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ACS Heritage Project: Chapter 6

Friday, 20 Jan 2017

IA

SILLIAC had a rival: UTECOM.  

Preamble

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) was formed 50 years ago, when the various state computer societies joined forces.

To mark the occasion, the ACS has initiated a heritage project to honour the many individuals who have contributed to the growth of the ICT profession in Australia.

At the heart of the project is a history of computing in Australia. It is not just a history of the ACS, but the history of a profession.

Australia has the longest computing history of any country, excepting the US and the UK, and CSIRAC in the Museum of Victoria is the oldest computer still in existence.

Previously published:

Chapter 1 -The start of Australia’s computing history

Chapter 2: The first Australian Computer Conference

Chapter 3: Harry Messel and the birth of SILLIAC

Chapter 4: John Bennett

Chapter 5: SILLIAC and the Snowy Mountains Scheme

Chapter 6: UTECOM

At the same time Sydney University inaugurated SILLIAC, cross-town rival the NSW University of Technology unveiled its own computer, called UTECOM (University of TEchnology COMputer).

The university, which changed its name to the University of NSW in 1958, was established in 1949 by the New South Wales government in response to what it saw as a shortage of scientists and engineers, highlighted during World War II. The university established an Institute of Nuclear Engineering in 1954 with a grant of £125,000 from the state government, intended to examine the use of nuclear power.

An electronic computer was regarded as essential to the task, with the advantage that it could be used by others areas of the university. The head of the School of Electrical Engineering, Professor Rex Vowels, planned to build a large computing department, and the University Council decided in late 1954 to use some of the grant money to purchase a machine.

UTECOM was the fifth of 33 DEUCE computers manufactured by British computer company English Electric. DUECE was a contrived acronym for Digital Electronic Universal Computing Engine. It was an improved version of the ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) designed by British computer pioneer Alan Turing, who had built the Colossus electronic code-breaking machines used at Bletchley Park in World War II.

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