British computing pioneer Wilkes dies


British computing pioneer Wilkes dies

Alex Scroxton
The death has been announced of computing pioneer Sir Maurice Wilkes, widely regarded as the father of British computing, at the age of 97.

Sir Maurice played an instrumental role in the UK's nascent computer industry in the aftermath of the Second World War, and masterminded the development of the first stored-program computer, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC), at Cambridge University in 1949.

In 1951 restaurant business J Lyons & Co became the first business to use a computer for commercial purposes, developing a variant of EDSAC called LEO I and laying the foundations for the business computing sector.

LEO successors remained in production until the early 1980s, while the firm that Lyons set up to build and sell its computers subsequently became International Computers Ltd and later, part of Fujitsu Services.

Sir Maurice went on to play a role in the development of other key aspects of computing, including the use of microprogramming as adaptable software instead of fixed circuitry, and cache memories.

He was also a founder member and distinguished fellow of the British Computer Society (BCS), as well as a recipient of the Turing Award, among other accolades.

In a statement issued by the BCS, the organisation's CEO David Clarke paid tribute to its founder.

"Sir Maurice Wilkes was responsible for some of the most fundamental and important computer science and engineering contributions over the past century. I consider it a great honour to have known him and to be working at the Institute of which he was a founder member," said Clarke.

"He was a visionary; his contributions have been immense and long-lasting. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him."
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