One of the world’s first ever mass-produced computers for businesses is to be given a new lease of life by The National Museum for Computing (TNMOC). The machine, known as Flossie, has been saved from being scrapped and will be displayed at the museum.
Flossie was built in 1962 by a company that became known as International Computers and Tabulators (ICT). It was technically known as the ICT 1301 and its creation was seen as a seminal moment in computing history as machines started to enter businesses for general use.
Flossie found use in the Senate House at the University of London for accounting and administration. It was then also used for processing the results of GCE students in England and Wales.
ICT 1301 machines were also put to use at firms such as Selfridges, and the Milk Marketing Board. Only three ICT 1301s are known to have survived over time and Flossie is the only working model left.
It took three container lorries to transport the 5.5-tonne machine to TNMOC. Other key stats about the ancient machine include:
- Floor footprint: 25x25ft area
- Power consumption: Max 13kw of three-phase power, idle 6.2kw
- Number of logic printed circuit boards (PCBs): Just over 4,000 plus one single valve
- Number of transistors: Over 16,000
- Number of logic bays: 22
Kevin Murrell, a TNMOC Trustee, said the machine was a key artefact in the history of computing and deserved to be recognised by the museum as such.
"The ICT 1301 marks a transition from simply knowing how to build computers, to being able to install one in almost any office without needing special facilities. It had a fixed layout and all it required was enough space and reasonable air conditioning, whereas earlier computers required special features such as false floors for cabling,” he said.
"The ICT 1301 was ready for work. It transformed data processing in many businesses and used punched cards, magnetic tape reels and built-in printers."
Rod Brown (pictured below), who has looked after Flossie for the past decade, said the decision by TNMOC to save the computer was just the latest notable incident in its life.
"Flossie has had an extraordinary life – or more precisely four lives. After it was decommissioned at the University of London in about 1972, it was purchased at scrap metal prices by a group of students who ran an accounting bureau for about five years. They then advertised it in Amateur Computer Club Magazine and it was bought, again at scrap metal value," he said.
"After languishing for a period in a barn in Kent, it was restored with the help of the Computer Conservation Society. Visitors could then come and see, smell, and feel the vibrations of a remarkable 1960s computer. Last year, Flossie was again at risk of being scrapped, but thanks to TNMOC the machine is safe again."
TNMOC is currently going through a major period of fundraising as it seeks to take advantage of a matched funding offer of £1m from a trustee of the organisation.
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