13 Absurdly Massive Early Computers

Technology from the days when bigger meant better.

1. 1944

Engineer John von Neumann stands with the Harvard Mark I, an electromechanical computer.

2. 1944

British code breakers used The Colossus to decrypt coded German messages at the end of World War II.

3. 1946

ENIAC, the world’s first general-purpose computer, weighed 27 tons. Among other things, the so-called “Giant Brain” was used for calculations for the development of the hydrogen bomb.

4. 1949

Analog Computing Machine, an early version of the modern computer, is located in the then-Engine Research Building at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio, which is now part of NASA.

5. 1951

Harwell’s 1951 model called The WITCH was short for Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing.

6. 1951

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Whirlwind incorporated 4,500 vacuum tubes, 14,800 diodes, and took up 3,100 square feet of floor space.

7. 1954

IBM’s Naval Ordnance Research Calculator could perform 15,000 operations per second, making it the most powerful computer of its time.

8. 1957

Norwich City Council’s first computer is delivered to the City Treasurer’s Department. Elliott Brothers was an early UK computer company.

9. 1956

IBM 305 RAMAC. Each of those massive towers is a hard disk drive holding a whopping 5MB of data.

10. 1956

The Bendix G-15 cost around $60,000.

11. 1961

The IBM 7080

12. 1962

BRLESC I had 4096 72-bit words of memory, the equivalent of 36k.

13. 1964

UNIVAC 1108 stored a then scarcely imaginable 1MB of data.

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Luke Lewis is BuzzFeed's Head of European Growth and is based in London.
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