settled until after Kilburn’s retirement
In order to spend more time with his
wife, Kilburn retired early at age 60. Unfortunately, Irene Kilburn died just two
weeks before his planned retirement.
After that, he continued to spend one day
each month in his old department, but
the majority of his time was spent with
his son and daughter, gardening, playing the piano, and following the Manchester United Football Club. He died in
Manchester, U.K., in January 2001.
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to the British computing revolution. Commun. ACM 56,
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4. Anderson, D.P. The contribution of M. H. A. Newman
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5. Anderson, D.P. Was the Manchester Baby conceived
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Kilburn. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 15, 5
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(Jan. 1999), 24–33.
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9. Kilburn, T. et al. A system design proposal. IFIP
Congress 2 (1968), 806–811.
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2nd ed., British Computer Society, 1998.
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David Anderson ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Ci TECH
Research Centre Director at the School of Creative
Technologies, University of Portsmouth, U. K.
Copyright held by Author.
new Department of Computer Science,
the first of its kind in the U.K. The intention was to provide a natural home
for computer research, a sound base
for future projects, and undergraduate
courses in computer science. Kilburn,
now translated into a professor of computer science, was the inaugural head of
department, and had 12 academic staff
under him. Directly reflecting Kilburn’s
personal strengths and his professional
experience, Manchester placed more
emphasis on hardware than many of
the other computer science departments that followed it, most of which
sprang from a mathematical lineage
rather from engineering. Kilburn went
on to serve as the dean of the Faculty of
Science from 1970 to 1972 and pro vice
chancellor between 1976 and 1979.
In 1966, Kilburn embarked on what
was to be his last major computing
project: the MU5. The Atlas had been
operational for four years, and the
MU5’s main focus was to provide a
computer architecture geared toward
the efficient running of programs written in high-level languages. The MU5
was conceived as a range of three machines—a small inexpensive computer,
a high-spec scientific computer with 20
times the throughput of the Atlas, and
a multiprocessor—but only the second
was actually developed.
12 The MU5’s
original design proposal was set out in
1968 at the Edinburgh International
Federation for Information Processing
(IFIP) conference in a paper authored
jointly by Kilburn, Derrick Morris, Jeff
Rohl, and Frank Sumner.
An interesting technical aspect of the
MU5 was the associative name store in
which frequently used scalar variables
would automatically reside in a fast
cache store. Morris explained, “This was
as a result of an analysis of the Atlas software, especially the instruction code.
We learnt something about the frequency of use of operands and control structures. The order code accommodated
string functions and vector functions.”
The university secured the cooperation of International Computers and
Tabulators (ICT), which made construction facilities available at cost
and provided five staff to work on the
project. The university’s relationship
with ICT and the potential it created