Last week I attended the Dr Trevor Pearcey Centenary Celebration. This was an afternoon of talks at Sydney University to celebrate the achievements of Dr Trevor Pearcey, a British-born Australian scientist, who created CSIRAC in 1949. This was Australia's first digital computer and the 4th or 5th stored program computer in the world. CSIRAC is the oldest surviving first-generation electronic computer in the world. I saw CSIRAC a few years ago when in Melbourne.

In comparison the talk by Dr Sarah Pearce, Deputy Director of CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science, covered the computer at the Pawsey Centre to process the data from the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder Telescope. The ASKAP is already producing 5.2 terabytes of data per second, which is processed on site and then streamed down to Galaxy and stored at the rate of 2.5 Gbytes per second.

CSIRAC Pawsey's "Galaxy"
Number of cores: 1 9440
Clock Speed: 1 kHZ 3.00 GHz
Operations/second: 1000 200 million million
Memory: ~ 1K or 2K 31.55 Terabytes
Local storage: 1024, 20 bit-words 1.3 Petabytes
Logic elements: 2000 valves 7000 billion transistors
Input: punched paper tape high level computer language

 

Prof. Hugh Durrant-Whyte, the New South Wales Chief Scientist & Engineer, also gave a talk on "Why Science Matters", Barbara Ainsworth, Pearcey Biographer & Curator of the Monash Museum of Computing History spoke about Pearcey's history and his innovations.

Prof. Andrew Dzurak (Director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility & ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology, UNSW) and Prof. David Reilly (Director of Microsoft Quantum, Sydney & Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, School of Physics, University of Sydney) both explained to us why quantum computers will be important and the current state of development of this technology. Dr Baerbel Koribalski (OCE Science Leader, CSIRO) gave us a great talk on how super computers have enabled astronomers to model galaxy formation across the life and physical span of our universe.

Prof. Ben Eggleton, Director of the University of Sydney Nano Institute, School of Physics, University of Sydney also gave some participants a tour of the Nano Labs.

References: CSIRAC, The First Computer in Australia, 1949-1964;   Pawsey Supercomputing Centre's Galaxy;   Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder Telescope

Mike Lake
eResearch