Ferranti Atlas Computer

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Firstly, we must stress that we do not have a complete Ferranti Atlas computer!

What we do have is a 39-inch diameter hard disc - this is a magnetic disk supplied (we believe) by Data Products. They utilised moving magnetic heads similarly to today's disk drives. This was the bulk memory and it stored quite a large amount of data for the time. It stored data in 512 word blocks like a magnetic tape. Products like this were subject to destructive contamination - if the magnetic head touched the surface it scraped off magnetic particles which then came between the read/write head and the disk and caused more particles to be created, thus leading to the catastrophic destruction of the disk. This happened occasionally. Data Products were an American company who specialised in printers and disk stores.

The Atlas computer burst onto the scene, in Manchester, during the early 1960s. It was the result of a project, which began in the Department of Electrical Engineering of the University of Manchester in 1956. The group, led by Professor Tom Kilburn, combined those electronic engineers investigating the new Transistor switching circuits and Magnetic Core Storage devices, with the programmers who were familiar with the problems and aspirations engendered by 8 years of using earlier Manchester computing machines for scientific calculations. By 1959 Ferranti Ltd. had joined the project and their collaboration with the University led to the development of the ATLAS computer. Ferranti brought not only their computer design and manufacturing expertise to the project but also their experience in business data processing. The Manchester ATLAS began to provide a computer service in 1962. It went on to provide a reliable service for both scientific and commercial users until 1971.

It embodied many pioneering features, which we now take for granted. These include system features such as, Timesharing of several concurrent computing and peripheral operations, Multiprogramming, and the One-Level Store (Virtual Store).

Design features included, High-speed arithmetic, Asynchronous control, interleaved stores, paging, V-Store (Image Store), Fixed store (ROM), and autonomous transfer units.

Ferranti manufactured two further versions of ATLAS. For a while, in the early 1960s, it was the fastest computer anywhere until being caught by the early Control Data computers from Minneapolis. The other contenders from the United States, the UNIVAC LARC and IBM STRETCH computers, were left behind on their blocks.

Only three Atlas 1 computers were built. The Atlas 2 system was a joint development between Ferranti and Cambridge. The aim was to produce a more modest but largely compatible computer. Even so the commercial price was still well over £1M. Three Atlas 2 Machines were made. The first machine installed was the Cambridge Titan. The other two machines were installed at the Department of Industry's CAD Centre in Cambridge and Aldermaston. Cambridge used the CAD Centre Atlas while Titan was being moved to a new building in 1969.

Manufacturer: Ferranti
Date: 1961

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Ferranti Atlas Computer Manuals:

Item Manufacturer Date
Features of the Ferranti Atlas Computer Ferranti May 1961
Ferranti Atlas Provisional Extracode Functions Ferranti Sep 1961
The ICL Atlas 1 Computer and the Atlas Supervisor Operating System and Scheduling System Ferranti 1962
Ferranti Atlas Basic Language (ABL) Ferranti 1 Jun 1962
Ferranti Atlas Magnetic Tape Provisional Instruction Code Mk.4 Ferranti 1 Jun 1962
Ferranti Atlas Provisional Programming Manual Ferranti Jan 1963
Ferranti The Atlas Provisional Programming Manual Ferranti Jan 1963
Titan/ Atlas 2 Supervisor Manual Volume 3 Ferranti 1964
Titan/ Atlas 2 Supervisor Manual Volume 1 Ferranti 1964
Titan/ Atlas 2 Supervisor Manual Volume 2 Ferranti 1964
COPY OF A Partial Syntax of ALGOL 68 ict Nov 1964
Atlas 2 Operator Manual Ferranti 1965
Introduction to Atlas Autocode by J S Rohl 1965
The ICT Atlas 1 Computer Programming Manual For Atlas Basic Language (ABL) ICT Jan 1965
Atlas Autocode - Reference Manual Manchester University 1 Mar 1965
Atlas Autocode Reference Manual ICT 1 Mar 1965
Atlas Commercial Language Manual ULCS Sep 1965
A Study of Fortran Compatibility - UL Atlas Computing Service University of London Jan 1968
Cambridge Multiple-Access System Reference Manual Nov 1968
Fortran Language for the ATLAS 2 and TITAN Computer Systems at Cambridge The Computer-aided Design Centre 15 Oct 1969
ATLAS Cray User Guide - Version 1.2 Atlas Computing Centre 15 Jun 1987

Magazines RELATED to Ferranti Atlas Computer in our Library

Item Manufacturer Date
The Computer Journal October 1961 The British Computer Society Limited Oct 1961
The Computer Journal July 1964 The British Computer Society Limited Jul 1964
The Computer Journal January 1966 The British Computer Society Limited Jan 1966
The Computer Journal May 1969 The British Computer Society Limited May 1969
The Computer Journal May 1971 The British Computer Society Limited May 1971
SERC Bulletin Spring 1983 1983
Flagship 4 - July 1989 Science and Engineering Research Council Jul 1989
Flagship 5 - September 1989 Science and Engineering Research Council Sep 1989
Flagship 9 - June 1990 Science and Engineering Research Council Jun 1990
Acorn User - September 1990 3 Jun 2009

Other Systems Related To Ferranti Atlas Computer:

Item Manufacturer Date
Ferranti Argus 100 Ferranti 1963
Ferranti FM1600 B Ferranti 1965
Ferranti PC860 Ferranti 1973
Ferranti Argus 700 Ferranti 1973
Ferranti 1600E Ferranti 1973
Ferranti Argus PPC-20 Ferranti November 1983
Ferranti Advance 86 Ferranti December 1983
Ferranti Model No PC31 Ferranti 1986

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH1080. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.


Ferranti Atlas Computer

  Book Archive   [1]
  Peripherals   [1]

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The Manchester University Atlas Operating System
Ferranti "The Atlas Supervisor"

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