University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory


Commentator. We feel that in this auspicious year of the actual compltion 
of EDSAC 1 1/2, it would be instructive to take all here, friends of paid 
employed staff, friends of paid unemployed staff, programmers, engineers, 
operators, on a tour of this laboratory, I beg pardon,lab-bra-try.  This 
laboratory has now produced two electronic marvels, intricate masses of 
resistors, condensers, valves, wire, dry joints and television interference
producing devices, and they work.
	(Turns nervously to wings and enquires)
They do work, don't,they?
	(Gruff and annoyed voice replies   Yus, us flipping engineers to death. 
	(Uncomfortable cough: continues)
So to show you the organisation and facilities that have made these 
achievments possible, I will conduct you around the laboratory on a normal 
working day.
	We begin on the ground floor, in the hall. Please stand back 
against the wall, or you may be trampled on by University Assistants rushing 
through to inspect the bargains at Catlings' sale-room, across the road. 
Here we have the Hollerith room; this contains mechanical computation 
equipment, continuously in operation, worked by two of our young ladies, 
Mrs. Feeley and Miss Barter.
	(Curtains open)
	(Background to suggest machine)
Marion,	seated and crosswording
Ann, colourfully attired, sways across room carrying large Vogue bag, extracts
garment from same and checks for fitting.

ANN	Do you think Derek will like me in this?
MARION	Did he pay for it?
ANN (sighing)	No
MARION		Yes, he'll like it
ANN	Oh well, it won't be long before all these beastly financial details
are taken off my poor shoulders and put on his strong ones.
MARION	Have you told him that?
ANN	Give me time, dear. I have still to convince him that it's the
husband who has to do the cooking and washing up.
	(Enter GORDON)
GORDON	How's it going?
ANN	The machine has broken down
ANN	We are waiting for the engineers
GORDON	(draws air sharply between teeth) The expense. Let me have a go.
	(Moves over to inspect machine)
	(Heavy banging on wall)
GORDON	What's that
ANN	Oh, that's just Herbert and Vic bidding us good morning.
(GORDON grumbles to himself about damage and expense, then - )
	Have you seen him yet? what mood is he in?
(GIRLS look bored and shrug shoulders)
COMMENTATOR	Next we have the instrument maker's workshop. Through this door
	all the delicate mechanical equipment of the laborartory passes for 
	servicing and modification. Without the skill and constant labour of
	our two instrument makers, Tech.Asst. Herbert Norris and Tech Asst.
	Victor Claydon, the lab would soon run to a standstill. Let us peep 
	in so as not to disturb the vital work.
	(Curtains open. Table to represent bench, two chairs in background.
	VIC and HERBERT standing at bench, VIC busy working on watches,
	HERBERT busy working on toys)
HERBERT About time we got some decent materials in this place; these toys
	wont be up to the standard of last year.
VIC	You can talk, I'm still using my own watchmaker's lathe. Have to get 
	Bill to sign an order on the quiet, I can see that.
		(Pause for work)
HERBERT Don't let your wife join the Womens Substitute, it works you to death.
	(VIC looks up, notices audience, elbows HERBERT in ribs.
VIC	Look out, company.
	(Both look sheepish, scramble stuff away: pick up reader and 
	punch and work furiously.)
	(GORDON enters)
GORDON	How's it going?
BOTH (in loud voice)	Aye,Aye.
	(Scramble for two chairs. VIC and HERBERT win, grin broadly. 
	GORDON glowers at them. Sound of person walking by in corridor, 
	money rattling in pocket)
GORDON (with startled look) Oh well, I must.
	(Strides out. CURTAINS close)
COMMENTATOR. Now we ascend to the first floor. On the left is room 3. This 
	room is occupied by the chief designer of both machines, Mr.William 
	Renwick, and also by Dr.David Wheeler, a mathematician of some repute. 
	For sheer brainpower, these two cannot be beaten. The things that are 
	conceived in this room would astound you, and some of them are built, 
	and some of them work.
	(Aside to wings) They do work, don't,they?
GRUFF ANNOYED VOICE Any ladies present?
VOICE 		In that case, I can't answer your question.
	(COMMENTATOR looks uncomfortable)
COMMENTATOR 	Let us look in.
	(CURTAINS open. DAVID seated at table, reading science fiction.
	BILL reading "Practical Wireless")
DAVID 	Bill, I think if we take this idea of Space-Gun Charlie and that one 
	you've got of F.J.Camm's, we should be able to make it work.
BILL 	What work?
DAVID 	How do I know, we haven't built it yet.
BILL 	It's worth a try. If it works, we'll call it EDSAC II.
DAVID 	Well, it nearly came off with One, and 1 1/2. Third time lucky.
		(GORDON enters)
BILL 	We want to build......
GORDON(quickly) How much?
DAVID(casually) What's a little money?
GORDON(savagely) Are you mad? You should try making money.
	(DAVID and BILL look at each other with looks of sudden inspiration.
	Rapidly seaech through their respective books)
	(Head pokes through door - wings - Dick)
DICK 	We've run out of fuses.
GORDON 	(Not looking at door, waves hand in air) Oh, see Dick.
DICK 	I am Dick
GORDON(in confusion) Oh! I'll get an order signed. What mood's he in?
	(DICK makes facial contortions to indicate the worst)
GORDON(hurriedly) 	I'm busy now. Will a weekk's time do?
DICK(sighs)		P.C.S. again
	(Leaves CURTAINS close)
COMMENTATOR 	Next we have
			(in hushed voice)
		the Director's Office. Quiet, if you please.
		(CURTAINS open)
(M.V. is seated at table. Rushing noise off stage.)
(GORDON passes bills.) 	More bills, Sir.
M.V. (looks up, smiles) Ah. 1 1/2 running
		(Rushing noise stops)
M.V. (suddenly looks worried) Oh dear
		(Paces up and down. GORDON rushes out)
		(SECRETARY enters, dictaphone headset round neck)
SECRETARY 	The dictaphone recording, Sir.
		(Looking shocked)
		Did you want me to type....
		(Whispers in M.V.'s ear)
M.V. 	No,No. That must have been when I caught my fingers in
	the drawer.
	(SECRETARY rushes out. M.V. rubs chin)
	So she knew what it meant, eh. Hmmm.
	(Rushing sound. M.V., with delight,)
	It's going again.
	(Does a little dance)
	(Rushing noise stops)
	(M.V. collapses in a chair, looking haggard.
		(CURTAINS close)
COMMENTATOR 	If we look in room 5 we can see some of our budding programmers, 
		our hope for the future. Only the best brains will do for 
		this job.
			(CURTAINS open)
		(Crowd, lavishly decked with tapes, carrying program sheets; walking 
		aimlessly about stage, mumbling mathematical jargon, scribbling 
		corrections, tearing sections from tapes, screwing up program sheets. 
		All looking desparate. J.L. is standing by, hands behind back)
(1st PROGRAMMER goes up to him with sheaf of program sheets)
		John, it keeps stopping. Must be the machine.
J.L. (after rapid perusal of sheets, in gruff and unhelpful voice)
		I'm not surprised it stops. Rubbish.
		(Tosses sheets into air. programmer scrambles for them.
2nd PROGRAMMER (showing sheets to J.L.)
		John, am I being stupid?
J.L. 		I should think so.
2nd PROGRAMMER 	Can you see what I'm doing?
J.L. (glancing at sheets) Yes. Wasting machine time.
		(Turns away)
3rd  PROGRAMMER (to J.L.) Don't you have programming trouble?
J.L. 		No.
3rd  PROGRAMMER Why not?
J.L. 		I never do any.
		(CURTAINS close)
COMMENTATOR 	In room   we have Dr.Miller. Famous for his constant work on 
		primes. One might say jocularly that there is a man in prime 
			(Half hearted laugh. Carries on)
		We'll see if he is in. Though it's difficult to tell, with so many 
		books about.
			(CURTAINS open) (Miller seated at table, laden with books.)
CHILDREN 	Daddy, tell us a story.
MILLER 		Just a short one then. Then you can come and watch Daddy play with 
CHILDREN (hopefully) Will it go bang again this time, and make Mr.Waldock act 
		all funny?
MILLER 		Probably. Now listen, here's the story.
			(Reads script.)
CHILDREN 	Thank you Daddy.
MILLER 		Come on, let's go and play.
		(CURTAINS close)
Comm 	Walk warily! We are now on the new floor. Here is the new wonder 
	machine EDSAC 2 1/2%, and its brand new control console (kindly 
	provided by the Cavendish Laboratory as heirs of the late Sir George 
	Stokes) we find the Director and the Junior Operator trying out 
	some new tapes. Unlike EDSAC 1 this new machine is not fitted 
	with monitors or other visual aids to help in finding programing 
	errors. However, as a result of considerable pressure from Dr.
	Wheeler we have fitted to it a number of audible aids, for the 
	same purpose.
Valerie		Sir! you are trying a preset parameter that has not 
	yet been set.
M.V. 	Oh!
Val. 	The tape reader's going too fast, we'll have to switch the 
	inhibition on.
		(Enter MRS.BROWN carrying cup of tea which she gives to 
	M.V.W. who puts it on the sloping top of the power pack, with 
	the results that might be expected. there is immediately a 
	tremendous flash and a roll of thunder. When the tumult ceases 
	there enters MR.FLACK brandishing a tatty bit of charred cable)
Flack 	When are you people going to learn how to fit the proper fuses?
Val. 	It's all right; it's still working.
		(Flack removes hat(!) and exits, eyes heavenwards.)
Val. 	Oh dear! I'm afraid that's a floating overflow.
M.V.W. 	Not Room ten again? Oh! I see what you mean!
Val. 	Where ever did you get that tape from? It says "Good wishes to Charles and Sylvia".
		Terrific crash of glass
Val. 	Norman! You must not run downstairs when Rudy is carrying the tea up.
	(Valerie answers it)
	Lord Nuffield would like a word with you Mr.Wilkes.
	(She loads another tape while M.V.W. listens to phone.)
			Several gongs
	(Frantic switch pushing to stop the noise. M.V.W. drops phone to 
	help. All no good. Eventually GORDON rushes in)
Gordon 	That's not EDSAC 2 1/2% you clots - the lab's on fire.
	(Six buzzes)
Gordon 	Tea up 	(Exit)
M. & C. Good idea 	(link arms and exit) 	(CURTAIN)
Comm. 	Now up to the top floor. There we shall see the electronic brain 
	working faster than thought. It is called EDSAC 1, the word 
	meaning "Expressly Designed to Shake All Comers". I'm sorry, but 
	that is the popular interpretation.
	(CURTAINS open to reveal, left, a notice "LADIES", and backstage 
	a notice "TO EDSAC". Commentator waves arm in direction of 
	This is the Ladies' room.
	(Sundry workmen emerge from LADIES carrying tool-kits. Commentator 
	hurries on).
	To the EDSAC.
	(Loud noises. WILF appears, looking worried, and hangs up U/S 
	notice and disappears)
	There appears to be a slight fault. However I believe the 
	new machine downstairs is available for demonstration, so let 
	us retrace our steps.

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