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Professor Justin Zobel is available for interview on 0412 308 309.

This month marks 60 years since the first computer came to Victoria, and 60 years of computing at the University of Melbourne. 

CSIRAC, the name of the computer that filled a room, came into operation in Melbourne on June 14,1956, even before television arrived, after several years of service for CSIRO in Sydney.

The computer system was moved to the University of Melbourne and relaunched as CSIRAC on 14 June 1956 and it was Australia’s only computer.

CSIRAC ran until 1964, and is now in the Melbourne Museum; it is the oldest computer in the world that is still intact. Professor Justin Zobel, Head of the Department of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne said that CSIRAC could run at about 1000 instructions per second and could store just a few kilobytes: the equivalent of a page of text in a typical book.

“A computer today of similar size and power consumption would be almost a supercomputer – a billion times faster and with perhaps a trillion times as much storage,” Professor Zobel said.

“In its lifetime of 14 years of operation, CSIRAC undertook about as much computation as a smartphone can complete in a minute. This seemed miraculous to the users at the time, as it provided automation of processes in ways that had previously been inconceivable,” he said.

Computers have changed immeasurably and did not have keyboards, but instead had consoles of switches and dials. They had almost no permanent storage, no file systems and no recognisable screens.

“Working with paper tape and fanfold printouts, the skills of early computer scientists might seem remote from a world of touch screens and motion sensors, but many of the underlying skills of computing professionals are much the same,” Professor Zobel said. To mark this 60th anniversary, The Department of Computing and Information systems is hosting a week of activities starting with a launch on Tuesday 14 June.

The Hon Phillip Dalidakis MP, Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade will be present to help celebrate 60 years of Computing.

Tuesday 14 June- Opening reception to be held at Melbourne Museum

Wednesday 15 June- Dean’s Breakfast to celebrate 60 years of computing in Victoria

Thursday 16 June –Women in IT lunch and panel discussion

Friday 17 June- Computer history forum CSIRAC at http://www.cis.unimelb.edu.au/about/csirac/