A Visual History of the Computer

Curators’ Corner

A Visual History of the Computer

HP recently revealed the world’s thinnest laptop, the HP Spectre. Though certainly more than chump change, the Spectre’s $1,249 price tag is a fraction of the cost of its clunkier ancestors. For example, the PACE TR-48, developed by Electronic Associates in 1961 and hailed as a test flight system in Project Apollo, sold for $25,000.

The evolution of the computer from astronomically expensive monstrosity to relatively affordable necessity is fascinating to say the least. Photographer James Ball, aka “Docubyte,” sheds creative light on the historical artifacts that have led to the modern marvels of today in a collaboration with London production studio, INK, titled, Guide to Computing. 

From the two-and-a-half-ton Harwell Dekatron built in the 1950s to the Meda 42TA of the early 1970s, Ball captures some of the earliest computers in colorful and minimalist fashion. Check it out:

Harwell Dekatron

Created in Britain in the early 1950s as a relay-based computer, the Harwell Dekatron was recognized in 2013 by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest working digital computer.


Pilot ACE

One of the first computers built in the United Kingdom, this 1950s machine is one of the oldest stored program computers. It houses 800 vacuum tubes that helped scientists calculate “floating point arithmetic.”


EAI Pace (TR 48)

As previously mentioned, this 1960s desktop computer was so comprehensive at the time that scientists relied on it for moon exploration.


HDR 75

This analogy hybrid computer built in East Germany was considered small at the time.


IBM 1401

Known as a “variable word length decimal computer,” the IBM 1401 was the first of IBM’s 1400 series in 1959, developed with the goal of simplifying the punch card data processing system.


See more from James Ball at his website, docubyte.co.uk.

All images © Docubyte/INK