The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has revealed the creation of a new prize for artificial intelligence named after the University of Manchester’s invention of the world’s first stored program computer in 1948. The prize, worth £1m, will be awarded annually for the next ten years to promote AI research in the UK.
At 11 am on June 21, 1948, the Small Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), also known as ‘The Baby,’ successfully executed its first program after 52 minutes, completing 3.5 million calculations to arrive at the correct answer. This made the Baby the first computer globally to operate a program electronically stored in its memory, as opposed to being hardwired in or on paper tape.
During a speech in the House of Commons, Chancellor Hunt stated that the University of Manchester built the world’s first stored program computer in 1948, and it was known as the Manchester Baby. As a tribute to the Manchester Baby, this new national AI award would be named the Manchester Prize.
The University of Manchester has been at the forefront of AI research, expanding on the success of the Manchester Baby. Today, the University focuses on advanced manufacturing systems, neuroscience, fundamental AI, robotics, and autonomous systems.
The Chancellor’s announcement highlights the significance of AI research in the UK, as well as the vital role played by the University of Manchester in the development of the computer and AI industry globally. Furthermore, the Manchester Prize emphasizes the government’s commitment to boosting the UK’s AI sector, particularly in light of the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic.
The Manchester Prize’s £1m award for AI research will undoubtedly incentivize and inspire researchers across the country to explore new frontiers and make groundbreaking discoveries in the field. The prize could play a crucial role in maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader in AI research, particularly as other countries invest heavily in this area.
The History of Manchester Baby
The Small-Scale Experimental Machine, also known as the Manchester Baby, is considered to be the world’s first electronic stored-program computer. The machine was designed and built by a team of researchers led by Frederic C. Williams and Tom Kilburn at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom in 1948. The purpose of the machine was to test the feasibility of a new type of computing architecture that stored both data and instructions in the same memory.
The SSEM used a cathode ray tube as its primary memory and could store 32 32-bit words of data. It was capable of performing basic arithmetic and logical operations, and it could execute programs that were stored in its memory. The machine’s first successful program, which was executed on June 21, 1948, was a simple calculation of the highest factor of a given number.
The SSEM was a major milestone in the development of modern computing. Its success paved the way for the development of more advanced electronic computers, and it demonstrated the potential of electronic computing to revolutionize scientific research, engineering, and business. Today, the SSEM is considered to be a key artefact in the history of computing, and it is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.