In the 1950s, there were many groups developing computing equipment, in the UK and overseas. Andrew Booth and Kathleen Britton, at Birkbeck University, London, developed magnetic drum storage, the floppy disk and several computers (APEXC, MAC and M2).
In 1951, in the USA, Eckert and Mauchley built the first Univac computer, Univac 1, for business use. The US Government gave IBM a $350 million military contract to develop computers. IBM’s 701 data processing system appeared in 1952 and IBM’s 650 computer in 1953.
In 1953, Richard Grimsdale and Douglas Webb (part of Tom Kilburn’s group at Manchester University, produced a prototype Transistor Computer, replacing unreliable thermionic valves with much more reliable semiconductors. A commercial version of the transistor computer was built by Metropolitan-Vickers as the MV950.
The technology for producing single transistors and diodes quickly led to integrated circuits, where many components could be packed on to a single silicon chip. Advances in physics and manufacturing continually increased the number of components on a chip and, as a result, increased the speed of circuits whilst reducing their cost.
In 1965, Gordon Moore, of Fairchild Semiconductors (and later of Intel) published a papervii called “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits” in which he predicted that the number of transistors on a single chip would continue to double every year, which would dramatically reduce the cost of components.
His prediction, which was later called Moore’s Law, proved remarkably accurate: