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A Computing Treasure Trail: Cambridge's Computer Science Heritage
The connection between Cambridge University and computing may not quite stretch back for eight hundred years, but the history of computing in its many
forms is certainly connected to Cambridge in many ways, with Newton, Babbage, Wilkes, Needham and Sparck-Jones among those who have graced the University
over the centuries.
On May 27th we would like to invite you to take a short tour of some sites in the Cambridge that are associated with computation and computer science, complete with
some fascinating demonstrations and an opportunity to see parts of one of the world's first computers, the EDSAC.
The tour is taking place in advance of a lecture by Bill Thompson from the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet, on
The 10 Cultures Problem, which will take place at 14:15 in the Computer Laboratory.
You can download the map and take the tour yourself - it's about 2.5 miles - or join the guided tour which will begin at the Sidgwick Site at 10:45 and arrive at the lab in time for the talk.
You can download a PDF of the brochure if you want to take the tour on your own.
These are the sites to see. You can also see the route on
The walk is taking place during the University’s examination period, so
colleges will be closed to non-members.
Economics, Sidgwick Site, Sidgwick Avenue
Demonstration of the MONIAC Analogue Hydraulic Computer Demo by Dr. Allan
McRobie, Economics Department at 10:00, 11:00 and 11:30
Mathematical Bridge, visible from Silver Street
A famous Cam
landmark, which was neither designed nor built by Isaac Newton.
of DAMTP, visible through alley off Silver Street
workplace of Professor Stephen Hawking
Church, corner of Silver Street and Trumpington Street
Olivetti/AT&T Research Labs, old Addenbrooke's Site, Trumpington Street
Site of a
great deal of important research, including the active badge and other work
in pervasive computing.
Court Sundial, Pembroke College, visible from Tennis Court Road
Site of the
Bun Shop pub, corner of Downing Street and Corn Exchange Street (now part of
with computer scientists, including Roger Needham, former head of department
and founding director of Microsoft Research, Cambridge
The site of
the old Mathematical Laboratory and the EDSAC, commemorated with a plaque
near the Babbage Lecture Theatre
Computer Lab tower,
Site of the
Trojan Room and the Cambridge Coffee Pot, in the New Museums Site
Cavendish Laboratory, visible from Free School Lane
laboratory where the electron and neutron were discovered
favourite pub with computer scientist, also notable as a regular haunt for
Francis Crick and James Waston when they were working on the structure of
College, King’s Parade
was one of the notable computer scientists to have been a Fellow at King’s
Parade (now the meditation centre)
offices for Sinclair Research and Acorn Computers, among others.
College, Trinity Street,
College, St John's Street,
Needham and Maurice Wilkes were fellows
haunt of computer scientists – there may be a theme emerging – and notable
as the place where the 'xen hypervisor' was named
Home of many
startups especially those associated with Hermann Hauser and Andy Hopper.
This is a
good point to take a taxi or bus to the Cavendish Laboratory
Mathematical Sciences, Wilberforce Road
Wylie presented his solution to Fermat's Last Theorem
Quantum Computing Demo by Dr. David Williams in the Hitachi Cambridge
Laboratory at 11:30, 12:00, and 12:30
and Exhibition in the Physics Dept. lobby
A number of
exhibitions and displays will be taking place during the day:
display of the original door of Mathematical Department (the common room on
Room Coffee Pot (the world's first webcam): BBD News in 1994
(Video: Martin Richards - EDSAC Simulation in BCPL)
by David Wheeler (Initial Orders for EDSAC)
of archived research papers (Computer Laboratory Library )
Project - Virtual Exhibition
(at the entrance hall)
are available in the Cafe
10 Cultures Problem (1415, Lecture Theatre 1)
If you would like to join the guided tour please meet outside the Economics Faculty Building on the Sidgwick Site at 10:45.
The tour, which includes demonstrations of the hydraulic computer and the quantum computer, will arrive at the Cavendish Laboratory at 12:30 and at the Computer Laboratory
at 13:30, giving you time to have lunch before the lecture begins at 14:15.
Direction and Maps
Writer and journalist Bill Thompson took the Diploma in Computer Science in 1983 and now describes himself as a 'technology critic', straddling the two worlds in his work for the BBC, Arts Council England and others. In this lecture he will consider what level of understanding of computer science is needed in order to be an effective and engaged member of modern society. What is the technological equivalent of Snow's complaint that the literary people of his acquaintance did not know of the Second Law of Thermodynamics?
Should everyone code, or is it enough to understand what Roger Needham meant when he claimed - as he so often did - that every problem in computing can be solved with another level of indirection?
His Lecture: The 10 Cultures Problem
In May 1959 CP Snow used the Rede Lecture in Cambridge to explore the notion that British society, its education system and its intellectual life was characterised by a split between two cultures, the humanities and the sciences.
Today the divide that matters is that between those who can count in binary and those who can't, between the culture of the technologists and coders and that of the users. The division is similar to, but not co-extensive with, that identified by Snow simply because most scientists are, thanks to the technological basis of their research, computer-literate, while many of those in the arts, humanities and politics will be wondering what happened to the other eight cultures referred to in the title of this lecture.
Information of the Historical Sites