Ferranti Mercury - Mercury


Ferranti, which had built the Mark I for the university, continued development of the prototype Meg to produce the Mercury. The main change was to replace the Williams tubes with core memory. Although slower to access, at about 10 µsec for a 10-bit short word, the system required virtually no maintenance, considerably more important for commercial users. 1024×40-bits of core were provided, backed by four drums each holding 4096×40-bits. Much detailed information both about the Mercury hardware and the Autocode coding system is included in a downloadable Spanish-language Autocode manual.

The first of an eventual 19 Mercury computers was delivered in August 1957. Manchester received one in February 1958, leasing half the time to commercial users via Ferranti's business unit. Both CERN at Geneva and the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell also installed theirs in 1958. A Mercury bought in 1959 was the UK Met Office's first computer. The University of Buenos Aires in Argentina received another one in 1960.

The machine could run the Mercury Autocode simplified coding system, later described by the new term "(high-level) programming language".

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