19, 22, 23, 24, 25 October 2018 | 9am – 6pm
Artist's talk – 18 October, 6pm
University of Cambridge, William Gates Building Computer Laboratory
This multimedia artwork by Matt Parker commemorates 60 years since the Electronic delay storage automatic calculator (EDSAC) was decommissioned in 1958. As early as 1949, a team of engineers led by Sir Maurice Wilkes in the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory ran the first programme on a new digital computer, the EDSAC, one of the first digital computers ever to be built – and one of the very first to have a mechanism that allowed it to store data. Using tubes of mercury, the computer stored data by sending ultrasonic pulses through these conduits, creating a feedback loop of computerised memories formed through sound waves.
Memory Line remembers what it was like for the many women programmers who worked in this vital and foundational period of computing history, and acknowledges 70 years since the University of Cambridge began to award women degrees. The work comprises interviews with three women veterans of EDSAC, who remember their time working with the machine. It also includes interviews with a group of volunteers currently building a replica of EDSAC at The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park. For this replica model they are not able to work with mercury ‘delay lines’ due to the volatility of this metal, instead using nickel wire, which replaced mercury-based technologies in the 1950s. Exploring gender in technology and the poetics of sound, this work explores the invention of memory technologies and innovations of EDSAC.
Part of the Festival of Ideas
Supported by Arts Council England, The National Museum of Computing and University of the Arts London
As part of this installation there will be an artist's talk with Matt Parker (18 October, 6pm)
For further information please see
Image: Matt Parker, Memory Line (2018)