Ferranti Mercury is introduced

August 1957
Ferranti Mercury is introduced

After completion of the Mark 1, the University of Manchester team led by Tom Kilburn started work on its successor. The Mark 2 computer, known as megacycle machine Meg, updated the Mark 1 concept replacing over half the vacuum tube valves with solid-state diodes and incorporating floating-point arithmetic facilities. Meg ran its first program in May 1954.

Ferranti continued development of the prototype Meg to produce the Mercury, replacing the Williams-Kilburn tubes with magnetic core memory. This meant the system required virtually no maintenance, which was important for commercial customers.

The machine ran a high-level language, Mercury Autocode, about which Tom Kilburn said:

"Programming for the machine is very simple, using the Autocode technique. The Mercury Autocode system can be learned by a programmer in a few days and has made it possible for anyone to write his own programs."

The first Mercury computer was delivered in August 1957. Ferranti sold 19 machines in all to customers including CERN in Geneva, the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, and the Met Office.

Related information:


  • Ferranti Mercury computer at Met Office Bracknell showing console and magnetic drums in the early 1960s.
    Credit: National Meteorological Library and Archive, item MET/4/2/1/4b/6

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