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news 17.02.16

Making improvements by the shed-load

Across the UK, amateurs are recreating a historic computer — in their back gardens. It shows how getting individual elements right makes all the difference.

Up and down the country, little wooden huts are buzzing with activity to find the ‘missing link’ in computing development. Enthusiasts are, piece by piece, recreating the pioneering Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (Edsac) computer. First built in 1949, Edsac is currently a gap in the history of computing development.

During the 50s, Edsac helped scientists at Cambridge University tackle problems that couldn’t be solved by hand calculations. It crunched numbers faster and pushed the boundaries of computing, helping Cambridge scientists to win two Nobel prizes.

Vanished without a trace
The problem was, Edsac’s creators made it up as they went along, so they didn't leave any blueprints or instructions — and this has left a gap in the understanding of computer development.

Computing history enthusiasts have come to the rescue. Working from photos and partial plans, it took the team a year to work out how Edsac’s 3,000 valves were laid out and how they formed the logic that powered the computer’s success.

Individual expertise, joint enterprise
Now, all around the country, the enthusiasts are working on building sections (called chassis) in their garden sheds, taking up the challenge to create their section as accurately as possible. Each time they undertake to build a chassis they’re committing to about 20 to 40 hours of labour. When all the completed chassis are put together to create Edsac, the project coordinators hope that the accuracy and diligence of all the volunteers will mean that they can get a new Edsac operational, easily.

Individual effort, joint success
At 14forty, we adopt the same principle: we know to get the best 'whole' you have to get each individual part right. So we expect each and every area of our operation to work as hard as possible to help us create the most cost-effective offering for our customers. We also challenge each part of our supply chain to find efficiency savings that we then pull together to maximise the efficiency of the whole. Just as each Edsac enthusiast is working to their utmost, so our people strive to achieve efficiency in their area.

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