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Australia's oldest computer moves to Melbourne's Scienceworks

Scienceworks has welcomed what it says is one of the most important pieces of Australian innovation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Automatic Computer (CSIRAC), to its Think Ahead exhibition in Melbourne. CSIRAC is considered one of the most significant objects in Museums Victoria's collection of 17 million items. It's half the size of a shipping container and about one millionth of the speed, computing power and volume of a smartphone. It was considered cutting-edge when it was built in 1949. Originally engineered at CSIRO in Sydney, CSIRAC was moved to the University of Melbourne in 1955. After taking a year to reassemble, it was switched on in 1956. Until the early 1960s, the computer's power was used by science and industry, and demand was so great that people often had to wait weeks to get access. It operated for 30,000 hours and tackled around 700 projects from playing electronic music and making weather forecasts to calculating mortgages and playing some of the first computer games.

  • Trevor Pearcey operating CSIRAC

  • Computer engineer Jurij Semkiw at the console in the early 1960s.

  • Roy Muncey and Bill Davern with the CSIRAC.

  • Roy Muncey and Bill Davern with the CSIRAC in 1958.

  • CSIRAC computer console (side view)

  • CSIRAC computer console (front view)

  • Paper tape punch

  • CSIRAC's back

  • The CSIRAC

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