Hollerith Electronic Computer goes on display at the NMOC

Britain's first mass-produced business computer, the HEC 1, goes on display at the National Museum of Computing.

Britain's first mass-produced business computer

An early model of Britain's first mass-produced business computer, the HEC 1, is to go on display at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes. 

The development of the computer was led over 60 years ago by Dr Raymond Bird, now aged 93, who spoke at the launch of the exhibition. The machine is on long-term loan from Birmingham Museums Collection Centre having recently been discovered in their archive.

Early digital technology

The machine, an unsung hero of early digital computing, was something of a collaboration between Dr Bird and Dr Andrew Booth, whose multiplier innovation is still used to speed up calculations by most modern CPUs.

Dr Bird with the HEC 1 (TNMOC)

Booth provided his computer blueprints to Bird and the British Tabulating Machine Company, who had the punch card technology that Booth needed to provide inputs and outputs and the HEC, which had 2kb of memory was born. Later models, the HEC 4 and ICT1200 would go on to sell over 100 units in the late 1950s.

"I took his basic circuits and the core of his logic and built a machine called HEC 1," Dr Bird told the BBC. "I engineered it to be manufacturable and serviceable."

The HEC 1 is on display at the National Museum of Computing from 2nd April.